Bharti Airtel's move to charge customers a higher rate for making calls using apps such as Skype and Viber is not illegal, said the head of India's telecom regulator.
“Let’s be clear on this. What the company plans to do is certainly not in conformity with net neutrality. But one cannot today say the move is illegal as there’s no policy either by the government that net neutrality is our principle or a regulatory framework put in place by the regulator,” said Rahul Khullar, Chairman, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
However the regulator plans to regulate apps such as Viber and a consultation paper is expected next month, Khullar said in the interview.
This comes after Airtel raised its rates for VoIP (Voice over internet protocol) services. The company plans to charge for VoIP calls at standard rate of 4 paise per 10 KB on 3G network and 10 paise per 10 KB on 2G network. Customers will now have to pay extra for making calls on Skype, Viber or other apps.
By taking this step, Airtel violates the principle of net neutrality, regarded as an essential ground rule for an open internet. Fundamentally it means carriers should treat all data equally and should not be allowed to impose differential treatment or charges on different kinds of data.
"We will look into it. Government will come back with structured response," Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Christmas, which was also observed as 'Good Governance Day'.
This is the first time in the country that any mobile operator is charging separately for VoIP service.