A couple of days back, Bharti Airtel suddenly changed its stance on VoIP calls made on its 2G and 3G network in India. From including it as part of the customer’s existing data plan, the company announced that VoIP calls will be charged separately.
The company has now announced a dedicated data plan for VoIP calls. For INR 75 ($1.18) you get 75MB, which can turn out to be pretty expensive if you do a lot of VoIP calls over 3G connection. Not to mention, this is in addition to the standard data plan you will need for everything else.
The company has been fairly straightforward about the reason for this change, citing the cost of infrastructure that went into building a nationwide network, which won’t be sustainable if users switched to VoIP. Unfortunately, this is also a fairly self-centred decision with no customer interest at heart, not to mention violates Net Neutrality principles that states all data should be treated equally. One also wonders where the line will be drawn; today the company is charging for VoIP calls, tomorrow for posting to social media or using IM apps.
The VoIP plans will be rolled out in the coming weeks. Prepaid users on existing data plans can continue making free VoIP plans until their plan lasts.
Update: TRAI, or the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, the last hope that anyone had against this nonsense by Airtel, has said that although Airtel’s move is against net neutrality, it’s not illegal either.
“Let’s be clear on this. What the company plans to do is certainly not in conformity with net neutrality. But one cannot today say the move is illegal as there’s no policy either by the government that net neutrality is our principle or a regulatory framework put in place by the regulator,” said Rahul Khullar, Chairman of TRAI. He also said over-the-top services like Viber and Skype will be brought under some sort of regulation to level the playing field.
One could suggest that following this move, Airtel subscribers should port their number to another carrier but there is no guarantee that other carriers won’t do the same, especially considering how closely nit their decisions are and also since the government doesn’t seem to have any problem with this.
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