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Airtel withdraws VoIP charges for now, after forcing TRAI’s hand on net neutrality consultation

Bharti Airtel has issued a statement that it is withdrawing the launch of its VoIP packs, given that the TRAI has issued a statement that it will issue a consultation paper on issues relating to “services offered by OTT players including VOIP.” Airtel’s statement:

In view of the news reports that a consultation paper will be issued shortly by TRAI on issues relating to services offered by OTT players including VOIP, we have decided not to implement our proposed launch of VoIP packs.

We have no doubt that as a result of the consultation process a balanced outcome would emerge that would not only protect the interests of all stakeholders and viability of this important sector but would also encourage much needed investments in spectrum and roll out of data networks to fulfil the objective of digital India.

Effectively, Airtel forced the TRAI’s hand: It instituted a pack that violated net neutrality, thereby, following the criticism and outrage, ensuring that the TRAI Chairman, Rahul Khullar announced a consultation process. Remember that Khullar said that Airtel’s action is not illegal, since there is no law preventing violation of Net Neutrality.

We’ve already questions TRAI’s predisposition, and a TRAI recommendation, post consultation, if it allows interconnection charges or differential pricing, will only legitimize Airtel’s actions. Then, Airtel could bring back the packs, and say that the law allows it.

So,

airtel-net-neutrality-strategy

Well played.

Things to remember:

1. Airtel hasn’t withdrawn the VoIP packs because of consumer outrage. It’s withdrawn the pack because of the impending TRAI consultation.

2. As Airtel points out, the consultation will not just cover VoIP, but also other OTT services. As per a COAI paper, these services include Instant Messaging (IM), Applications (Apps), Cloud Services, Internet Television, IPTV, M2M – Machine to Machine (M2M) communications, Social Networking, apart from VoIP.

3. The TRAI, as we explained, appears predisposed towards a regulation of online services, and we’re not sure if we can expect a neutral consultation from the TRAI.

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