Bharti Airtel on Monday rolled back its controversial decision to charge higher rates for voice over internet calls using its network.
The move follows FE report on December 27 that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) will shortly come out with a consultation paper to take a view whether over-the-top-players should be brought under some sort of regulation.
In a statement, the company said it has decided that since the regulator is coming up with a consultation paper, the company has decided to roll back its move and wait for a proper regulatory framework to be put in place. In fact, the company’s statement came after Bharti Airtel’s CEO Gopal Vittal met Trai chairman Rahul Khullar on Monday. The move to charge a higher rate for VoIP calls had received a lot of flak in the social media.
Trai chairman Rahul Khullar had told FE that the move was not illegal strictly from the point of view of net neutrality as currently there is no policy or regulatory framework, which mandates operators to adhere to this principle. However, he had said that the move is in-principle against the tenets of net nuetrality.
In a statement, Bharti said: “In view of the news reports that a consultation paper will be issued shortly by Trai on issues relating to services offered by OTT players, including VoIP, we have decided not to implement our proposed launch of VoIP packs.”
“We have no doubt that as a result of the consultation process, a balanced outcome would emerge that would not only protect the interests of all stakeholders and viability of this important sector, but would also encourage much needed investments in spectrum and roll out of data networks to fulfill the objective of digital India,” said Bharti statement.
Bharti Airtel had last week said it would charge for voice calls on Internet made over its 2G and 3G networks. The operator came out with a standard data rates of 4 paise/ 10 KB for 3G service and 10p /10 KB for 2G service. Airtel said that the VoIP pack will be charged separately and will not be part of existing data pack of Airtel customers.
According to telecom industry estimates, telcos currently lose around Rs 5,000 crore annually due to these free apps and the figure is expected to cross Rs 16,400 crore in the next two years, as mobile subscribers using smartphone with internet are growing rapidly.