SMS packs: What are they, why are they important, and minimum SMS packs from Airtel, Vi, BSNL, and Jio

Back in the day, SMS aka short message service was the primary way of immediately getting in touch with our friends and family without calling them directly. The service used mobile plans to send messages, which were short and had only text at first, but later got evolved and allowed the users to send messages with long text, emojis, and pictures, among other things. Initially, SMS charges were deducted from your talk time, but as its popularity soared, the telcos started introducing special plans that would allow customers to send tons of messages at a nominal fee. However, today, the story of SMS is a bit different. With the introduction of all-in-one packs, every other telecom operator wants you to recharge for expensive bundled plans just to send a single SMS.

SMS use cases

WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and other social messaging apps may have taken over our primary source of text communication, but SMS still holds several use cases. The ‘ancient’ service has evolved to include several day-to-day critical tasks. Here’s a quick look at some of the use cases of SMS

For verification

SMSes are used as a way to establish account ownership on several online platforms like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Be it resetting forgotten passwords, getting OTPs or 2-step authentication codes SMSs are a primary sought out way to authenticate you. Other than that SMS service is essential for getting OTPs on several government-related services such as Aadhaar, PAN, etc.

And Not to mention the banking becomes almost non-existence if you don’t receive authentication OTPs — be it setting up UPI, Net-banking related services, or sometimes as mundane as just withdrawing cash from the ATM machines. All-in-all SMS service has now essentially become a part of our smartphone experience unlike what instant messaging platforms like WhatsApp might want you to believe.


SMS service is used for MPN, short for Mobile Number Portability, a service introduced by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to let you switch operators without changing your mobile numbers, a very convenient feature if you ask me. Otherwise, we would be stuck on a single operator forever. Not an ideal situation for any of us, considering network signals may fluctuate over time where you reside, or if you wanted to move from the current place of residence you can switch to an operator who is offering better signal reception at the place you plan to reside. You might also consider MNP if your current operator is not offering services up to your satisfaction or competitive pricing.

To start the MNP process you need to send an SMS by typing PORT and sending it to 1900 to get a Unique Porting Code (UPC) that you will have to give to the recipient operator you are planning to switch to.

Why are SMS packs important?

SMS packs are important to send short messages for UPI verification, port, and other services. While you will be able to receive SMS as long as your number is active, you won’t be able to send messages without these packs. This is true for Airtel, Jio, and Vi subscribers. The telcos don’t offer standalone SMS packs. In addition to this, Jio, Airtel, and Vi have discontinued the facility of sending the messages using the top-up balance. The customers will have to subscribe to one of Airtel, Vi, and Jio’s unlimited recharge packs. Most of these packs, if not all, come with free 100 outgoing SMS (local and national) per day.

State-owned telco BSNL, however, allows users to send SMS using the top-up plan in addition to the unlimited packs.

How much the SMS packs cost after the price hike

Airtel, Jio, and Vi SMS packs are up to 20-25 percent more expensive than before. The telcos increased the price of their prepaid plans in December last year. It was done to improve the average revenue per user aka ARPU. Here are the minimum recharge packs from Airtel, Vi, Jio, and BSNL you need to get to send SMS:

Telecom operatorPriceBenefits
AirtelRs 155300 SMSes, unlimited voice calls, 1GB data, 24 days validity
JioRs 149100 SMS/ day, unlimited voice calls, 1GB data per day, 20 days validity
ViRs 155300 SMSes, unlimited voice calls, 1GB data, 24 days validity
BSNLRs 153100 SMS/ day, unlimited voice calls, 1GB data per day, 28 days validity

Minimum Airtel SMS pack recharge – Rs 155

You don’t get an SMS pack with Rs 99 Airtel recharge plan, but you can send SMS using the talktime. The recharge plan offers a talktime of Rs 99, which can be used to send an SMS at Re 1 local and Rs 1.5 STD. The talktime will be valid for 28 days. You also get 200MB of data with this pack.

The Airtel recharge plans with SMS packs are available with Rs 155 and above denominations. The entry-level Rs 155 plan offers 300 SMSes for the 24 days validity period, along with unlimited voice calls and 1GB of data.

Minimum Jio SMS pack recharge – Rs 149

If need to send an SMS through Jio, you need to recharge with a minimum of Rs 149 plan. This is an all-in-one plan, that comes with 20-day validity, unlimited voice calls, 1GB of data per day, and a quota of free 100 outgoing messages per day.

Jio doesn’t allow users to send SMS with the top-up recharges. You must be on an unlimited plan.

Minimum Vi SMS pack recharge – Rs 155

Likely the most expensive “SMS pack” comes from Vi. If need to send an SMS through the Vodafone Idea number, you need to recharge with a minimum of Rs 155. This is also an all-in-one pack that comes with 24-day validity, 300 free outgoing SMSes, and free voice calls to all networks across the country.

Vi too doesn’t let you send SMS with the top-up recharges. You must be on an unlimited plan.

Minimum BSNL SMS pack recharge – Rs 153

The minimum recharge plan with an SMS pack for BSNL customers is available for as low as Rs 153. The benefits of this plan are as follows free 100 outgoing SMS per day, along with unlimited voice calls, 1GB of data per day, and 28 days validity.

As stated above, you can send SMS via BSNL using top-up recharge packs as well. However, it will use your talktime balance.

Why Airtel, Vi, and BSNL have discontinued SMS packs?

You will be surprised to know that Airtel, Vi, and BSNL all used to offer standalone SMS packs not so long ago. There hasn’t been a clear reason why telcos have discontinued them; however, reports suggest the move to no longer provide separate SMS packs was taken to increase average revenue per user (ARPU).

The move affected several customers, especially those looking to port to another service. This may be the reason why the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recently stepped in and directed all the telecom operators to allow SMS for porting regardless of the tariff plans active.

Can you send SMS with top-up packs?

Sending SMS with top-up packs is currently only possible on Airtel and BSNL. With BSNL, you don’t need to have an all-in-one plan as having a top-up balance would suffice. Airtel allows sending SMS with top-up packs, but there is a catch, to be able to send SMSes, you need to recharge with a smart pack that costs Rs 99, which lets you send SMS at the rate of Re 1 per local message and Re 1.5/ STD message until the pack’s validity expires.