In what is an unprecedented move, Airtel will now start charging its subscribers for using VoIP services like Skype or Viber among others. So even if you have an active data pack, you will still be charged extra for making calls via Skype or Viber. This change in policy was first spotted by TelecomTalk. Update: An Airtel spokesperson replied to our query saying, “We have made some revisions in the composition of our data packs, and will offer VoIP (Voice over internet protocol) connectivity through an independent pack that will be launched shortly. Our customers can continue enjoying voice calls over data connectivity by opting for this VoIP pack, or simply use VoIP services on pay-as-you-go basis.”
According to the tweaked policy, when using VoIP over your data connection, you will be charged 4p per 10KB on 3G network, and 10p per 10KB on 2G network. VoIP services include the likes of Skype, Viber, Line, Google Hangouts and according to rumors WhatsApp too is soon going to join the list. We have asked Airtel for the complete list of services that will be charged when used over data connection. We will update the post when the company reverts.
It may not be surprising seeing why Airtel is keen on this move, since WhatsApp has all but replaced SMS in India, and carriers are worried VoIP services will soon do the same with voice calling as well. But whatever maybe the reason, Airtel has no right to decide how I’m using my data connection. When a subscriber has paid in full for a data pack, he or she has all the right to use it anyway they choose to. They should not be discouraged from using any particular service by levying additional charges on it. Airtel has done just that, and there is every chance that other network operators will follow in the footsteps as well.
Carriers had recently voiced their concerns over messaging services like WhatsApp eating into their SMS revenues and had recently proposed to charge connectivity fee for such services. TRAI however quashed such requests.