Bharti Airtel VoIP charges – Now you see it, now you don’t

First of all, best wishes to everyone for 2015.  I am busy catching up on all the industry new that I skipped over during the break.

Bharti Airtel took on Net Neutrality  and then retreated

Bharti Airtel Voip charging plans just an illusion?

In the US, the FCC is now set to vote on Net Neutrality sometime in February.  While in India, Bharti Airtel VoIP plans set them on the anti-net-neutrality warpath with the mobile operator announcing plans to charge separately for VoIP service. The all out assault quickly turned into an about face, retreat and rout.  This is how things played out…

  • Dec 24th Bharti declared that it would it would levy extra charges on subscribers using VoIP services such as Skype, Viber and Line. Bharti Airtel VoIP Charges were indicated as 10 paise per 10 KB (2G network) and 4 paise per 10 KB (3G network).  “We have made some revisions in the composition of our data packs, and will offer VoIP connectivity through an independent pack that will be launched shortly,” Airtel said in an emailed statement.
  • Dec 25th Government said that we take a close look. “We will look into it. Government will come back with structured response,” Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on the sidelines of ‘Good Governance Day’ event organised by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology.
  • Dec 29th Bharti says it will halt plans to launch special data packs for VoIP, as TRAI will reportedly issue a consultation on over-the-top players soon.

It has been reported that TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) could issue a consultation paper on over-the-top companies (which deliver audio, video and other media over the internet without the involvement of a multiple-system operator in the control or distribution of content), including VoIP service providers.

Up until now, Net Neutrality has not been a major issue in the Indian market, but what a difference a few days can make.  There is currently no regulations in India regarding Net Neutrality nor does TRAI actually have the power to enforce any regulations in this area.  So, the immediate future is far from clear.

While going on the offensive may have undoubtedly seemed like a good idea at the time, Bharti’s limited foray into VoIP charging may have woken up a sleeping dragon.

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