Trai to discuss alternative models to solve differential data pricing

  • New Delhi, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Jan 22, 2016 00:51 IST
Trai has suggested two models which could be used to address the issue of differential pricing for data services (Pixabay)

The country’s telecom watchdog Trai, on Thursday while holding an open house on differential pricing for data services, critical to net neutrality is going to debate alternative models to solve the issue.

Trai has suggested two models which could be used to address the issue of differential pricing for data services

The first approach includes de-linking free internet access from specific content, and instead limit it by volume or time. “Current examples of this approach include allowing free browsing or discounted tariffs for specified time windows, or giving away a certain amount of assault for free,” Trai said.

The second approach claims that access through the internet could be initiated by the content providers wherein they could reimburse the cost of browsing or download to the customers directly, irrespective of the service provider that the customer has used to access the website.

The discussion on Thursday will try to answer a few questions which includes a decision on allowing service providers to be allowed to have differential pricing for different websites.

On differential pricing of data, Trai has received maximum comments on any of its consultation paper issued till date.

As things stand, telecom operators are making a strong pitch for differential pricing for data services, which is pricing of the Internet based on its usage and business case.

Other worries include the effect of differential pricing on open markets and fair competition, any other alternative model to achieve similar effects other than differential pricing.

TRAI will also firm up its view on spectrum price for the next round of auction besides the differential pricing issue by the end of this month.

“We will finalise recommendations on spectrum price by the end of this month... even on differential price (of data), whatever we have to say will be done by the end of the month,” Trai chairman R S Sharma told reporters today on the sidelines of Convergence India 2016.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has put out a consultation paper on a reference made by the government to suggest the base or floor price for all available airwaves for mobile services.

According to an official source, the government will be able to meet the Budget target even without the auction, but still a section of the government wants the auction by March to keep fiscal deficit in check.

Sources see slim chances of the spectrum auction going through in the current financial year because of the processes involved, and the main procedure will start after Trai submits its suggestions on the pricing aspect. The regulator is pulling out all the stops to speed up the process.

On the other side of the spectrum, the Indian IT industry through Nasscom, Internet-based companies though IAMAI and many Internet forums are opposed to zero-rating platforms. IAMAI members include Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and the like. However, Facebook is one of those select few Internet companies that have come out with its support for differential pricing of data.

The last date to receive feedback on the Trai paper was December 30, which was later pushed back to January 7. Trai has received some 24 lakh comments on the issue.

Releasing the details, Trai has said it received only 1.89 million responses through Facebook’s platform supporting its Free Basics programme to make parts of the Internet available for free whereas the social network put it at more than 11 million.

The social media giant feels there’s something amiss and has shot off a letter to Trai, saying “someone with access to designated Trai e-mail account appears to have blocked receipt of all e-mails from Facebook to that Trai account.”

(With inputs from PTI)

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