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Bharti Airtel offers copycat data freebie in latest skirmish with Jio

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Bharti Airtel has begun to rub salt into Jio’s wounds by launching its own summer offer, only a short while after Indian regulators banned Jio’s from continuing for another three months.

Since the launch of the young upstart, it would appear it could do nothing wrong in the eyes of the regulator. Launching a very promising freebies offer was a move which was frowned upon by the more traditional players in the Indian market, but the continuation of the offer had them clawing at the walls. In a slight copycat move which is likely to aggravate Jio, Airtel has launched its ‘Monsoon Surprise’ offer, which gives 30 GB of high-speed 4G data to its postpaid customers, according to Business Standard.

What is likely to be even more of an irritation to Jio is the fact that this is a continuation of a previous offer. The ‘Data Surprise’ offer gave post-paid customers 10 GB of additional data every month for four months. Monsoon is essentially exactly the same, aside from the fact it is for a different period of time.

We at Telecoms.com love the move, solely because repeating the same deal is the very reason Jio got banned from offering such interesting tariffs to customers. It could be seen as an immature move from Bharti Airtel, but it is likely to encourage some sort of response from Jio. What we potentially have here is a battle of egos, each trying to get the upper hand. We all like a bit of chaos and disruption, and Bharti Airtel upping the ante here could essentially be viewed as a battle cry to challenge the Jio execs to another bout.

Back in April, Indian regulator, TRAI, finally said enough was enough when it came to the freebies offer which Jio was flouting around the country. Essentially the decision was that Jio cannot continue to buy customers while simultaneously ignoring profit margins, as it would drive everyone else out of business aside from Jio. This would create a monopoly, which is not good for anyone in the Indian market.

While this slap on the wrist is going to halt the momentum of the upstart for the moment, a substantial amount of damage has already been done. Profits at Bharti Airtel has been tumbling fast and furiously, while Idea and Vodafone have essentially been forced into a merger to combat the threat.

For the telcos, it’s a nightmare, but for the consumer, it is truly wonderful. With Jio trying to buy customers with incredibly cheap tariffs, and Bharti Airtel now offering mountains of data for free to keep customers over the next couple of months, the Indian consumer is looking like the real winner for the moment. That is unless the competition becomes so fierce certain telcos decent not to bother anymore, like Telenor, and competition is reduced drastically. TRAI will need to keep an eye on this over the next couple of months, or there will be one hell of a mess for it to sort out.

That’s the long-term fear of such a battle and hopefully it won’t get to that point, but the short-term skirmishes are what we are looking forward to. Bharti Airtel is seemingly trying to draw a reaction out of Jio by smugly doing exactly what the upstart has been banned from doing, and we can’t wait to see what happens.

All around the world, telcos are rehashing old deals, or hiring tired old celebrities to dress like Britney Spears and devalue the brand through shoddy personal endorsements; its stagnant and a bit boring at times. But the Indian market is chaotic, unpredictable and egotistical. It’s great fun.

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