A couple months back, there had been a proposal from telecom companies in India to the TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India), asking OTT (Over The Top) services providers like Skype, WhatsApp and Viber to pay up to telecom majors in the form of connectivity charges. This, however, was soon rubbished by the TRAI, to the relief of many a user in India. However, telecom companies seem to have found a way around this already, and if you’re a cellphone user in India, you aren’t going to like it.
Airtel, the countries largest wireless carrier, announced today that VoIP calls over any OTT service such as Viber, Skype will be chargeable. This means that you can no longer get a data pack using which you make calls through such services. VoIP, if you aren’t aware, stands for Voice over Internet Protocol; essentially, the term covers activities such as voice calls that are made over the internet, as opposed to traditional voice calls which are made through a carrier’s network. Up until now, such VoIP calls had no interference from telecom players. However, now that Airtel has decided to start charging for it, you can be certain other smaller players will soon join the camp.
According to Telecom Talk, here’s what Airtel had to say about it: “All Internet/data packs or plans (through which customer can avail discounted rate) shall only be valid for internet browsing and will exclude VoIP (Both incoming/ Outgoing). VoIP over data connectivity would be charged at standard data rates of 4p / 10 KB (3G service) and 10p / 10 KB (2G service).”
Interestingly, this means that VoIP calls made over Airtel’s 3G network will actually be cheaper than those made on its 2G network. In the past couple of years, the Indian telecom market has seen a massive boom in data usage. The usage of traditional and rather profitable services such as SMS and calls continue to decline. WhatsApp is the most popular IM client in India at the moment, and is soon expected to roll out its voice calling functionality, which unfortunately for the Airtel user base will now be chargeable. Airtel has also been on an extensive ad campaign for its internet plans, but this isn’t something the users of the network would’ve seen coming.