TRAI blocks Airtel, Vodafone Idea premium plans over QoS concerns

13 Jul 2020

Sector watchdog the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has instructed mobile providers Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea to suspend their respective ‘Platinum’ and ‘RedX’ plans, which offer faster download speeds and priority services, citing concerns that the offerings would affect service quality for other customers, the Economic Times writes. In letters to the two providers, the TRAI ordered that the cellcos ‘withhold, with immediate effect and until further orders’ the aforementioned tariffs ‘to facilitate a detailed examination of both schemes’. Following the order, the TRAI is looking to clarify whether the provision of improved speeds to premium customers would be achieved by worsening the service of other customers, as well as the potential impact that the offerings will have on overall quality of service (QoS). An unnamed TRAI official, meanwhile, was cited as saying that the regulator would also consider whether the plans violated net neutrality rules by ‘reserving a lane on a public data highway … for exclusive use of rich customers’, although the paper notes that the issue was not raised in the notice sent to the cellcos.

Reacting to the order, a senior official at Vodafone Idea was quoted as saying of the TRAI’s sudden action: ‘It’s shocking to receive a letter over the weekend, asking us to block our RedX plan without any opportunity to respond on an important matter such as tariff, especially as there is no violation of tariff regulation on this plan’. The official went on to note that the offer has been on the market for eight months, and had been filed with the TRAI back in November 2019, and again in May this year following modifications.