The Telecom Commission (TC) has referred back to the telecom regulator its recommendations on providing free data to help bridge the affordability gap, seeking clarifications on how the authority’s views can be operationalised.
“In December 2016, Trai had suo moto suggested ways to encourage free data. We (TC) have decided to refer it back to Trai on how this could be operationalised,“ a senior telecom department official said Friday.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), which needs to revert to the TC in two weeks, had last December recommended an aggregator model and 100 MB of free data for mobile phone subscribers in rural or remote areas to give a thrust to the government’s cashless economy agenda.
Trai suggested that the Universal Services Obligation Fund (USOF) be used to foot the bill for providing government-incentivised free data schemes to rural subscribers.
Additionally, to increase parti cipation of other entities for incentivising free data, a third party, or aggregator, should be introduced to offer schemes that are telco-agnostic and non-discriminatory in their implementation and don’t circumvent rules that have barred discriminatory pricing of data services.
Any scheme provided by the aggregator must not involve any arrangement between carrier and aggregator or content provider, Trai recommended.
Some, however, questioned the aggregator model, which is ba sed on rewarding users with incentives such as recharges for data or voice usage, while using an app, saying it maybe violating the concept of net neutrality that assures free and unbiased access to internet for all.
Trai had said to bridge the affordability gap in rural areas and to support government efforts towards a cashless economy by incentivising digital means, a reasonable amount of data -say 100 MB per month -should be made available to rural subscribers for free. The regulator said the cost to rovide 100 MB free data to abo provide 100 MB free data to about 50 million smartphone users in rural areas for a year would come to about Rs 600 crore. It could be lower, given the sharp decline expected in data prices.
Trai’s paper on free data issued in May to explore ways of providing mobile Internet to consumers for free without violating a ban on discriminatory pricing of data services had sought responses on three suggested models aimed at connecting the unconnected–a toll-free platform for users where browsing will be free; consumers paying upfront and being subsequently reimbursed; and applications that reward users with incentives such as recharges for data or voice usage. The regulator had rejected the first two models, saying while the toll-free one could violate the rules on discriminatory pricing of data services, the implementation of the reimbursement model would be difficult as a lot of information pertaining to the user would have to be shared with third parties. The regulator’s suggestion of an aggregator stemmed from the third model.
Source:- Economics Times