Airtel calls off VoIP call charge hike

Airtel calls off VoIP call charge hike

Amidst public outcry, leading telecom player Bharti Airtel on Monday dropped its plans to charge extra for Internet voice calls or VoIP service available through apps like Skype and Viber.

“In view of the news reports that a consultation paper will be issued shortly by TRAI on issues relating to services offered by OTT (over the top content) players, including VoIP, we have decided not to implement our proposed launch of VoIP packs,” Bharti Airtel said in a statement.

“We have no doubt that as a result of the consultation process a balanced outcome would emerge that would not only protect the interests of all stakeholders and viability of this important sector but would also encourage much needed investments in spectrum and roll out of data networks to fulfil the objective of digital India,” Airtel said. It is learnt that the TRAI soon will take a decision whether to allow the telecom firms to charge for call made through internet or not.

Earlier the telecom operator had announced its decision to charge VoIP calls and on pay as you go basis at standard data rates of 4 paise per 10 KB on 3G network and 10 paise per 10 KB on 2G network. Besides, it had also announced special VoIP packs.

Airtel plan received strong protest from users through social media and the creation of a website to fight against the plan. Even experts have cautioned that collecting charges is against net-neutrality  principles that all Internet service providers should allow access to all content without favouring any particular product or websites.

Airtel’s move was being seen as a counter to Net telephony players such as Skype as they were eating into the telecom operator’s voice telephony revenues. At present users do not pay any fee to the operator for using VoIP services other than the data charges.

The domestic telecom players have been urging the Telecom Regulator Authority of India (TRAI) to regulate the over the top players (OTTPs), who have been offering services of internet based voice and texting apps like WhatsApp and Viber, saying telecom service providers revenue will erode.   

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