Five days after Airtel announced its plans to charge customers additionally for making data-based voice calls, the company suspended its plan saying that they will wait for Trai’s consultation paper on the subject.
In a statement released on Monday, Airtel said that they had decided not to “implement the proposed launch of VoIP packs in view of the news reports that a consultation paper will be issued shortly by Trai on issues relating to services offered by Over-the-Top players including VoIP.”
The statement added that the company was hopeful of “a balanced outcome that would not only protect the interests of all stakeholders and viability of this sector but would also encourage much needed investments in spectrum and roll out of data networks.”
This comes after Airtel faced a severe backlash on social media for its proposed action. In a previous statement, Airtel had defended its move saying that VoIP in its current form was not “tenable” for their business, given its investment of
Rs 1,40,000 crore in the sector and “payment of levies worth Rs 50,000 crore in just five years.” It had proposed VoIP packs such as Rs 75 for 75 MB with a validity of 28 days, giving prepaid customers 200 to 250 minutes of calling time.
The government had responded to Airtel’s move last week with the telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad saying that they will “come back with a structured response.”
Trai chief Rahul Khullar had, however, defended the move’s legality last week. “Let’s be clear on this. What the company plans to do is certainly not in conformity with net neutrality. But one cannot today say the move is illegal as there’s no policy either by the government that net neutrality is our principle or a regulatory framework put in place by the regulator,” Khullar had said.
While the consultation paper on OTT services is due next month, a Trai official added they had been conducting workshops in the past few months for additional clarity on the subject.