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For cashless economy: TRAI recommends limited free data to rural subscribers

The TRAI has recommended providing limited free data access to rural subscribers to promote cashless economy.

india Updated: Dec 19, 2016 20:21 IST
PTI
The TRAI has recommended providing limited free data access to rural subscribers to promote cashless economy.
The TRAI has recommended providing limited free data access to rural subscribers to promote cashless economy.(HT file photo)

In a move supporting cashless economy, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Monday recommended providing rural subscribers with a “reasonable” amount of free data on monthly basis under a scheme funded from Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).

“In order to bridge the affordability gap for the persons residing in rural areas and to support government’s efforts towards cashless economy by incentivising digital means, the authority recommends that a scheme under which a reasonable amount of data, say 100 mb per month, may be made available to rural subscribers for free,” Trai said.

TRAI has suggested that the cost of implementation of the scheme may be met from USOF.

Under USOF, the government charges a cess, universal access levy, from telecom licencees to fund setting up of telecom infrastructure in all uncovered rural and remote areas of the country.

Trai recommended that to increase participation of other entities for incentivising free data, there is a need to introduce third party (aggregator) to facilitate schemes which are telecom operator agnostic and non-discriminatory in their implementation.

It has recommended that scheme for free data must be telecom operator agnostic and must not involve any arrangement between the TSP (telecom service provider) and the aggregator/content provider.

It should not be designed to circumvent its regulation on free mobile internet services as mentioned under ‘The Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations’.

Trai in February barred differential pricing on internet which ended services of platforms like Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel Zero. The regulator in May also released a consultation paper on free data services.

The regulator has recommended that the aggregators providing free data service will need to register with the department of telecom and it should be a company registered under Indian Companies Act, 1956.

“The validity of registration shall be five years. The registrant shall not either directly or indirectly, assign or transfer the Registration in any manner whatsoever to a third party either in whole or in part,” Trai said.