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Vodafone Idea appeals TRAI’s order prohibiting premium 4G subscriptions at TDSAT

Vodafone Idea has appealed the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s Saturday order directing the telco to stop offering its priority 4G plan. The appeal was filed at the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal, and the first hearing in the matter took place on Tuesday afternoon, according to TDSAT’s schedule for the day. TRAI requested time to file a reply, and the matter will next be heard on July 16, a person working on the case told MediaNama.

At question is TRAI’s letter to Vodafone Idea (and Airtel) ordering the telcos to stop offering “priority 4G”, where the telcos promised faster speeds for customers who paid more. TRAI ordered the telcos to stop the practice so that they would have time to examine how exactly this prioritisation scheme would be carried out, and if there would be any impact on users who are not on the priority tier.

Read TRAI’s letters and questionnaires on priority 4G: TRAI letter to Airtel | TRAI letter to Vodafone Idea | TRAI questionnaire to Airtel | TRAI questionnaire to Vodafone Idea

TRAI’s questions to telcos

Here’s an edited version of TRAI’s questions to telcos.

  1. There’s increased congestion in telecom networks and consumers are complaining of lower speeds. How will Vodafone Idea/Airtel ensure that non-premium customers continue to get good quality of service? Isn’t redistributing existing resources going to impact quality of service for customers paying less?
  2. Telcos have always said that since signal strength and bandwidth depend on a variety of factor for mobile broadband, they cannot commit to an average or minimum speed for customers. Now that premium plans are being introduced, how can non-premium subscribers raise concerns about service quality?
  3. By signing up subscribers to the premium tier, are service conditions being changed for them unilaterally? How do you communicate this to those subscribers?
  4. Does giving premium subscribers priority when networks are congested not impact regular subscribers? If not, how do you prove that?
  5. What does “Priority on Network” mean? Are resources being reserved for premium subscribers? If not, how would Airtel/Vodafone Idea subscribers know that they are being provided the service they were promised?
  6. Is any verifiable network or service parameter being assured to premium subscribers? If not, are ads for priority 4G misleading?
  7. Would a device on a priority subscription be able to tell that the user is subscribed to a premium plan? If so, what are the technical details of this?
  8. The Quality Council of India has defined multiple parameters on LTE standards. Is Vodafone Idea/Airtel compliant with the latest requirements set by the QCI?
  9. What information is being provided to premium subscribers? Is this information enough for them to make an informed decision?
  10. Aren’t telcos cashing in on customers facing network issues? What specific and definite advantage are premium subscribers getting?
  11. “Priority 4G Network” and “Faster Speeds” are ambiguous terms, and terms & conditions for these plans do not elaborate on what customers on these plans will get. This violates TRAI’s 2012 direction on transparency in advertising mobile tariffs. You are required to explain this.

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