Telecom companies represented by their industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) on Monday urged the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to review its orders on prohibiting differential pricing for data services based on content, and instead allow the firms to price content irrespective of such services being offered within or outside their network.
“Developing applications/ VAS/ Platforms (herein called ‘Products’) requires significant amount of resources, innovation and investments, and it would be unfair, if such products are found to be in violation of Trai’s regulation inadvertently. In such cases, TSPs (Telecom service providers) and/ or developers’ huge investments, time, resources will go to waste,” Rajan S Mathews director-general of COAI wrote in a letter to Sudhir Gupta, secretary at Trai.
The request for re-looking into the order comes after some operators have been approached by content providers to subsidise/discount their content but provide exclusivity over the closed e-communications network, as defined by the sectoral regulator. COAI said in such instances, some of the content providers might share their advertising revenue, and has sought clarity from the regulator, whether such a practice would be allowed. For instance, Bharti Airtel had late last month sought Trai’s permission, since the firm said it is close to tying up with a US-based global content provider which would offer it video content on an exclusive basis to its subscribers within its network.
Bharti’s letter and COAI’s request follows Trai’s order in February that prohibited operators to provide differential pricing for content for subscribers, which is also available on the internet. However, at the same time, the regulator allowed operators to provide and price content to consumers within their network.
“Further, if a content provider decides to offer subsidised subscription of its content to the select/all subscribers of a particular/some telecom provider (s) then would that constitute a CECN or would that be excluded from prohibition of differential data charging since customer’s respective data tariff charges apply in such case?” Mathews wrote in that letter seeking clarity on such closed networks.