Airtel Withdraws VOIP Packs. TRAI To Initiate Consultation [Updated]
Airtel has quickly withdrawn the VOIP charges that they were going to levy (see news report we wrote earlier). Airtel has seen universal backlash from consumers and strong reaction can be seen on Online/Social Media channels in this regards over last few days.
In an official statement released today, Airtel has said that they are withdrawing the VOIP packs that levied extra data costs for making calls on apps like Viber, Skype etc.
Here is their official statement.
While Airtel has withdrawn the packs, it does not mean that they will not implement the same later. The decision has been postponed till the TRAI consultation takes place.
We have to also note that there are currently no net-neutrality laws in India, so essentially, Airtel is not breaking any laws and neither TRAI or DoT can initiate any action on Airtel if they decide to go ahead with VOIP packs.
For now we will need to wait and watch the outcome of TRAI consultation process.
Airtel has just updated their 3G tariff plans, and as per the new rules, VoIP data charge would not be covered under standard data plan, and all VoIP data usage would be charged additionally.
As per the new updated communication, “All Internet/data packs or plans (through which customer can avail discounted rate) shall only be valid for internet browsing and will exclude VoIP (Both incoming/ Outgoing).
VoIP over data connectivity would be charged at standard data rates of 4p / 10 KB (3G service) and 10p / 10 KB (2G service).”
At a time when Reliance has introduced unlimited mobile Internet at a flat rate of Rs 999/month and One India Plan with no distinction between local and STD calls / data usage, this new rule from Airtel has shocked everyone.
Net Neutrality Threatened?
Net Neutrality is the principle according to which Government and service providers should “treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.”
There is a huge debate and protests going on in USA regarding the implication of Net Neutrality as some big media companies are asking special lease lines and broadwidth to stream premium services for their customers. Internet users from all over the world have voiced their concern over this special treatment of some companies in terms of bandwidth usage.
By bringing in this new rule for separate VoIP charge, Airtel has become the first Indian telecom player to act against the democratic nature of Internet and force unfair service charges for Internet users.
Is Airtel Scared of OTT Players?
Users of Hike, Line and Viber can make phone calls using the VoIP platform by paying standard data usage charges. We have reported earlier that WhatsApp too is going to introduce voice calling feature very soon, as leaked images have surfaced depicting the voice features.
Is Airtel scared of such OTT players which can disrupt the telecom industry in India?
4 paisa per 10 KB for using VoIP services is certainly steep.
Normally, 250-300 KB of data is consumed during a call of 1 minute. Hence, if a person uses a messenger such as Viber or Hike to make a call, he would be charged around Rs 1- Rs 1.5 per minute for data charges.
This new VoIP rates announced by Airtel is certainly a defensive action against OTT players, and a new propaganda to charge their users extra money.
Earlier, several telecom players including Airtel had asked TRAI to charge extra for using messenger apps, which was rejected by TRAI.
But will TRAI intervene now and stop Airtel from exploiting their customers? Will other telecom players will also start charging money for using VoIP features?
Do share your views by commenting right here.