Airtel wants to pierce net neutrality, charges more for VoIP
Srini RamaKrishnan <cheeni@...
2014-12-25 17:21:02 GMT
Airtel to charge up to 16 times* the standard data rate for using
Skype and other VoIP services
Airtel seems to be implying that this move has TRAI sanction.
*per rate mentioned in other newspapers
Airtel wants you to pay extra for using Skype, Viber, more
If you use services like Skype or Viber to make calls over Airtel's
mobile data network, be prepared to pay extra. Yes, we know you
already pay Airtel for for that data. Doesn't matter. Airtel has added
this line to the terms and conditions of its 2G and 3G data plans:
"All Internet/data packs or plans (through which customer can avail
discounted rate) shall only be valid for internet browsing and will
exclude VoIP (Both incoming/ Outgoing). VoIP over data connectivity
would be charged at standard data rates of 4p / 10 KB (3G service) and
10p / 10 KB (2G service)."
VoIP, or Voice over IP, simply means voice data that is tranferred
over the internet. The next time you're shooting the breeze on Viber,
Skype or Google Hangouts on your phone, keep in mind that Airtel will
charge you you even if you're already paying for that data.
Airtel's move flies in the face of net neutrality, which is a hot
topic round the globe. In the United States, for instance, there is a
proposal to provide "fast lanes" for data intensive video-streaming
services like Netflix and Hulu. Simply put, internet services
providers want to charge these companies extra for carrying their bits
to the consumer, even though the consumers are already paying the
service providers for internet access in the first place. Last month,
President Barack Obama came out strongly in support of net neutrality
by saying that "a free and open internet was as critical to Americans'
lives as electricity and telephone service and should be regulated
like those utilities to protect consumers."
The timing of this move isn't surprising. Whatsapp, which has wiped
off a large part of SMS revenues for mobile service providers in
India, has long been rumoured to introduce voice-calling over data.
Indians already pay some of the lowest rates in the world for voice
calls and carriers like Airtel are afraid that once people start using
data to make voice calls, these revenues will be wiped out as well.
Indeed, in August, the Telecom Regulation Authority of India (TRAI)
had quashed a proposal from Indian telecom companies to charge
over-the-top players like Whatsapp and Viber extra "connectivity
charges." TRAI stated that telcos could make up for the lost revenue
with the increase in mobile data usage.
In a statement to Hindustan Times, an Airtel spokesperson said: "We
have made some revisions in the composition of our data packs, and
will offer VoIP (Voice over internet protocol) connectivity through an
independent pack that will be launched shortly. Our customers can
continue enjoying voice calls over data connectivity by opting for
this VoIP pack, or simply use VoIP services on pay-as-you-go basis."
Which basically means this: unless you buy a seperate VoIP pack,
you'll be charged extra for making calls using Skype, Viber and other
services. If you don't think net neutrality is something to lose sleep
over yet, think about this: If it's VoIP today, operators might start
charging you extra to stream YouTube or use a music service like Saavn
tomorrow. It is not immediately clear if other operators will follow
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