Using Skype Via Airtel? Get Skewered – The Economic Times – 25-Dec-2014
December 29, 2014 - Uncategorized
Bharti Airtel prepaid customers will be charged more for voice and video calls made on Skype, Viber and similar services than for browsing the internet, in a move that could impinge on the principle of ‘net neutrality’.
India’s largest telco said voice over internet protocol (VoIP) calls made on its network won’t be eligible for discounted rates. Staring January, an Airtel customer using a prepaid data pack will be able to avail of discounted rates only for internet browsing and will be charged a higher rate for VoIP calls.
“VoIP over data connectivity would be charged at standard data rates of 4p / 10 KB ( 3G service) and 10p / 10 KB (2G service),” the company said in a statement posted on its website. An Airtel spokesperson said the company will soon launch independent packs for VoIP connectivity. While the spokesperson declined to comment on the pricing of these packs, they are expected to be higher than discounted rates that the company offers for internet browsing.
Airtel’s rivals are watching the development closely. While an Idea Cellular spokesman said the company had nothing specifically lined up, he added that the company will respond to the competitive needs of the market.
A senior industry analyst described Airtel’s move as unprecedented. “Globally, especially in developed markets like Germany where Viber originated and even the US, no telecom operator charges differential rates for VoIP and internet browsing,” said the person, who didn’t want to be identified.
The move to charge differential rates for browsing and VoIP calls throws the spotlight once again on net neutrality, the basic principle of which is that service providers will treat all data on the internet equally and not impose differential pricing or discriminate among users, content sites, apps and platforms. US President Barack Obama recently weighed in on the side of net neutrality.
India’s telecom regulator is examining the issue and is expected to issue a consultation paper on socalled over-the-top (OTT) players or apps that ride on telecom networks. The regulator is already scrutinising Airtel’s exclusive WhatsApp and Facebook data packs to determine whether these amount to providing preferential access to specific content providers over others.
The decision by Bharti Airtel to charge more for VoIP calls could also be seen as a move to protect revenue. Telcos have seen their SMS earnings erode as apps such as WhatsApp and Viber have gained traction and popularity. WhatsApp, which now has 70 million subscribers in India, is said to be planning to launch call services, and this could impact the voice revenue of phone companies.