Premium plans of Vodafone Idea and Airtel face hurdle from TRAI

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has raised objections to mobile plans of Vodafone Idea and Airtel to offer higher speed to its premium smartphone customers as these plans will not violate the rules of net neutrality.
Vodafone Idea and AirtelTRAI has directed Vodafone Idea, the third largest mobile operator in India, to drop its RedX plan, which offers higher speed to its premium smartphone customers across the country.

India’s telecom regulator has also asked Bharti Airtel, the second largest telecom operator in India, to explain within seven days how a similar plan being launched by it does not violate the rules of net neutrality, Financial Express reported.

Interestingly, TRAI earlier did not raise objections to Vodafone Idea’s RedX mobile plan that has been in the Indian wireless market since November 2019. The report said Vodafone Idea made modifications to its RedX plan in May 2020.

The development indicates that Indian mobile service providers cannot provide higher speed to its premium customers who pay more money.

Indian mobile operators feel that offering higher speed, which means premium services to premium customers without blocking any sites or lowering the speed of customers in lower denomination plans does not constitute violation of net neutrality.

Operators said different plans are available in fixed broadband business offering different speeds at different price points. Operators ask that why they cannot apply the same rule in mobile broadband business.

Mobile operators launch high speed Internet plans in order to improve ARPU from high data using customers.

Sources in the company said Vodafone Idea’s RedX plan has been in the market for last eight months and customers are already on-boarded, the report said. Vodafone Idea does not reveal the subscriber numbers from its RedX plan.

“There is no violation of tariff regulation on this plan. It is shocking to receive a letter over the weekend now, asking us to block it without any opportunity to respond on an important matter such as tariff,” Vodafone Idea sources said.

“Vodafone RedX plan benefits include unlimited data, calls, premium content, IR pack etc, to our valued postpaid customers who want more. Vodafone Idea is committed to serve its customers with the best in class offerings and high-speed 4G data across all markets,” said Vodafone Idea spokesperson.

Airtel announced that its post-paid customers on Rs 499 and above plans will receive several preferential benefits, including faster 4G speeds, as part of the its Thanks program. The exclusive benefits include a preferential service at call centres and retail stores, a customised user interface on the Thanks app and faster 4G speeds by giving them preference on the network.

“We are passionate about delivering the best network and service experience to our phone customers. This is why we have a relentless obsession to eliminate faults and have been consistently recognised by international agencies as the best network in terms of speed, latency and video experience,” a Bharti Airtel spokesperson said.

Vodafone Idea, which lost several million phone customers in the recent quarters, offers  preferential benefits, including high speed data, preferential customer service, access to airport lounges and exclusive deals on handsets, hotel bookings etc. under the RedX plan.  Customers can activate the RedX plan for Rs 1,099.