Airtel Backtracks on Charging for Internet Phone Calls (VoIP)

Under mounting criticism from the users, Airtel said that it will not pre-empt the launch of new Voice over IP (VoIP) packages meant for collecting additional charges from those who use Skype and similar phone services, despite a surprising clean-chit from the regulator TRAI.

Airtel-Logo“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,” the company said in a statement on Monday.

The move received flak from both its rivals and consumers. The major telecom operators said the additional charge would violate the network neutrality, which states that service providers should not differentiate between the traffic that flows over their network so that every user and service has equal access to the network.

Last week, Airtel announced that its customers who use Skype or Viber should pay more making VoIP or Internet-based phone or video calls, saying these low-cost or free services are eating into its revenue, notwithstanding the Whatsapp, which is likely to foray its free phone calls, besides its dominant SMS arena.

Even the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairman Rahul Khullar gave a clean chit to Airtel saying the regulator does not see any illegality in Bharti Airtel’s move to charge customers a higher rate for making voice calls from its network.

Khullar told Financial Express that the move is against the principle of net neutrality but said there’s no policy or regulatory framework. “What the company plans to do is certainly not in conformity with net neutrality. But one cannot today say the move is illegal as there’s no policy either by the government that net neutrality is our principle or a regulatory framework put in place by the regulator,” he said, virtually endorsing Airtel move.

However, Airtel came down on its aggressive move giving enough time for users to switch over or allocate enough budget for the new VoIP regime soon.

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