Airtel seeks TRAI approval for signing big video content deal

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Telecom network operator Bharti Airtel has sought suggestions from TRAI for a deal with a big global technology company for video content.

With this move, Bharti Airtel aims to avoid any controversy on net neutrality. Airtel did not share the name of the video content provider.

Video content is becoming the backbone for telecoms in India and abroad. Recently, US telecom major Verizon acquired AOL.com, a media company with significant presence in video business. Verizon is also trying to buy Yahoo. Reliance Jio Infocomm will be using the video content from CNN News18.

“We have been approached by one of the big global content providers who wishes to offer their video content on exclusive basis over the closed electronics communications network (CECN) of Airtel. Such exclusive content would be offered in India to Airtel’s customers only,” said Airtel in a letter to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Secretary Sudhir Gupta.

Bharti Airtel, the leading 3G and 4G operator in India, wants advise from TRAI before taking any business decision on such an arrangement.

Airtel said such an arrangement with the global content provider over CECN along with its exclusive offerings to its customers would be compliant to the regulations, some stakeholders may view this as a violation of principles of net neutrality, IANS reports.

India’s telecom watchdog in February said no to discriminatory pricing of data content. TRAI said in its regulatory order that “no service provider shall offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content.”

As per the regulatory norms in India, telecoms cannot enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract with any person that has the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services being offered or charged to the consumer on the basis of content.

The government is planning to come out with its net neutrality guidelines in the coming months. This will put stringent conditions on Indian telecom operators against their powers to control bandwidth speed for selling content on their networks.

Airtel wants video

There is no surprise that Bharti Airtel is looking for incremental revenue from its video business. Reliance Jio is considering video consumption as the growth driver when it launches 4G towards the end of the year.

Idea Cellular, which has 4G presence in 575 towns, has 6.1 million 4G devices, nearly 6 percent of its subscriber base in 10 telecom service areas, registered on its network. In comparison, Idea has nearly 48.6 million customers have 3G devices (approx. 28 percent) and over 9.8 million customers with 4G devices (approx. 5 percent) on an All India basis.

Verizon recently announced plans to expand its video platform by adding content from Hearst and AwesomenessTV.

Verizon, a leading 4G operator in the U.S., has 73.8 million smartphone users, representing 85 percent of the total phone base. Growth in 4G device adoption is driving data and video usage. 92 percent of Verizon’s data traffic is on the LTE network. Data traffic on LTE increased approximately 50 percent.

Baburajan K
[email protected]