Airtel is launching a new platform called Airtel Zero , which essentially lets users access selected apps and services without incurring any data charges. Airtel is said to be in talks with bringing companies on board, and as per Medianama, Flipkart has joined the platform. Update: On being asked about this tie-up, a Flipkart spoksperson commented, “We would not like to comment on speculation regarding any future associations that may or may not happen. All our activities in the past have always been completely compliant with all laws including those formed by TRAI and we continue to remain committed to that.” Also Read - Happy International Friendship Day 2021: Best tech gifts under Rs 2,000Also Read - Airtel Rs 79 plan vs JioPhone Rs 75 prepaid plan compared: Which offers better value?
While at first glance, the idea of incurring no data charges to access an app or a service sounds nice, the Airtel Zero platform is against the very fabric of net neutrality. In essence, users will be able to buy packs that offer free access to certain services, but accessing others will incur a charge. So if you buy a pack that includes access to YouTube, Flipkart, Facebook and Instagram, you will incur no data charge. But the moment you access any service like Snapchat or Reddit, you will have to pay for it.
With this platform, Airtel is not only taking away the freedom of choice from its subscribers, but also unfairly favoring apps or services that can pay to be on Airtel s platform.
Airtel however doesn t see anything wrong with the move for such a platform. This is exciting for customers because a lot of their favorite apps can now be accessed without data charges, and a lot of new apps that small start-ups want to offer now become free, said Srini Gopalan, Director, Consumer Business, at Bharti Airtel told Hindu Business Line.
On being questioned if this move is against net neutrality, Gopalan said, This is an open platform with non-discriminatory pricing, and we believe it will be a win-win for customers and e-commerce players.
While this isn t the first time, Airtel has been under the spotlight for being under net neutrality, it is not alone. Opera launched App Max, a mobile data compression tool that allows mobile carriers to offer subscribers free access to select Android apps. Facebook too partnered RCom to offer free access to around three dozen websites that include news portals, health websites, sports, educational apps, and entertainment.
Google too is said to be working with carriers and developers to lower or eliminate the data usage and data charges in emerging markets like India. The company is reportedly acting as a middleman between mobile operators and app developers. Also known in the industry as zero-rating, either Google or the app developer will pay for the data consumed by the user.