Airtel is courting enough controversy over its VoIP data packs from users, and now the company faces the heat from International long distance operators (ILDOs) like Vodafone, Tata Communications AT&T and Verizon. An Economic Timesreport suggests that the these ILDOs have gone to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India(TRAI) to complain that Airtel was resorting to unfair means to promote its VoIP app, Airtel Talk. Also Read - Airtel introduces new postpaid plans with more data, refreshes Family postpaid plans tooAlso Read - Airtel partners with Intel for its 5G network development: Details here
They said that Airtel was marketing the app via pre-call announcement (PCA) on some calls from overseas to Airtel subscribers in India. The pre-call announcement said, “Experience the best way to call to India, download Airtel Talk from your app store now.” Also Read - How to get free Amazon Prime subscription
“The company is selectively playing a tune, promoting its new app on calls carried through the network of an international operator other than Airtel’s collaboration ILD operators,” TRAI cited the ILDOs as having said.
Airtel responds that this PCA was not anti-competitive or discriminatory, and defended that it was an active communication tool that was already an established practice. They said that it did not kill competition, but rather promoted it, and was in full compliance with laws and policies. “Almost all mobile operators play pre-recorded messages about billing/service/network related information to an original caller before the outbound commencement of the call takes place,” Airtel responded to TRAI.
“We submit that we have played this on all international calls terminating on our network, irrespective of the ILDOs. By playing PCA, Airtel doesn’t deny market access in the relevant market for telecom services,” the company further explained.
The report citing anonymous sources, however, said that Airtel discontinued the PCA after TRAI weighed down on them. The Airtel Talk website carries a list of charges for international calls and SMS, featuring packages for India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Nigeria. The plans start at $2 a month for India, which allows for 165 voice minutes.
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This fresh controversy comes as Airtel announced its plan to charge its subscribers extra for using VoIP services like Skype or Viber, and the data pack it announced came under heavy criticism. Today, the telecom giant also announced that it was temporary putting its controversial data pack on hold.