Telecom industry reacts to TRAI’s differential pricing notification

EWE TEL broadband network in Germany
The Indian telecom industry has responded to TRAI’s differential pricing notification issued on Monday.

Arpita Pal Agrawal, leader – Telecom, PwC India 

With this notification TRAI has decided that all citizens of India will get the same view of the internet which is in line with the principle of non – discriminatory access. What remains to be done is to find innovative ways to actually get all citizens access to this internet as India’s ranking in universal broadband access is abysmally poor and the digital divide continues to widen.

Hemant Joshi, partner, Deloitte Haskins & Sells

Differential pricing for different level of services is a well-accepted principle across all Industries from energy, railways, airlines, buses, highways (tolls), etc. The concept of differential pricing inherently recognizes the economic principle of paying differently for different levels of service and experience. E.g. the differential pricing for the 2nd class, 1st AC, sleeper class, etc. based on different experiences and service levels. Even the state run road transportation services have different rates for ST buses which are non-AC and for luxury air-conditioned coaches (Shivneri). When it comes to the road transportation, there is a choice for the traveler to pay a toll (different for different types of capacity) to enjoy the experience of express way and reach the destination quickly or use a non-toll road.

In the telecom sector there are virtual highways that need to follow the same principle. EU is considering allowing “specialized services” with few priority services having fast lane internet connection.

More awareness and education is needed around the economics of differential pricing and its long term implications on the Industry and the consumer.


Facebook said it was disappointed with the outcome, but will continue its “efforts to eliminate barriers and give the unconnected an easier path to the Internet. Our goal with Free Basics is to bring more people online with an open, non-exclusive and free platform. While disappointed with the outcome, we will continue our efforts to eliminate barriers and give the unconnected an easier path to the internet and the opportunities it brings.

Rajan S Mathews, director general, Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI)

We are disappointed that TRAI has upfront rejected differential pricing, without defining net neutrality. We expected that they will see our recommendations before coming out with the regulations. It (Free Basics) was a tool to connect the billion of unconnected people in India


NASSCOM welcomed the TRAI announcement on differential pricing mandating that discriminatory tariffs are not allowed, and that TSPs or TSPs and their partners cannot offer discriminatory tariffs for data services being offered or charged by the service provider. In line with NASSCOM’s recommendation, TRAI has retained the provision to allow for reduced tariffs for public emergency. With an increasingly digitally connected population, it is important to leverage this medium in extreme situations where there is need for rescue, support and critical information. We are grateful to the regulator for adopting a balanced approach, and their reposing faith in stakeholder consultations.

R Chandrashekhar, president of NASSCOM

Our submission highlighted the importance of net neutrality principles, non-discriminatory access and transparent business models aligned to the goal of enhancing internet penetration in the country. The TRAI announcement resounds with the submission made by NASSCOM and we would like to congratulate TRAI for enshrining the principles of net neutrality.

Sanjeev Bhikchandani, chairman, Internet Council

This announcement will help address apprehensions for young start-ups on lack of a level playing field. NASSCOM will continue to work with all stakeholders for a conducive regulatory environment that supports the growth of India’s start-up ecosystem”.

Rajeev Chandrsekhar, member of Parlimanet, Rajya Sabha

This is a big win for Indian consumers and Net Neutrality. This is a positive first step taken by TRAI.

Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI)

In a transparent ruling, TRAI has explicitly said “no service provider shall offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content” and “No Service provider shall enter into any agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal, that has the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services being offered or charged to the consumer on the basis of content.” This move will ensure that the basic tenets of Net Neutrality are followed in India.

This ruling vindicates the associations stand on the issue. The internet Start-up eco-system and the internet user community are delighted. IAMAI has also welcomed the move that the TRAI will be the ultimate authority to decide the cases of violations of this ruling and that the decision of the authority is final and binding.

However, the association has a slight concern on the exception and the exception to the exception as to how this entire thing will pan out. The association hopes that the exceptions to the rule will not be misused by the TSPs. The exception states “…regulation shall not apply to tariffs for data services over closed electronic communications networks…”

Gartner India research director Amresh Nandan

Research firm Gartner said the telecom regulator’s notification was in line with the US Federal Communications Commission’s ruling on open internet and the European Union, which ruled in favour of treating all internet traffic equally.

The notification is in support of the government’s focus on start-up and internet penetration, without compromising on access to content. As start-ups are dependent on open access of internet, any directive to control it can have detrimental effect on them and the government’s push to start-up ecosystem.

Though telecom service providers may not be happy with the notification, Nandan said they have the ability to create different kind of internet access packages as long as content is not a parameter to provide or bar access to anyone.
Such practices have started elsewhere with products such as bandwidth on demand and bandwidth calendaring to create premium products.


The BJP welcomed the decision of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) against discriminatory pricing of data content, saying it will give a strong impetus to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of a ‘Digital India’.

In a statement issued by Communications and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, the party said the decision was an expression of popular will and it will give a strong impetus to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of a Digital India.

The BJP wholeheartedly welcomes the TRAI decision on differential pricing. The decision is a clear expression of popular will. The decision is fully in line with the BJP-led NDA government’s vision of open and fair Internet and support to net neutrality, which it has reiterated time and again, on the floor of the parliament and outside. The statement said the National Democratic Alliance government ensured unparalleled transparency in the entire issue of net neutrality.


The Congress welcomed the decision of the TRAI saying no to discriminatory pricing of data content and said it vindicates the position of the party as articulated by party vice president Rahul Gandhi.

The decision, though taken after contradictory posturing on part of the government, vindicates the demands raised consistently and unequivocally by Rahul Gandhi as indeed millions of net neutrality supporters, activists and internet users across the country, said Randeep Singh Surjewala, in-charge of communications, at the Congress party.

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