Trai allows data packs with up to 1 year validity

In a move that will benefit basic internet users who wants to use data plans for longer periods, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has allowed telecom operators to offer data packs with the validity of 365 days, against the current maximum permissible period for such offers of 90 days.

The decision has been made on the received from stakeholders to allow longer SIM validities to benefit entry level users, who go for cheaper data plans, Trai said.

''Requests were received in Trai seeking longer validity for data packs (that is Special Tariff Vouchers with only data benefits) primarily to address the concern of marginal consumers of wireless internet who prefer lower denomination data packs with longer validity,'' the regulator said.

At present, telcos are allowed to offer data services in the form of STVs with a maximum permitted validity of 90 days. That means, a mobile operator can issue recharge voucher, which can be valid for a maximum 90 days. After 90 days, unused mobile internet data gets lapsed.

This extension of SIM validity will help users carry forward their unused mobile internet quota throughout the year which generally lapses at the end of every month. Also mobile number ceases to exist if a customer does not use mobile services for continuous 90 days.

Trai said it has notified the 10th amendment to the TCPR (Telecom Consumers Protection Regulations) permitting the maximum validity of 365 days for data-only STVs instead of prevailing maximum validity of 90 days, after undertaking a consultation process.

Mobile data users will now be able to keep their SIM active for one year from the day of last usage, a move that will help boost usage by marginal consumers and also attract first-time Internet users.

Trai said that only 31.35 crore wireless subscribers used internet out of a total wireless subscriber base of 103.37 crore at the end of March, 2016.

Thus, the penetration of wireless internet in the country was only 30 per cent as of March 2016. While the wireless data usage grew by about 58 per cent between January-March 2015 and January-March 2016, the wireless subscriber base, which used Internet, grew by mere 16 per cent during the period.

''It seems that the existing subscribers, having discovered the benefits of Internet usage, have increased their consumption of data (Internet), but the non-connected are not getting induced to access internet,'' TRAI said.