Telecom regulator questions Voda-Idea, Airtel's previous stance on differential data speeds

KOLKATA: The telecom regulator has questioned the mismatch between Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel’s stated positions on differential data speeds, and their actual offerings under their RedX and Platinum plans respectively.

It has pointed out that while both telcos have claimed they are not offering differential broadband speeds under any wireless plans, they have precisely done so under their RedX and Platinum offers respectively.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), in is latest letters, dated July 31, has asked VIL and Airtel why RedX and Platinum were not flagged as “new types of services”, which would have prompted the regulator to examine them under a different lens before approving their launch in the market.

“As per information available in Trai as filed by you, no wireless plan is committing any differential broadband speed, (but) it’s seen that RedX and Platinum plans are not only providing priority on network but also committing higher speed,” the regulator said in its letters to VIL and Airtel.

Trai feels it should have been informed separately about these offers so that different aspects could have been examined before approving their launch. ET has seen the letters.

Reliance Jio, which had complained to the regulator about the RedX and Platinum offers and asked it to check if these violated consumer interests, has maintained no telco can guarantee faster speeds and that such claims are aimed to mislead consumers.

The regulator is examining whether the mix of faster data speeds and network priority access services offered on RedX and Platinum degrades services quality of VIL and Airtel users not on these offers.

Trai has asked both telcos if they are “controlling maximum throughput (read: data speeds) in their respective networks” for each subscriber for user services such as video streaming, conversational video and FTP (file transfer protocols). It has also sought clarity on what happens during network congestion when non-priority VIL/Airtel customers are surrounded by priority customers, whether it spoils the data experience of non-RedX/Platinum users.

Airtel had earlier told Trai the impact of applying priority to a tiny base of 1-1.5% Airtel users, and that too for a short span of congestion, does not spoil the experience of non-Platinum data services. VIL too had said merely 1.27 lakh RedX users — not even 0.1% of its 4G user base — couldn’t degrade services of its other users.

Trai has sent follow-up queries to VIL and Airtel on RedX and Platinum, and the telcos have to respond by August 4.


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