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If you have laboured over which mobile plan to choose, here’s a handy guide based on a recent Credit Suisse survey on prepaid schemes.

With telecom rates being slashed every day and a slew of new plans available in the market, mobile subscribers can ring in the good times. However, the wide array of choices poses a dilemma for the users, and this is compounded by the complex tariff structures.

The calling charges vary for on-net (local calls within the same network, such as Idea to Idea) and off-net calling (outside the network, such as Idea to Vodafone). Special schemes have a greater complexity like peak and off-peak calling charges, intra-group calling and variations in SMS rates.

To help you choose the best plan to suit your needs, we highlight some results from the recently conducted Credit Suisse survey on the Indian telecom sector.

The survey covered 150 plans across all the circles and five mobile operators— Bharti Airtel, Idea, Vodafone, Tata Teleservices and Aircel. The survey focused only on prepaid plans for new subscribers as prepaid users account for more than 90% of users for all operators. It did not include the impact of valueadded services like premium SMS or roaming facility.

Lifetime plans (lowest start-up costs)

Non-lifetime plans (lowest start-up costs)

CircleStart-Up Cost (Rs)Initial Talktime (Rs) OperatorCircleValidity (Days)Start-Up Cost (Rs)Initial Talktime (Rs)
IdeaMaharashtra150Nil TTSLKarnataka180991
BhartiHimachal Pradesh19510
TTSLMumbai2492 VodafoneAndhra Pradesh3651100
VodafoneMaharashtra29410 BhartiNorth East3014838
IdeaAndhra Pradesh29510 VodafoneMumbai3651490
Madhya Pradesh
29710 IdeaKerala3019810
Mumbai29910 AircelHimachal Pradesh36519835

• Lifetime plan start-up kits are available for as low as Rs 150.

• A majority of plans are in the range of Rs 290-400.

• TTSL offers the lowest lifetime plan cost across 8 circles.


• Non-lifetime plans are available for as low as Rs 99, but come with a 6-month validity.

• All operators have at least one start-up kit for a non-lifetime plan that is available for less than Rs 200.


Cost of connectivity

You can get connected for as low as Rs 15 a month. This includes lifetime plans where a subscriber needs to recharge with the minimum amount at least once in six months. You can retain a connection for two years by paying only Rs 17 a month for the entire term. This paltry amount will ensure that even if you can’t make outgoing calls, you can remain connected by receiving calls.

Tariff plans with lowest per-minute call rates

OperatorCircleOn-Net (Rs/Min)Off-Net (Rs/Min)Landline (Rs/Min)ConditionsImplied Average Call Rate (Rs/Min)
BhartiUP (East)0.300.501.00Add-on recharge of Rs 98 every month0.61
IdeaUP (East)0.100.500.50
Add-on recharge of Rs 69 every month0.45
VodafoneKarnataka0.241.001.00Recharge of Rs 253 initially0.76
TTSLGujarat0.090.490.99Available in Ahmedabad city0.53
AircelHimachal Pradesh0.000.600.60Add-on recharge of Rs 99 every 3 months0.37
The implied average call rate is based on TRAI’s usage pattern for outgoing calls


Lowest SMS rates

The cheapest SMS rates are offered by Bharti in its budget plan, where sending a local SMS costs only Rs 0.05. However, Aircel provides greater flexibility with its lower SMS rates available as add-on packages for a limited number of SMSes, vis-à-vis the rental involved in the Bharti scheme.

Tariff plans with lowest per-minute STD rates

OperatorCircleSTD Rate (Rs/Min)ConditionsImplied average call rate (Rs/Min)

• Rates for local phone calls vary greatly across all plans.

• On-net calls for Aircel are free, but calls to a landline cost 60 paise a minute.

• Idea charges only 50 paise a minute for landline calls.

• TTSL scores over other operators with low STD rates and no strings attached.

• Most plans offer low STD rates with an add-on for which you need to pay a rental.

VodafoneRajasthan1.0050 free local SMS on joining1.07
VodafoneAndhra Pradesh1.00Monthly rental of Rs 311.06
VodafoneAndhra Pradesh1.00
Monthly rental of Rs 311.06
BhartiHaryana1.00Rental of Rs 45 every 6 months1.07
Rental of Rs 399 every 6 months0.62
Rental of Rs 276 every 3 months0.63
IdeaHimachal Pradesh1.20
Recharge of Rs 100 a month0.45
IdeaHimachal Pradesh1.20
Recharge of Rs 100 a month0.45
AircelHimachal Pradesh1.20
Rental of Rs 99 every 3 months0.37
AircelHimachal Pradesh1.20Rental of Rs 99 every 3 months0.37
The implied average call rate is based on TRAI’s usage pattern for outgoing calls




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TTSL offers the maximum number of plans that are ideal for highusage subscribers (1,000 minutes a month), while none of the Vodafone plans are suitable. If you are a low-usage subscriber (100 minutes a month), TTSL and Idea are your best bets. Aircel and Idea involve a rental or necessary recharge, while Bharti and Vodafone’s plans have a high start-up cost.

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