TRAI wants innovative business models to promote free data

TRAI TSP agnostic Platform
Indian telecom regulator TRAI has floated a consultation paper to identify best business models for mobile service providers — in a bid to promote free data offerings and improve transparency in such offers.

TRAI said there may be a number of business models to provide free data to users, without violating the principles of Differential Pricing for Data laid down in TRAI regulation. “The objective of this consultation paper is to explore such models and frame regulations to facilitate them,” said TRAI.

TRAI aims to explore models that can achieve the benefits of offering free data while avoiding the ingenuity that the Differential Tariff Regulation is meant to prevent.

The business model should facilitate the unconnected and under-connected consumer to become better connected and should not allow any telecom service provider (TSP) or large company playing a gatekeeper or biased role, TRAI said.

TRAI said the business model should use the principles of open, transparent and equal access to consumer services by all consumers and all businesses. TRAI believes that the business model should not hold back innovation and the opportunity to increase Internet penetration and usage.

In a move seen as an endorsement of net neutrality, TRAI on February 8 said no to discriminatory pricing of data content. “No service provider shall offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content,” said TRAI said in a regulatory order earlier.

No telecom service provider shall enter into any arrangement, 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.

TRAI on Thursday said: “After issuing the regulation, certain organizations represented to TRAI that though the regulation was necessary to prevent gate keeping function either by telecom operators, but there is a need to have some TSP agnostic platform which can facilitate app developer to promote their website by providing some incentive to user for making their website popular.”

TRAI believes that there is a need to enable smaller entrepreneurs to flourish without permitting gate keeping function in the hands of the TSPs and also to give the consumers more choices for accessing the Internet.

TRAI says the direct money transfer approach could be similar to the subsidy payment, for the domestic LPG connections, wherein the user pays for the connection like any other normal connection, and then the oil company or government pays the subsidy directly into his or her bank account.

One model could be to provide Reward-to consumers through a TSP agnostic platform when they download certain application or have some activity on a particular website. In this reward based model apps may provide rewards in the form of a recharge for data usage or for voice usage to the users.

There are some examples of reward based models in India: Discovery Apps dedicated to providing rewards in return for engagement such as mCent, Gigato, Taskbucks, Ladoo, EarnTalktime, Pokkt and many more and Rewards platforms that can enable any app/site to offer rewards for desired action or even mobile data rewards for everyday activities like paying electricity bill on time or checking out of the hotel on time etc.

The other model, very similar to rewards based model, where instead of a recharge API there could be an equivalent “don’t charge” or toll free API. This model is prevalent in many developed markets, allowing free access to certain websites and applications. TRAI said this helps the businesses make their service accessible without impacting the mobile bill of the consumers.