A body representing leading operators is pressing the country’s regulator, TRAI, to lift a ban on differential pricing of data services, citing a lack of clarity in rules, said Economic Times.
The subject leapt into the public consciousness during an intense national debate in India over net neutrality, leading to TRAI prohibiting differential pricing. The decision effectively banned zero-rated services such as Facebook’s Free Basics and Bharti Airtel’s Airtel Zero.
COAI (Cellular Operators Association of India) has now written to the regulator, asking it to change its mind in light of the confusion over services delivered via closed electronic communication networks (CECNs), also known as the intranet.
The letter asked TRAI “to review its decision of the CECN network and allow differential tariffs on the basis of content irrespective of whether such content is provided through the closed network or open internet”.
The body argued that the regulator allows discriminatory pricing of data services when content is delivered over CECNs.
Net neutrality supporters acknowledge CECNs could offer a loophole for operators to offer zero rated services. However, TRAI argues the rules on data pricing are clear.
TRAI’s letter looks for clarification on two areas. Firstly, whether an operator could share advertising revenue with a content provider which is providing exclusive content to an operator’s subscribers at a subsidised rate. And if a content provider could offer subsidised subscription to some or all of an operator’s subscribers, whether that is a CECN.
The correspondence comes within weeks of the country’s largest operator, Bharti Airtel, approaching the regulator about a potential deal with an unnamed US content provider that would supply exclusive video over the operator’s intranet.