Inadvertent waste of Rs.129 BSNL Main Balance due to Plan-485’s ‘free’ Internet data expiry; How to check BSNL ‘free’ Internet data validity

I had an unpleasant experience yesterday (5th Nov. 2018) morning with my BSNL 3G Mobile service provider’s handling of expiry date of my PLAN-485 with them. I thought I should share that info. with readers and also have this info. available on my blog for easy future reference.

Over the past few days I got the following SMS messages from BSNL:

“Dear Customer,Your Plan485 will expire on 04-NOV-2018.This is for your information Please-BSNL MOBILE”, on 2nd Nov. 2018

“Dear Customer, Freebies PLAN485 will expire on 04/11/2018.”, on 2nd Nov. 2018

“Dear Customer, Freebies PLAN485 will expire Tomorrow.”, on 3rd Nov. 2018

“Dear Customer, Freebies PLAN485 will expire Today.”, on 4th Nov. 2018

Prior to 5th Nov. 2018, I checked my PLAN485 expiry using *123# call/code. That said PLAN485 expires sometime in Feb. 2019. I wondered about the Freebies part of some of the messages. But I was under the wrong impression that perhaps a few months ago I had already paid for a new PLAN485 to be renewed automatically when the current plan expires. And that is why I was getting the response that PLAN485 expires in Feb. 2019 on sending the appropriate request code.

But that was not the case. Some months ago I had added Rs. 220 to my Main Balance to take care of situations where I had to send SMS to contacts in foreign countries, and perhaps make some short international phone calls too. That Main Balance was reflected in the response of the status enquiry which said Rs. 223.375 Balance, if I recall correctly. I had not used anything from the Main Balance since and so it continued to be Rs. 223.375 on 4th Nov. 2018, if I recall correctly.

Now the BSNL customer care portal, selfcare.bsnl.co.in, is not so useful in figuring out mobile plan and usage details (as compared to, say, Jio.com).

So in the evening of 4th Nov. 2018, my view was that I should check out the status next day morning. When I checked on 5th Nov. 2018 morning (I think around 9 or 10 AM), I found that my BSNL Mobile Main Balance had gone down to low hundreds (around Rs. 110 if I recall correctly). I called up BSNL Mobile help line (1503) and got on to the customer service guy asking him what had happened. He said that my PLAN485 free calls and free Internet part had expired on 4th Nov. but that it was valid for 90 days more which is why I got the status message that PLAN485 is valid till Feb. 2019. But as the free calls and free Internet part had expired, the Internet data usages (2 times) in early morning of 5th Nov. were charged to my Main Balance! I think that usage would have been automatic updates of apps. on my phone and/or something similar!

I told the customer service guy that I was very disappointed with BSNL for not having given me a proper status response. He said something about BSNL following TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) rules. I told him that BSNL has lost my trust. He said he was sorry but that was something that he perhaps was instructed to say in such cases, and there was no point in me blaming him for this BSNL issue.

Later I tried using the BSNL selfcare portal (using Jio Router as my Internet Service provider; I have both Jio and BSNL Mobile Internet connections) to get the exact usage details but for my mobile connection usage and other details, I got this unhelpful message: “We are facing some issues in fetching the Prepaid related details.Please try after sometime.”

Meanwhile I called up a Parthi shopkeeper who helps me with mobile plan renewals/recharges. The call got charged from BSNL main balance!

I turned off BSNL SIM as the default 3G/4G SIM. But the other SIM (another Jio SIM different from SIM in Jio Router) did not have any valid Internet plan on it. I did not know how to ensure that Android on the phone does not fall back to using BSNL SIM for Internet usage for automatic updates, and reducing my BSNL Main Balance further!

In the afternoon I went to the Parthi shop guy who explained the situation to me. He said that BSNL PLAN485 provides free calls and 1.5 GB Internet data/per day for 90 days but the validity period for the plan is 180 days. To know the ‘free’ Internet data (1.5 GB/day) validity, one has to use another command: *124*2#

As BSNL Mobile has good coverage in Parthi, I am reluctant to stop using it. So I got another PLAN485 (for Rs.485) activated on it that afternoon (5th Nov. afternoon).

The BSNL Main Balance had gone down to 94.1851 but did not go down further as this new plan had taken effect. I was able to browse the Net using BSNL 3G without incurring any new charges. Rs.223 – Rs.94 = Rs.129 was the amount that was lost or wasted.

Now (on 6th Nov.), *124*2# on it gives this status response:
Subscribed STVs are
PLAN485 Data ;
Expirydate 02/02/2019
PLAN485 Data ;
Expirydate 06/11/2018
—-end status response —-

I do not understand why there are two such expiry dates. I have given up on the possibility that I will be able to understand such BSNL Mobile status responses fully. BTW STV (Special Tariff Voucher) is what BSNL uses to give special plans within an existing BSNL plan.

Using *123# command gives the PLAN485 validity date as 04/05/2019.

Now I understand that the above validity is for the plan ***without*** free calls and 1.5 GB/day free data. The earlier command response given above having STV expiry date of 02/02/2019 is the date when the ‘free’ calls and 1.5 GB/day ‘free’ data stop. [I have put the free word in quotes as I paid Rs. 485 for the plan, and so it is not exactly free calls and free data.]

A question that is outstanding is what if I go beyond 1.5 GB data usage on a particular day on this BSNL plan. Will Internet data usage beyond that get charged from my main balance? The Andhra Pradesh BSNL page, http://www.ap.bsnl.co.in/flashapnews/prepaid_plans.htm, simply says “1.5GB/day for first 90 days”. Towards the bottom of the page, it says that an extra data offer applies for this plan till 14-11-2018 whereby the user gets 3.7 GB/day (instead of 1.5 GB/day).

Essentially, the BSNL plan details are very complicated. That puts the user at BSNL’s mercy, and BSNL seems to use that situation to exploit users like I got exploited this time.

But BSNL is a mega public sector company and I need its services. So I have to tolerate such stuff and try to avoid losing significant amount of money when one falls into one of its traps. One way of doing that is by keeping very low amount of money, say Rs. 20, in BSNL Main Balance. That would limit maximum loss to Rs.20 if one falls into one of these traps.

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