1. Can’t fault Airtel on VoIP rates: Trai chief Rahul Khullar

Can’t fault Airtel on VoIP rates: Trai chief Rahul Khullar

Trai chief says Airtel move is against net neutrality but not illegal...

By: | New Delhi | Updated: December 27, 2014 2:12 PM
Net neutrality means that a consumer has access to all forms of content in a similar manner and not in a way where a service provider slows or fastens the speed. (Reuters)

Net neutrality means that a consumer has access to all forms of content in a similar manner and not in a way where a service provider slows or fastens the speed. (Reuters)

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India chairman Rahul Khullar does not see any illegality in Bharti Airtel’s move to charge customers a higher rate for making voice calls from its network using apps like Skype, Viber, etc, than what it charges for surfing. In an exclusive interview with FE, Khullar while agreeing that the move is against the principle of net neutrality pointed out that so far there’s no policy or regulatory framework in the country which says that net neutrality should be maintained.

“Let’s be clear on this. What the company plans to do is certainly not in conformity with net neutrality. But one cannot today say the move is illegal as there’s no policy either by the government that net neutrality is our principle or a regulatory framework put in place by the regulator,” Khullar said.

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However, going ahead Trai will bring the over-the-top (OTT) players like Viber and Skype under some sort of regulations and is in the process of bringing out a consultation paper on the subject. “If the telecom players fall under a set of rules, then should not the OTT players be also brought under some kind of rules? Otherwise there would be a non-level playing field,” he said.

Net neutrality means that a consumer has access to all forms of content in a similar manner and not in a way where a service provider slows or fastens the speed depending on whether the site has paid for it or not.

Pointing out the ways OTT players could be brought under regulation, Khullar said that there could be licensing norms for them also wherein they have to pay licence fees to the government on a revenue-share basis. The other option, which is simpler, is that a termination charge is put on calls originating from Viber or Skype kind of services.

In the first scenario, the OTT players would be brought under a licensing regime similar to mobile operators where an entry fee would have to be paid followed by revenue share licence fee as a percentage of adjusted gross revenue. There are globally examples of such a practice, for instance in France. The moment this happens the services of OTT players would not come for free and a level playing field would emerge between them and the mobile operators.

However, Khullar said that in this scenario only the communication aspects should be brought under regulation and not the commerce side. This means that a service like Viber, Skype or WhatsApp used for communication (voice or messaging) would be regulated but commercial services like Facebook, which are advertisement-driven, would be left out. This is how the European nations have tackled the issue.

In the second scenario, the principle of termination charge (which currently applies to mobile operators) can be levied on OTT players offering voice calls. “So if calls are made using voice over internet, the operator on whose network it ends would need to be paid a termination charge. The good thing here would be that there would be no need for pricing the data packs differently for voice and data and since every operator has a smart network which can identify voice calls made over the net, and can bill the originating party a termination charge,” Khullar said.

Currently, termination charges for local and national long-distance calls are 20 paise per minute and for incoming international long-distance calls it is 40 paise per minute.

“All these issues would be debated through the consultation paper which should be out by next month,” Khullar said.

So far in India the principle of net neutrality has been maintained by all players. However, with the growth of OTT players like WhatsApp, Viber and Skype, operators have started losing revenue to them. Their contention is that these players use their communication pipe to provide free messaging and voice services and can afford this because they do not have to pay any regulatory/licence fee to the government. However, mobile operators have to invest heavily in networks and are subject to all kinds of charges.

The country’s leading telecom operator Bharti Airtel earlier this week decided that from next month it would bring out differential rates for surfing the web and making voice over internet calls wherein the latter would be priced higher. This has attracted criticism in the social media.

Tags: TRAI
  1. M
    mario
    Jan 2, 2015 at 2:24 pm
    Its high time to stand up against this telecom operator.... can can u charge for VOIP????
    Reply
  2. R
    R K
    Dec 27, 2014 at 2:37 am
    Daylight robbery by Airtel.
    Reply
  3. A
    Amardeep
    Dec 27, 2014 at 8:05 pm
    I wonder if the current framework explicitly gives permission to airtel and other legacy telecom providers to do this?
    Reply
  4. A
    Animesh Naskar
    Dec 27, 2014 at 8:42 pm
    Airtel should pay Indian postal system for loss of business due to reduced letters communication and telegram systems. Bollywood should charge Airtel due to reduced viewership on account of piracy over internet. And TRAI should be given a lecture of evolution.
    Reply
  5. A
    Animesh Naskar
    Dec 27, 2014 at 8:42 pm
    Airtel should pay Indian postal system for loss of business due to reduced letters communication and telegram systems. Bollywood should charge Airtel due to reduced viewership on account of piracy over internet. And TRAI should be given a lecture of evolution.
    Reply
  6. G
    GS
    Dec 27, 2014 at 3:09 pm
    Modi ji ache din to aae hi nahi india mein ?????
    Reply
  7. I
    indian
    Dec 27, 2014 at 3:44 pm
    looks to be khullar on payroll of Airtel.... Modiji should suspend TRAI head and consute inquiry into his ets...
    Reply
  8. J
    jyo
    Dec 27, 2014 at 4:01 pm
    Bye bye airtel... I'll be porting to another service.. use airtel for calls. . Use my dual sim phone for using data
    Reply
  9. M
    manoj
    Dec 27, 2014 at 4:58 pm
    Airtel's move to levy additional charge for using voice chat apps will be the most dangerous thing to happen to the internet. Once such discrimination is permitted it could potentially destroy the natural growth of the internet as we know it. Telecom companies should not be allowed to differentiate between different types of internet based services. Also, they should not be allowed to charge the customers doubly for internet services - once for the generic internet packs and then for using voice chat apps over the internet. Thus in Airtel's scheme, a customer will have to pay twice for the same data usage. If the government is serious about spreading the use of internet amongst the mes it should resist any such move by the internet service providers to charge doubly for what is essentially a data service. Examples from European countries like France are retrograde and not worth emulating. It is this mentality of some European countries that has rendered them as laggards in the cyberspace. Besides, India needs less of regulation not more of it. Less regulation will be the key to innovation in the cyberspace. If the government sucbs to pressure from the corporates and sets this unusual precedent it will certainly be seen as a collusion of the majority govt. at the centre with the corporates to fleece the consumer.
    Reply
  10. M
    manoj mayogi
    Dec 27, 2014 at 3:37 pm
    So, What are you doing in TRAI office? And What is doing TRAI in behalf of the general public interest? If there is no policy and regulatory framework then what is your official duty ? Only to get hefty amount pay ry ? The manner of official duties and departmental working style are sowing seeds for militancy.
    Reply
  11. U
    Uday
    Dec 29, 2014 at 12:34 pm
    Get Ready to See the VoIP scam soon.... :)
    Reply
  12. U
    Uday
    Dec 29, 2014 at 12:34 pm
    Get Ready to See the VoIP scam soon.... :)
    Reply
  13. A
    anbarasu
    Dec 27, 2014 at 2:31 am
    This is nonsense . I think Rahul Khullar drank airtel cool aid. In the end customer losses . I feel shame that I voted for modi..
    Reply
  14. R
    R Prasad
    Dec 27, 2014 at 3:04 am
    Crony capitalism by Modi.
    Reply
  15. R
    Rajkumar
    Dec 28, 2014 at 12:54 am
    Shame on this Greedy company ; Simpler to say Sunil Mittal is an A^&^E. Their 3G service is already poor ; I will switch over. Hope other Telcos do not follow similar Root.
    Reply
  16. R
    Ruben
    Dec 28, 2014 at 10:04 am
    I am boycotting Airtel use as well as asking my relatives to use others Service Provider . Airtel want for Profit is beyond imagination .Bye bye Airtel .Have a Rocking effect on ur shares in Stock Market . Try to innovate where customer is benifited. U r tryin to benefit ur stock .Ur network is not the best BSNL ,Reliance , Voda and IDEA are good . You WILL see the effect in short time . Mean while I am Shorting ur shares in Feb Series AND BUYING IDEA .IT HAS MORE VALUE
    Reply
  17. S
    sundeep koul
    Dec 27, 2014 at 8:06 am
    This is simple monopolistic atude of mobile operators of India, lead by AIRTEL, to rob subscribers of genenune benefit of technological advancement. I'm sure when AIRTEL does this , other operetors will follow suit.
    Reply
  18. S
    Sat Paul
    Dec 27, 2014 at 4:40 am
    When Airtel took such a big controversial step of charging extra money for VoIP calls, it is understandable that they didn't go ahead without sending new year gifts to those ministers responsible for stopping such illegal activities. So, all those ministers will now sing the songs Airtel will ask them to sing. And, there is a good chance that Airtel already conspired with other telecom companies to charge extra. That means Airtel will make the move first and other companies will follow. Because, Mittal is not a fool that he would take such a big risk where his company can lose customers to other companies. This extremely greedy man is looting this country.
    Reply
  19. S
    sg
    Dec 27, 2014 at 3:35 pm
    abe .... ache din raaton raat nhi aate
    Reply
  20. R
    RK2
    Dec 27, 2014 at 2:52 pm
    Seems we have lost our relevance with current world trends... when there is no regulation for adherence to neutrality...he (Mr X) could have given a positive statement in favor of people...but he chose wisely to side with .... coz bhai money hai tho honey hai.
    Reply
  21. V
    varun
    Dec 27, 2014 at 7:20 pm
    dont worry dear fellow indian,as indian we are good in IT ,soon some other APP (like skype ,viber etc) which detects a loop ,avoids this charges,like even using standard gmail we can send a recorded message as an email attachment ,only difference is the time delay......
    Reply
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