Recently Airtel announced that they will start charging extra for VoIP calls via apps like Skype, Viber etc. and this is like buying petrol for a car you just drove out of the showroom.
When you hear 'Net Neutrality' what comes to your mind first? Well, the concept is easy. It means treating all kinds of data on the internet equally rather than discriminating data and categorize them as photos, videos, IM, social media and etc. But recently in India, Airtel, which is one of the largest privately hold telecom network announced to ditch the Net Neutrality and start charging extra for VoIP calls. To understand the concept of Net Neutrality, you can watch this video which explains perfectly what it is, how it works and how it has an impact on our lives.
So, Airtel will start charging for VoIP calls that means no SKype or Viber calls to your friends and family abroad, as the rates are too high and ridiculous. Now, the internet is like electricity and Tim Berners-Lee, the man who gave us this gift said that it should be a human right. Now, imagine you just got a new iPod and you are a metalfreak so, you bought some songs from iTunes, now iTunes is tracking your purchases and know that you love metal more than any other genre. Next time, you may log on to iTunes again and see that the prices have increased for metal where as pop or hip hop has got huge price cuts, so, ultimately it may make you either pay extra for what you love, or just make you pay for some crap you hate. Network operators call it as 'Fastlane' but don't get confused, if you pay for it you will get the same speed you used to get while other websites or services you didn't pay for will load slowly. For example, somewhere the speed limit is 70 kms per hour, but due to the new rule, you need to pay for driving at that speed, you can pay and drive at 70 kms/hour, while other people who did not pay will have to drive at 35kms/hour. So, actually the whole idea is about destroying a user's decisions to select the service he loves or what he uses.
Airtel stated that they have spent millions in laying out networks throughout India, well actually this is a bluff and Bharti Airtel did nothing to lay the telecom network, this is done by Bharti Infratel, so how does Airtel takes it into consideration? Next point, whatever we do via phone we pay for it. If we use VAS, or subscribe to something via our telecom operator, we are paying for it and the same thing is applicable for data and internet plans, we pay for a certain amount of data and with that data, we can do whatever we want, access any websites. Earlier, in MWC Barcelona, Airtel CEO proposed that social media and search engines should share revenue with telecom operators, as they are earning huge revenue due to the telecos. Good joke, Mr. CEO. I agree that the usage of VAS and SMS have decreased due to increase in internet usage, but due to that Airtel has gained huge revenues. Let's take a look at what Airtel gained the the last year.
Last quarter, Airtel reported Rs 1,805 crore of Mobile data revenue, up 73.8% Y-o-Y in India.Data was 14.5% of Airtel’s revenues for the three month period ending September 2014, compared with 5.2% at the end of September 2012. Its data customer base has increased by 43.0% and higher usage per customer by 31.2%. Not counting accidental usage, Airtel has 40.1 mobile Internet connections active. Data consumption has increased to 40.1 billion MB from 15.87 billion MB in Q2-FY15. If you just look at 2G data rates, Airtel now charges Rs 249 per month for what it used to charge Rs 99 a couple of years ago.
How will it effect the cost of making VoIP calls?
If we talk about Rs. 249 and Rs. 449 packs of Airtel, which offer 1025 MB and 2560 MB data usage, VoIP calls are becoming 311% more expensive if you take the Rs 249 data pack, and 470% more expensive if you take the Rs 449 data pack.I'm pretty sure most of the users will understand this simple math. Airtel, after a lot of criticism on social media gave a statement.
"Over the last twenty years, we have invested over Rs. 140, 000 crores in rolling out telecommunications services in every nook and corner of the country. In addition, we have paid over Rs. 50, 000 crore in terms of government levies in just 5 years."
Okay, fine Airtel has spend that much much so it is completely their right to earn revenues. Now, look at these points:
- Airtel made Rs. 141,000 crore in last 2 and half years alone.
- Indian government reduced their initial investment by agreeing on revenue sharing.
- Airtel says it will inform customers but they couldn't this properly when they decreased validity on internet packs last time.
So, looks like Airtel is just dumbstruck at the response from the users and could not find a better excuse to cover themselves up.
What is the future?
Airtel is actually trying to drag users to past in the times when SMS was popular, or just want to take your money you earned through hard labour. Recently, we came to know about the voice calling feature on WhatsApp, and it may be introduced soon. So, expect Airtel to charge for that too.