India regulator TRAI bars Airtel, Vodafone Idea offering speed-based plans

TRAI speed-based plans
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India’s telecom regulator, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), has barred Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea from offering speed-based postpaid plans to their respective subscribers in the country.

Unhappy over the TRAI’s move, Vodafone Idea on Monday moved to the country’s Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) against the regulator’s order that blocks its speed-based postpaid plan.

Vodafone Idea has been offering a similar postpaid plan, RedX, since November 2019. The telco is promising up to 50% faster speeds and special services. 

Last week, Bharti Airtel also joined the bandwagon and said that it would give preference to platinum mobile customers, who pay Rs 499 ($6.64) and above per month for postpaid connection, on its 4G network. 

The Sunil Mittal-led telecom operator said that the platinum customers will get better 4G speed on the Airtel network compared to other customers.

The aim behind launching these plans was to grow average revenue per user (ARPU), a key performance metric in the market. 

Days after the launch of Airtel’s plan, the regulator asked both telecom operators to withhold their respective plans with immediate effect. In separate yet identical letters, the TRAI questioned both telecom operators about their individual plans that promised faster speeds to certain priority users, and asked if priority to high-paying customers in those specific plans came at the cost of service deterioration for other subscribers.

The TRAI has also asked both Airtel and Vodafone Idea how they are protecting the interest of other general subscribers. It will also check if these plans breach net neutrality rules in the country.

Vodafone Idea reportedly maintained that its plan doesn’t violate any tariff regulation in India, and said that the TRAI’s order will lead to inconvenience to customers. The telco said that it already has many customers subscribed to the RedX plan, which was launched in November and was again filed with the regulator in May this year after some modifications.

“Vodafone RedX plan offers a range of benefits including unlimited data, calls, premium content, international roaming pack etc. for our valued postpaid customers who want more. We are committed to serving our customers with the best in class offerings and high-speed 4G data across all markets,” a Vodafone Idea spokesperson said while replying to media queries on the Trai’s latest order.

“We are passionate about delivering the best network and service experience to all our customers. At the same time, we want to keep raising the bar for our post-paid customers in terms of service and responsiveness. This is an ongoing effort at our end,” an Airtel spokesperson separately said.

Analysts are of the view that speed-based wireless plans don’t violate the net neutrality regulations in the country. These plans will only breach net neutrality if customers are offered differential speeds to access content on select websites.

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