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FAQs soon on data pricing, says Trai chairman RS Sharma

Sharma’s statement is important since the regulation that came into effect on February 8, while barring operators from offering differential data tariffs.

By: ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: February 17, 2016 10:39 am
RS Sharma Chairman, Trai. (Express Photo Renuka Puri) RS Sharma Chairman, Trai. (Express Photo Renuka Puri)

To clarify any grey areas that mobile operators may have on its regulation on differential tariff, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India will soon publish a set of FAQs which will aim at answering in detail the kind of tariff packages which will be allowed and the kinds that are a strict no-no. He was speaking at The Indian Express Idea Exchange on Tuesday.

Sharma’s statement is important since the regulation that came into effect on February 8, while barring operators from offering differential data tariffs through select tie-ups with content providers on anything that is available on the internet, appeared to allow the same through some closed communication networks like intranet.

Reiterating that the regulation was very clear in the sense that there can be no coupling between the content provider and access provider, Sharma clarified that if content is offered free to a network’s subscribers it cannot be offered to others outside this intranet at a charge.

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Highlighting what is allowed, Sharma said that if a content provider wants to promote certain websites, free of data charges, it can offer it if the same is irrespective of through which service provider (telco) the subscribers are accessing it. The content provider can directly reimburse the data consumed by subscribers. “So far as there’s no integration between the content provider and access provider, it is fine. If Free Basics wants to follow this model it is fine,” he said.

Sharma said that through the regulation one part of net neutrality — tariff — has been dealt with, the other part of either throttling or speeding up certain websites still need to be tackled. While the tariff part is the exclusive domain of Trai, it could be done through a regulation, but for the other aspect a policy framework needs to be made, which is the domain of the government for which Trai will make recommendations, he added.

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