With people struggling to recharge their prepaid mobile connections amidst the coronavirus lockdown, BSNL, MTNL and Airtel have extended the validity of their prepaid packs. The decision is in line with TRAI’s latest directive that made it obligatory for telecom operators to ensure uninterrupted services for all users during the lockdown period. While the State-run companies are extending the validity to April 20, Airtel is only extending it to April 17.

All three companies will also credit an additional Rs. 10 worth of talk-time for customers who run out of balance so as to help them stay connected during this hour of crisis. While BSNL and MTNL have already started notifying its users about the scheme, Airtel says it will start rolling out these benefits in the next 48 hours. In a press release on Tuesday, the company said that its decision will benefit up to 80 million ‘under-privileged’ subscribers.

Union telecom minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, took to Twitter on Monday to announce that BSNL and MTNL will offer extended connectivity during the lockdown period, saying that it will “enable poor people to make calls for help even if they don’t have any balance left”.

The validity extension is part of the companies’ efforts to comply with TRAI’s new directive that states: “You (telecom companies) are required to take necessary steps as deemed fit including extending the validity period to ensure that all prepaid subscribers can enjoy uninterrupted services during the period of lockdown”. The regulator also sought details from all telecom operators in the country about the steps they’re taking to ensure availability of uninterrupted services during the next few weeks.