Tata Docomo has partnered YouTube and Apalya Technologies to introduce a 3G video streaming plan called YouTube Recharge, reported The Economic Times. The Rs 9 plan provides users 100 MB usage for a 24 hour period; the Rs.19 plan provides 150 MB data with a validity of 3 days, and an Rs.39 plan with 300 MB data valid for 7 days.
Last year YouTube crossed the 50 million unique visitors per month mark in India. In 2013 YouTube had also rolled out its movie rental service in the country. This latest tie-up with Tata Docomo makes perfect sense for YouTube, given that most mobile phone users in India are still wary of data plan expenditure. Entry-level barriers, like cost, have stifled mass adoption of mobile Internet usage in India. The past couple of years, mobile network operators in India have been exploring the ‘Web Pass’ avenue to encourage mobile internet usage, even among feature phone users. The demand for site-specific data plans is also greater than that for a comprehensive web experience.
YouTube realises that most Indian users are still accessing the site through a 2G connection. Francisco Varela, Global Director of Platform Partnerships, YouTube, said so himself during a conversation with MediNama. According to Varela (in 2013), 90% of Indian YouTube users were on 2G connections, and only 10% on 3G. He also touched upon an important aspect of this paucity in 3G users. The number of 3G devices in India is greater than the number of 3G users, because a lot of us use 2G connections on 3G compatible phones.
The net neutrality conundrum: With more content provider-specific offers, telcos are in essence converting the internet into Value-Added Services (VAS). If they had their way net neutrality would be dead. In fact, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) – the lobbying arm of the telecom industry – is keen on establishing a revenue sharing arrangement between over-the-top internet players (like Google, WhatsApp, etc) and telcos. COAI made this clear in its five-point agenda presented to the new government.
What’s even more worrying is that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is believed to be working on a discussion paper that is looking into these “issues” mentioned by the telcos. These developments are discriminating against content providers, and slicing up the internet. Users should have equal access to all content. The net neutrality issue isn’t a new one in India. Back in 2009 Airtel’s so-called Fair Usage Policy had come under the scanner for discriminating between subscribers based on internet usage. Airtel has been at the forefront of the anti-net neutrality movement (if it can be called that) in India.
Tata Docomo data plan deals: Tata Docomo understands the idiosyncrasies of the Indian market. This isn’t their first site/app-specific data plan offering. Early, last year, Tata Docomo inked a deal with the online music streaming service Saavn to offer music-based data plans to its subscribers. In December 2013, Tata Docomo introduced a WhatsApp-spefici data plan as well. Subscribers were provided unlimited WhatsApp usage for a 15 day period for Rs.15. Earlier this year, Tata Docomo also allowed its subscribers to use the mobile-based directory service Truecaller sans data charges.
A comScore 2013 report revealed that Indians view 3.7 billion videos per month. It was an increase of 74% over 2011. The average viewer watched 18% more videos and spent 28% more time viewing. In all honesty India is still at a relatively nascent stage in terms of broadband internet adoption and average connection speeds. These numbers will increase rapidly as core infrastructure improves, and video consumption will increase as well.