Indian mobile provider Idea Cellular has increased data charges for pre-paid customers in the Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR) by up to 100%, the first company to do so since the March 2015 spectrum auction, ostensibly confirming concerns that the high reserve prices set by the government for airwaves would have a negative impact on consumers. The Economic Times writes that mobile data prices for some 2G plans doubled from 3 June, whilst 3G plans increased in cost by around a third. Although currently limited to the Delhi and NCR region, the paper cites an unnamed industry source as saying that the cellco is planning to roll out the price changes in other circles soon. For the most part, the price changes reduce the amount of data offered on certain plans, so an INR255 (USD3.98) 2G data pack now provides 1.5GB of downloads rather the 3GB offered previously. Some packs have also had the duration of their validity decreased, however, with one offer, previously valid for 28 days, knocked down to just seven days.
Idea Cellular has yet to comment on the tariff changes, prompting speculation that the change of tack is due to financial pressures from the recent spectrum auction. Indeed, Idea’s CEO Himanshu Kapania has previously warned that the cost of the frequencies would put pressure on data prices and that tariff increases might be necessary. Despite the earlier predictions, the new direction has come as something of a shock to the industry, following on the heels of price cuts from several of the nation’s 3G providers as operators compete to secure lucrative high-end users ahead of the anticipated arrival of disruptive Reliance Industries-owned 4G newcomer Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJIL) later this year.