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A worker speaks on his phone as he sits on chemical containers near a wholesale market on a winter morning in Kolkata
Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri
No need to stress about the bill.
JIO EFFECT

Making a phone call in India is now nearly free

Mumbai
Ananya Bhattacharya
By Ananya Bhattacharya

Tech reporter

There’s never been a better time to say “Hello!” in India.

Rising competition and the popularity of internet-based calls have made voice calls nearly free in India.

Over the last two years, voice-call charges in India have fallen nearly 70%. In March this year, a minute of an outgoing call costs Rs0.16 ($0.002) as compared to Rs0.49 in March 2016, Manoj Sinha, minister of communications, said in a written reply (pdf) to the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of parliament.

“The call rates of both private mobile companies and Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) telecom companies have dropped in the recent years,” Sinha said.

One reason for this decline is the launch of Reliance Jio in September 2016, which disrupted the industry. The firm, founded by India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, offers data and calls at rock-bottom prices, forcing other industry players to follow suit.

“Jio is a huge factor for what is happening,” said Sanchit Vir Gogia, founder and CEO of research and advisory firm Greyhound Research. ”Voice is a foot-in-the-door strategy. Telcos offer cheaper voice rates to rope in customers and then package as much data as they can to get people more entrenched into the ecosystem…it’s about how you can cross-sell and upsell.”

Also, with broadband quality improving in the country, calls over the internet have become popular, eating into telecom players’ revenue.

“At times, you can’t connect a normal call but you can do a FaceTime call,” said Gogia. “And with cheap Chinese handsets coming into the market, customers have a WhatsApp or a WeChat at their disposal all the time.”

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