Saturday, June 10, 2023

Finding value-centric mobile plans amid economic challenges

By Shamindri Kadupitiyage

Like many around the world, Sri Lankans are finding themselves spending an increasingly large amount of their time online. It was therefore not surprising that increased usage came with even larger bills on data and voice calls. Meanwhile, most telcos raised their base prices, which meant that the average mobile user was getting squeezed from both sides.

This was hardly a fair deal, especially for pre-paid customers who were already struggling with a massive increase in daily and monthly expenses as a result of the ongoing economic crisis. Many were forced to make difficult choices.

They needed to pay for increasingly expensive basic essentials like food, and electricity but also needed to pay for data to keep working, studying, and simply to stay on top of the news on when the next power-cut or fuel shipment would happen.     

The first to respond to this growing pain point was Airtel Lanka, which came out with Unlimited Voice and Data plans. Their promise was simple: make a single payment, and it will be enough to keep you supplied with any time data and social media essentials like Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger and Youtube, as well as unlimited voice calls.

Following them was Hutch and later Dialog and Mobitel launched their own versions, which on the surface at least, are making the same kind of promise. But who is offering the best value? Let’s take a closer look.    

If a user is able to maintain careful control over their usage, they may be able to get a slight discount when working with the larger players, whereas the two smaller players offer a slightly higher price point, but with the major benefit of unlimited social media browsing.

Looking at the total value offered to customers, it is clear Airtel’s unlimited packages offers maximum value. In terms of Unlimited Voice, Unlimited social media ( Youtube, WhatsApp, FaceBook, Messenger) and Additional 30 GB anytime data which can be used to access other services like TikTok, Instagram, Work from Home, Zoom, MS Teams and browsing for the whole month.  Hutch Offers numerous Unlimited Social Media apps but only offers 3 GB for additional Usage. Dialog and Mobitel only offers unlimited Voice as main attractions

Airtel is currently the only provider that has structured their offering with what is essentially a safety net, in the form of a daily data quota for regular browsing. While this may limit the amount consumed, the trade-off is that every user is guaranteed connectivity for the entire 30 days, something which none of the other consumers offer. Of course, while price remains a major consideration, it is just one of multiple factors which consumers consider, together with network quality, and individual usage patterns.

However, in the context an unprecedented economic crisis and both of the smaller telcos making bold value plays in terms of unlimited browsing, it remains to be seen whether the incumbents will stick with their current model which cuts off users from service entirely if they aren’t able to meet their bills. Ultimately, it will be the consumer who decides when they vote with their wallet.      

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