On Friday, telecom tribunal TDSAT had stayed TRAI's recent order to Vodafone Idea, that had asked the company to withhold its offering promising priority 4G network on RedX plan.
The examination of telcos’ premium plans promising 4G network preference is among the “top priority” for the regulator, and it hopes to finalise its views on the issue in about two weeks, a TRAI source said.
On Friday, telecom tribunal TDSAT had stayed TRAI’s recent order to Vodafone Idea, that had asked the company to withhold its offering promising priority 4G network on RedX plan.
At the same time, Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) had said that it would be open for regulator TRAI to proceed with the inquiry and pass final orders in accordance with law at the earliest after ensuring that requirements of natural justice are satisfied and the Vodafone Idea (VIL) is given opportunity to explain any alleged contravention of regulator’s directions.
The TRAI source told PTI that the examination of the plan will be among top priority for the regulator, which hopes to finalise its view on the issue in about two weeks. The source said that while much would depend on the extent of data and information that TRAI gets from operators like VIL and Bharti Airtel (whose similar plan also came under scrutiny), the regulator would strive to finalise its view at the “earliest possible” timeframe.
Vodafone Idea had last week approached the telecom tribunal against the sector regulator’s letter to the company asking it to withhold its plan that promised better speeds to certain priority users. In fact, TRAI had questioned both VIL and Bharti Airtel on whether network preference to specific customers came at the cost of deterioration of services for other non-premium subscribers.
TRAI had asked Vodafone Idea how the company is ensuring service quality to non-RedX data users, when the network priority had been promised to RedX customers, especially as telecom networks are reportedly congested in the pandemic scenario. It asked the operator if providing priority to some, not affect the service quality of rest of the network, since no additional capacity is being created.
It had asked after the launch of RedX plan, how would other non-premium customers check or raise concerns on deterioration of service quality, since neither average data speed nor minimum download speed has been committed to a 4G user at present.
In its questionnaire sent earlier this month to the company, TRAI also reminded VIL how the company and other telecom operators had argued time and again that for mobile networks, the data throughput to a user at a particular location depends on multitude of factors like number of subscribers using data services, device quality and external interferences and other such elements.
TRAI asked what assurances are being given to protect the interest of non-premium users.
The regulator has also inquired if RedX customers will have better network experience, such as higher 4G speeds at the cost of deterioration of service offerings to a large number of non Red X customers who may suffer further. It had asked the company to provide data to support its arguments.
TRAI had also asked the company to explain the term `priority on network’ for RedX customers, and if with respect to data services, there was any performance or experience commitment to such customers or resource reservation to ensure better data service. It asked how such customers will make informed choice and ensure that service obligations have successfully been discharged by VIL.
TRAI asked if any verifiable network or service parameter is being committed to RedX subscribers, and the definite advantage such customers are likely to get in lieu of higher monthly committent.
Following the latest TDSAT order, Vodafone Idea is free to continue onboarding new subscribers to the RedX plan that had initially talked of faster data speeds, but in May was modified to promise of a ?priority 4G network on RedX Plan as compared to other Vodafone post paid plans”.
At Rs 1099 per month (revised rental), it is at a substantial premium to VIL’s Q4FY20 average revenue per user (ARPU) of Rs 121.
An e-mail sent to Vodafone Idea seeking its stance to TRAI’s questionnaire did not elicit a response.
RedX comes bundled with benefits including ISD calls at special rates, unlimited data, premier customer service, international roaming, and free one-year subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Zee5 and Vodafone Play streaming services.
RedX plan comes with a minimum subscription period of six months, failing which customers would be charged an early exit fee of Rs 3,000.
In its FAQs for the tariff plan on its website, Vodafone Idea said, “Speed is dependent on a variety of factors like i) handset, ii) network congestion, iii) location of access, iv) topography, v) barriers caused by constructions etc. Hence, no mobile network can commit a minimum speed. However, you will have a better experience most of the time than other customers in the same location and using similar handsets but who are not on this plan.”