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Airtel launches Skype clone Airtel Talk for VoIP calls to India; Double standards?

Airtel Talk Logo

Bharti Airtel Hong Kong has launched a Skype clone called Airtel Talk, which allows international calls to India, free calls from Airtel Talk to Airtel Talk, instant messaging, video calls, conference calls, apart from file sharing. The app can be used over 3G network or WiFi connection. The Airtel Talk app is currently available for Android and iOS based devices.

All users will receive $0.15 credit initially, and have to purchase further credits (Details). The plans come with a fixed validity of 30 days (which, frankly, is a terrible idea, but so telecom-operator-ish)

Airtel Talk Plans

User complaints: Airtel Talk’s Google Play Store page shows that the app has had over 50,000 downloads. Consumers, though, have complained about bad voice quality on calls (on both 3G and Wi-Fi), and call drops. Again, so telecom-operator-ish.

Competition:

– LINE extended its premium calling service LINE Call to India last month. It has claimed that it currently has 30 million registered users in India, but not disclosed active user data.
– Viber had also launched a calling service Viber Out that lets users make calls to mobile phones and landlines, in December last year.  Viber over 15 million registered users in India.

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WhatsApp, which is planning to launch voice calling, claims to have about 65 million active users in India

Our Take

– Product quality matters: WhatsApp has become the default communication app while travelling abroad, and even though WhatsApp voice has been delayed, Airtel Talk is unlikely to replace it for messaging, or Viber or Skype for voice.

– Double standards? Interestingly, this app is being launched at a time when Airtel and other telecom operators have complained about the impact of Internet based services like Whatsapp and Viber, and trying to get them regulated by the TRAI. Earlier this year, telecom industry’s lobbying arm, the Cellular Operators Association of India (of which Airtel is an associate member) had listed “revenue sharing arrangement between the over-the-top service providers and telecom service providers” as one of the five items on their wishlist for the new government.

This launch should weaken COAI’s and Airtel’s case for regulation since it is doing what it is complaining against.

Also Read: On Telecom vs Internet in a post WhatsApp Voice scenario

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