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Ozone Networks’ WiFi service at CCD outlets violates differential pricing ruling

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 Public Wi-Fi provider Ozone Networks will deploy Wi-Fi services to customers at Café Coffee Day (CCD) outlets in a phased manner: in the first phase, around 225 CCD outlets in Delhi and Bangalore will receive Wi-Fi service. The next phase will cover CCD outlets in cities like Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai and Goa.

The service also provides free unlimited downloads of games and video content in selected 24 CCD outlets. Content is stored locally and users will be able to download it onto their device memory permanently. All content is provided and hosted through Ozone’s earlier tie up with a company named SpeedFetch. This is a violation of TRAI’s February ruling that banned differential pricing in India, which also stated that ‘no company (or telco) can enter into any agreement based on discriminatory pricing’.

Why this is a violation of differential pricing ruling

TRAI also disallowed usage of Closed Electronic Communication Networks (CECNs) to evade the differential pricing regulation; these are closed networks that may or may not be hosted via the Internet. SpeedFetch network claims to provide downloads via “micro-caching where content resides on a Speed Fetch box,” in this ET story. Caching of content is not a net neutrality violation, but pricing cached content deferentially from regular content is in fact a net neutrality violation. In reality, SpeedFetch is making content which is available online, at zero-data charges via a Wi-Fi network. Even though the company claims that content is stored and delivered through use of cache memory, it doesn’t mean that there is no differential pricing taking place.

Pricing of Wi-Fi at CCD outlets

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At CCD outlets, WiFi will be free for the first 30 minutes, and cost Rs 15 for 1 GB for the next 30 minutes. “The longer a user uses Wi-Fi at the café or the more data they consume, the lower will be the usage amount,” the company added. Apart from this, Ozone will provide Internet bandwidth to power CCD’s PoS system and IP cameras.

WiFi usage increased by 500% in 9 months: Ozone

Earlier In November last year, Ozone Networks had signed a service agreement with Ericsson to deploy 30,000 Wi-Fi hotpots across India. The company claims that in the last nine months alone, WiFi usage across its hotspots has increased 500%. It operates WiFi services in locations including chains of coffee shops, restaurants, airports, education establishments, hotels, hospitals and commercial establishments in India. It claims to have around 50-55 million users of its Wi-Fi services currently across India, and claims to host 120,000 user sessions daily.

Other public WiFi initiatives in India:
– In May, state owned telco BSNL said it extended its WiFi internet facility across 1,227 location by installing 2,505 Wi-Fi hotspots.
-In April, network providers including Techno Sat Comm and PING Network rolled out public WiFi service in Delhi metro across all stations including 222 trains, 187 stations
– The same month, Firefly Networks said it would provide WiFi internet access at Delhi’s Karkardooma Court Complex.
– In the same month, mobile payments and commerce company Paytm had started offering free WiFi service as a pilot project.
– In February, the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) said that it would launch WiFi at 144 major bus stations across the state.

Update: This story has been re-written to show that Ozone Networks-SpeedFetch free unlimited download service is a violation of TRAI’s differential pricing ruling on February 2016.

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