Indian regulator the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has told two leading operators that they cannot go ahead with recently launched premium plans, according to local press reports.
Bharti Airtel’s Platinum and Vodafone Idea’s RedX premium plans both offer faster data speeds and priority services for customers who sign up for them. They are now to be delayed pending an examination of both schemes by TRAI, which cited fears that they may affect service quality for other users.
Nor is that all. Although this apparently isn’t mentioned in the letter sent to Idea and Airtel about the premium plans, reports also suggest that TRAI wants to check on whether the offers breach net neutrality rules – that is, whether they are reserving spectrum for exclusive use by rich customers.
Bearing in mind that, as a Vodafone Idea representative pointed out, the RedX plan was filed with TRAI last November (and again in May after modifications) – and has been in the market for eight months – this may seem a strange time to make such a request.
Both offers are seen as efforts to widen the base of higher-paying customers to boost average revenue per user – no trivial matter in a highly competitive market in which Vodafone Idea in particular has ongoing debt repayment issues to deal with.
This isn’t the first run-in the operators have had with TRAI, though it is the first for a while. Whether it will end up in court, as arguments over predatory pricing, segmented offers, points of interconnection and interconnection usage charges have in the past, remains to be seen.