Apple enthusiasts waiting for the iPhone 4S to be officially launched in India got some welcome news when Aircel announced that it was bringing the device to the country on November 25, just 42 days after its international release, but the joy was quickly squashed when the phone’s stratospheric pricing was announced.
Now, the carriers have announced special tariffs for iPhone 4S buyers in India, according to a Phone Mantra report. Before we get to the tariffs, however, here’s a primer on the telecom market in India.
State of Tariffs in the Indian Telecom Industry
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Unlike in most other countries, phones in India on GSM carriers are sold separately from SIM cards. Customers are expected to pay the cost of the phones upfront, with no carrier subsidies, and then pop in a SIM card from any carrier of their choosing.
Since the Indian telecom market is beset with competition from as many as ten carriers, calling and texting tariffs on both prepaid and postpaid connections are pretty low. ₹0.60 ($0.01) per minute is the standard rate for the more respected carriers like Airtel and Vodafone, and it only goes down from there.
At that rate, 500 local and STD minutes would only cost ₹300 ($6) per month. Texting is even cheaper, with bonus cards costing as little as ₹50 ($1) buying you 1,500 text messages with a one month validity.
The iPhone 4S is also sold carrier unlocked in India, and you can run it on any GSM network, but the official carriers offer discounted rates to entice customers to buy the device officially, rather than importing it from outside the country.
Bharti Airtel’s iPhone 4S Tariffs
Bharti Airtel has four prepaid and postpaid plans for iPhone buyers, ranging from ₹300 ($6) – ₹1,000 ($19). The cheapest plan, which is ordinarily priced at ₹600 ($12), gives you 500 minutes of local calling (no STD), 300 local and national text messages and 200MB of 3G data.
The most expensive plan, which normally costs ₹2,000 ($38), provides 1,500 local minutes, 600 national texts and 3GB of data. The company notes that customers stand to save anywhere between ₹7,200 ($138) – ₹24,000 ($460) over the course of the 48 months that the plans are valid.
Aircel’s iPhone 4S Tariffs
While Airtel offers all four plans to every iPhone buyer, including those who buy the iPhone 4 or the iPhone 3GS, Aircel divides its plans even between the different iPhone 4S models.
It offers just one plan for each variant of the phone, with the cheaper one being priced at ₹950 ($18) for the iPhone 4S 16GB and the more expensive one at ₹1,150 ($22) for the 32GB version (Aircel does not carry the 64GB version of the phone).
However, Aircel’s plans can be significantly cheaper for heavy callers, with 3,000 and 3,500 local and STD minutes on offer on the two plans. They also provide 350 and 450 local and national text messages, and each plan bundles 650MB of 3G data. Customers stand to save ₹22,320 ($427) or ₹25,440 ($487) through the 50 percent discounted plans, according to the company.
Comparison with Vodafone’s Tariffs
While all of these plans may sound cheap to people reading this outside India, they aren’t particularly in a telecom market like India’s. In fact, Aircel and Airtel’s plans, though advertised as being subsidised, don’t seem to have benefited from a subsidy at all.
For the sake of comparison, India’s third largest carrier Vodafone prices its plans at ₹500 ($10) per month for 500 local and STD minutes, 500 national text messages and 500MB of 3G data, with a ₹1,000 ($19) plan that doubles the bundled calls, texts and data. And those plans are without any subsidisation, free for all customers to sign up for.
In fact, even for customers who decide to fork out ₹44,500 ($852) to purchase an iPhone officially from either Aircel or Airtel, it makes more sense to turn down the carriers’ own subsidised plans and opt for one from another carrier. As we mentioned before, the iPhone 4 and 4S are sold factory unlocked in India, so it is not necessary to stick with the carrier the phone was purchased from.