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MTS launches OpenWeb plans to counter zero-rating plans

MTS-mPOS

We missed this earlier. Telecom operator Sistema Shyam Teleservices Limited, which operates as MTS in India, launched a number of data plans which it called OpenWeb plans for its customers. MTS has dubbed these “Anti-zero rating” plans and says that these were launched keeping in mind support for net neutrality.

MTS says that its plans offer customers a higher quantum of data and do not discriminate against types of data.. The company says that this initiative is part of a larger customer centric programme for equal access to all lawful websites and services on the Internet. MTS packages for postpaid and prepaid customers are:

MTS Open web

 

According to an earlier report by the Economic Times, following the debate on Net Neutrality, MTS said its customers raised three queries which prompted them to start open web plans:

– Would existing data plans become zero-rating plans allowing easy access to just a few sites?

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– Would customers retain a free choice to access any legally valid website or would they be compelled to access only some websites and applications preferentially and pay a sizeable premium for others?

– Would current data plans allow access to all websites without throttling?

Retailer training programme

The company is also rolling out a retailer training and awareness program on net neutrality which involves 40,000 retailers in all nine telecom circles where MTS provides services. The programme is designed in six local languages i.e. Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada, Gujarati, Bangla and Tamil and the training program aims to explain the significance of Net Neutrality and MTS’ commitment to it. As part of the program, retailers would also be educated on the benefits of OpenWeb plans over other data plans available in the market.

Earlier Net Neutrality violation

In February, when MTS launched its Homespot Instant WiFi solution, we had pointed out that some of the plans offered by MTS were in violation of Net Neutrality. One of MTS’ prepaid tariff plans offers Viber and WhatsApp free as part of its service. But it seems that MTS has taken down that plan according to this page.

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At the same time of the launch, MTS also said that it is pivoting its its focus from being primarily a dongle driven data company to a WiFi solutions provider.

Financials

Fr the quarter ended June 30, 2015 (Q2 2015), the company’s data card base grew to 1.95 million connections, up 8.9% from 1.8 million last quarter. Non-voice revenues, from both data and mobile VAS, for the quarter increased by 13.4% during the quarter to 11.1% to Rs 207.2 crore, from Rs 182.7 crore last quarter. Non-voice revenues now contribute to 55.3% of total quarterly revenues for MTS.

Potential merger with Reliance Communications

The company is currently in discussions with Reliance Communications for a potential merger, announced a couple of months ago. On the earnings conference call on 10th June, Mikhail Shamolin, President of Sistema JSFC had said that “We are negotiating with several participants for potential M&A transaction, and very soon we will come out with an official statement commenting on this. We’re making some progress down this path.”

Given MTS’ stand on Net Neutrality and zero-rating plans, we wonder if the merger with Reliance Communications makes sense. Facebook and Reliance Communications have come together and launched net neutrality-violating Internet.org platform.

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