The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), over the weekend, blocked special high speed internet offerings provided by Indian telcos Airtel and Vodafone Idea on the grounds of discrimination with usual plan users and violation of net neutrality norms.
On 6 July, Airtel with over 283 million users in India, deployed a “preferential 4G plan” for its “platinum customers” who pay INR 499 ($6) and above per month for post-paid services. The plan guaranteed boosted 4G internet speeds for high paying customers.
In November 2019, British telecom Vodafone, which merged with Indian telco Idea, also launched a special “RedX” plan for customers who paid INR 999 ($13) and above for its monthly services. With the plan, the Vodafone Idea group (over 325 million users in India), also offered increased 4G speeds.
However, TRAI has stepped up for net neutrality and decided to bar these special plans being offered by telecom companies.
“It is in violation of quality of service norms. It short changes existing customers and it is also not clear what the new customers are being offered as the parameters are not quantifiable", the Indian media reported on Monday, citing anonymous TRAI officials.
TRAI’s decision has been well received by netizens who are thanking the statutory body from saving them from getting “looted” by telecom operators.
Fantastic news— VsayVinayak (@GoonerVinayak) July 13, 2020
@TRAI— Vivek K (@Kel_Viv) July 13, 2020
Thank you very much for your timely action on #BhartiAirtel.@Airtel_Presence @airtelindia
This company would have looted common people, if #TRAI did not exist.https://t.co/P6DxLOyAKt https://t.co/0CDYdMtOW0
The telcos appear to be reserving a lane on a public data highway that uses public resources (spectrum) for exclusive use of rich customer. @TRAI— Srijan Kumar (@SrijanKumar5) July 13, 2020
Thankful to you for this decision. @airtelindia @VodafoneIN
Stop Discriminating between rich and poor customer
why should I be paying more for "faster speed"? I already paid for 4G data, I should get 4G speed now. There is no faster 4G and no slower 4G— Prashant (@yoptgyo) July 13, 2020
Responding to media queries, Airtel said it was merely another effort on their end to keep the “bar rising” for its customers, while Vodafone Idea kept mum.
The debate on network neutrality in India gained public attention back in December 2014 after Airtel levied additional charges for making voice calls from its network via apps like WhatsApp and Skype. Later, TRAI passed the "Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016", prohibiting telecom service providers from levying discriminatory rates for data and in 2018, rules favouring net neutrality came into effect in India.