Coronavirus lockdown: Airtel says it is extending prepaid validity for 80 million ‘under-privileged’ subscribers till April 17

Airtel will roll out these ‘benefits’ to users in the next 48 hours. (Photo credit: Reuters)

Hours after sector regulator TRAI put out the directive for all telecom operators in wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak, Airtel has announced that it is extending the prepaid pack validity for over 80 million ‘under-privileged’ subscribers till April 17. This means that all the subscribers covered under the ‘relief’ will be able to access incoming calls even after the validity of their plan is exhausted. Airtel said it is also going to add or credit an additional Rs 10 worth of talk-time in their prepaid accounts that can be encashed for making calls or sending SMS. Airtel will roll out these ‘benefits’ to users in the next 48 hours.

The 80 million subscriber figure ‘effectively’ covers all under-privileged households on the Airtel network, the telco said, adding that these special measures will particularly benefit migrant workers and daily wage earners who may be impacted during India’s 21-day novel coronavirus lockdown.

“In this difficult hour of fighting off the threat of COVID-19, Airtel is committed to ensuring that all people remain connected without any disruptions. And for this objective, it is critical to take care of the under-privileged daily wage earners of our country, whose lives have been disrupted due to the lock-down,” Shashwat Sharma, who is Chief Marketing Officer, Bharti Airtel said in a press statement.

Airtel probably believes that it’s important to help this section–more–since they may not have instant access to the internet, even as all other subscribers “are already recharging their accounts using online platforms,” it said. Be that as it may, the goal behind the measures, which is to ensure the weaker section of the society remains connected in these challenging times, is commendable. More telcos are expected to join in soon.

This is because TRAI has directed all telecom operators in India to take necessary steps, including extending the prepaid validity for users to ensure uninterrupted services, at least until the lockdown is in effect.

“…you are required to take necessary steps as deemed fit including extending the validity period to ensure that all prepaid subscribers can enjoy uninterrupted services during the period of lockdown,” TRAI had said on Sunday. The sector regulator has also sought details from all the telecom operators in India about the steps that they’re taking to ensure availability of uninterrupted services on a priority basis.

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