Some recent reports indicate that the Indian Telecoms regulator, Trai, will be looking into Bharti Airtel’s data packages offering access to Facebook and WhatsApp.
The access to the social networking services is bundled into data plans at a fixed price regardless of usage volume. These plans are coming under scrutiny from the regulator and are being examined to determine whether they amount to “preferential access” for such services.
The perplexing thing is that there are currently no laws or regulations governing Net Neutrality, so it is not clear what the potential outcome is here, even in the case preferential treatment can be proved. While there has been a lot of Net Neutrality action in India, it has predominantly been the telecom operators on the offensive.
- In February 2014, Gopal Vittal, CEO of Airtel India operations, said that companies offering free messaging apps like Skype, Line and Whatsapp should be regulated similar to telecom operators.
- In August 2014, TRAI rejected a proposal from telecom companies to make messaging app firms to share part of their revenue with the carriers or the government.
- In October 2014, Vodafone India Marten Pieters CEO suggested that companies like Facebook and Whatsapp should be taxed to ensure a level playing field with telecom operators. [wikipedia]
Indian Fast Lanes
In other news relating to Net Neutrality in India it has been noted that some big online retailers and mobile operators have begun discussions around dedicating bandwidth based on a revenue-sharing model to allow their sites to be accessed faster than others – so called ‘fast lanes’.
- Bharti Airtel, the country’s largest phone company, declined to comment specifically on talks with ecommerce players, but said such partnerships are being tested in parts of the world.
- The company, which has more than 200 million mobile users, added that it has been working with leading e-commerce brands such as Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal to ensure that their apps are optimized with the company’s network configurations, extending device battery life and improving access.