To check the growth of over-the-top (OTT) players like Whatsapp, Skype and Viber, which offer free voice calls over the internet, Bharti Airtel has decided to charge a higher rate for such calls made from its network compared to what it charges for surfing.
The company said the new differential rates between voice calls made on the internet (VoIP) and browsing will be unveiled next month. Other operators, such as Idea Cellular and Vodafone, are expected to follow suit, leading to a debate over net neutrality. The possibility of the Trai looking at the entire issue cannot be ruled out. Airtel executives said the smart network detects a voice call made over the net from pure-play browsing.
An Airtel customer using VoIP over data connectivity would be charged at standard rates of 4 paise/10 KB for 3G service and 10p/10 KB for 2G.
“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. Our customers can continue enjoying voice calls over data connectivity by opting for this VoIP pack, or simply use VoIP services on pay-as-you-go basis,” a Bharti Airtel statement said.
Bharti deciding to charge differential rates comes after the Cellular Operators Association of India wrote to Trai that OTT players were eating into their revenues by offering free voice calls using their network and, unlike the telcos, they did not have to pay any regulatory charges.