Recently Airtel the leading Indian telecom operator announced that it would soon start charging a differential data tariff for VoIP calls made using apps such as Skype, Viber and Line etc which could cost you all the way up to Rs. 10,000 for 1 GB of 2G data and Rs. 4,000 for 1 GB of 3G data. This is exorbitant from any point of view.
Sensing that this kind unjustified data price hike will be too harsh on users, Govt has decided to soon look in to this matter. “We will look into it. Government will come back with structured response,” Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on the sidelines of ‘Good Governance Day’ event organised by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology.
Telecom minister was responding to the question about Govts plan of action on Airtel’s plan to hike VoIP data tariff to 4 paise per 10 KB on 3G networks and 10 paise per 10 KB on 2G networks. This means Airtel customers now have to pay through their nose while making a VoIP call using its network. Barely 6 months ago Airtel doubled data charges and no one stood up to it. But now it seems Airtel has taken everything for granted by charging for what we already pay.
Airtel’s website has following to say about recent developments “All internet/data packs or plans (through which customer can avail discounted rate) shall only be valid for internet browsing and will exclude VoIP (both incoming/ outgoing). VoIP over data connectivity would be charged at standard data rates of 4p/10 KB (3G service) and 10p/10 KB (2G service),”
Airtel has also announced that it is soon going to launch a specialized VoIP plans and packs for its customers. “Our customers can continue enjoying voice calls over data connectivity by opting for this VoIP pack, or simply use VoIP services on pay-as-you-go basis,” Airtel said in a statement.
Application based VoIP calling has constantly been eating away in to ISD call revenue of all the major telecom service providers and they have been for long demanding for such apps to be covered under some govt. regulation. This is for the first time that an Indian telecom company is charging separately for VoIP service. There are lots and lots of people out there who use Skype, Google Hangouts and similar apps to regularly connect to their loved ones living abroad.
Many analysts see this as a regressive step which will put a big question mark over net neutrality, which assures that all the data will be treated equally irrespective of website content accessed, platform used, application used etc.