The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has come up with a set of regulations banning differential pricing for data services in India. Now, we all know that Facebook was depending on this decision to realise the fate of their free internet service- Free Basics, in India. While Free Basics will now not see the light of day in the country, the ruling has also banned all special internet packs for the future. Here's how the decision will impact your smartphone data packs.
What did TRAI say and what does the ruling mean?
According to the TRAI ruling, "No service provider shall offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content. No service provider shall enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal, that has the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services being offered or charged to the consumer on the basis of content... Reduced tariff for accessing or providing emergency services, or at times of public emergency has been permitted.”
In simple terms, this means that -
1) Telecom operators like Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, Reliance etc, will NOT be able to charge you extra (over and above your current data pack) for services such as Skype and WhatsApp and othe VoIP calls.
2) Telecom operators will NOT be able to offer special internet packs for a particular app or service on the Internet. So no more WhatsApp or Facebook free interent packs.
3) Telecom operators will NOT be able to offer free data packs for browsing any particular website.
4) Telecom operators CAN'T enter into any exclusive contracts with content providers, be it a person, service or an app. This means services like Free Basics, Airtel Zero are banned and illegal in India.
5) Zero rate services are ONLY ALLOWED during times of emergencies, Provided that such tariff shall be reported to the authority within seven working days from the date of implementation of the reduced tariff.
So, what happens to my existing internet packs?
No, you are not being robbed. The TRAI ruling states that if you (the customer) have already subscribed to a special intenet pack, nothing contained in these regulations shall affect any packs, plans or vouchers with unexpired validity. But, your packs and plans must have less than 6 months validity, beyond which the pack will cease to exist.
Data packs that will NOT survive going forward
Airtel's 200 MB Data for WhatsApp packs
Airtel's Rs 5 and Rs 7 Facebook pack
Airtel's free 1 month Facebook trial
Idea Facebook, WhatsApp plans
Free Basics service on Reliance, and more such plans.
Airtel, Idea still selling Facebook, WhatsApp packs. When will they stop?
Well, according to TRAI, telecom companies can face a fine ranging from Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 50 Lakh if they continue to flout these norms which came into effect yesterday. We tired searching for Facebook and WhatsApp packs online and while Vodafone's website did not offer any such plans, Airtel and Idea are still listing these plans online. In fact, we were also able to subscribe to one such pack for Facebook today. We have asked Airtel for their comments on the same and are awaiting an answer from them soon. Below are the screenshots attached for the Airtel Facebook pack we were able to subscribe to. Let us know if you are still subscribing to any such plans or if you have any questions about the new rules.
Airtel Facebook pack subscribed on February 9,2016