Airtel has been in news lately for violating principles of net neutrality and separately charging for VoIP calls (calls over internet from apps like Skype, Line, Hangouts, etc). For Airtel consumers, the data used for these internet based calls is not included within your 2G or 3G data pack. Airtel has today explained its decision.
In Airtel’s own words – “Over the last twenty years, we have invested over Rs. 140, 000 crores in rolling out telecommunications services in every nook and corner of the country. In addition, we have paid over Rs. 50, 000 crore in terms of government levies in just 5 years. Going forward, we are committed to rolling out data networks across the country. In order to ensure this, our business must be viable and sustainable. We, therefore, believe that VoIP services in their current form are not tenable for us as a business.”
Apps like WhatsApp have replaced SMS among Indian youth. The SMS packs which used to be a rage till few years back are rarely used these days. With increase in number of VoIP call use, telecom sector fears a major blow to its primary revenue which comes through cellular calls.
Airtel has also announced exclusive VoIP data packs, priced at Rs. 75 for 75MB with a validity of 28 days. According to the company this will allow for up to 250 minutes of VoIP calls.
Airtel was also criticized for silently introducing these new tariffs. The company clarified that these changes will be rolled out in phases and consumers will be duly informed before the new changes are in affect for their SIM card. All users who have subscribed for data packs prior to 24th December can continue using all services till their data packs expire.
After Airtel several other telecoms are expected to implement the same policy in India. This does violate net neutrality, but Airtel’s concern seems justified.