Bharti Airtel, India’s biggest telecommunications network has started charging premium data rates for VoIP data usage on all existing Internet data plans and services. First reported by TelecomTalk, as per the new policy, users will have to pay standard data charge of 4 paise per 10KB on 3G, and 10 paise per 10KB on 2G network to make audio or video calls using Skype, as well as Google Hangouts, Viber and other similar services.
The move to charge users for voice data usage comes after the company appealed to TRAI, an independent regulator of the telecommunications business in India earlier this year. The telecom operators had pleaded the TRAI to let telcos charge for popular services such as Skype, Viber, and WhatsApp among others. Their stance is that mobile phone providers have invested billions of dollars to make the platform, and over-the-top-players (services that use the internet) are utilizing all their services without spending much. The move also comes in the wake of the entire world fighting for Net Neutrality.
An Airtel representative confirmed the move to MediaNama, “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.”
What happens next?
If you’re on Airtel network, you will be charged premium data rates for using the service. The restriction is likely to be applicable on Skype Qik as well, and a dozen of other VoIP services. We hope that TRAI, which has been pretty pro-consumer since its inception, will force Airtel to revert this policy. But if that doesn’t happen, I fear that all the other major carriers will announce similar policies.