Vodafone, India’s second-biggest mobile operator, has refused to follow Bharti Airtel in launching a zero-rating platform, the decision coming at a time when telecom regulator Trai and the Department of Telecom (DoT) are looking into the entire gamut of issues related to net neutrality.
The British mobile operator, which reported a 13% growth in its 2014-15 India revenues at Rs 42,352 crore, said it will wait for a regulatory clarity on the matter before taking a call on the future course of action. “We are waiting for the rules,” Sunil Sood, who recently took charge as MD & CEO of Vodafone India, said.
Airtel had in April introduced a new plan — Airtel Zero — that promised preferential treatment for websites that agreed to sign up for the marketing platform by paying a fee. The move received flak in the online world and was even questioned by top officials in the telecom ministry.
Sood said Vodafone is a supporter of net neutrality and does not believe in “blocking” or “throttling” the internet. “We are pro-net neutrality… we do not block the internet or direct the internet.” Asked to comment on the criticism of Airtel Zero plan, he said, “I believe it’s a trivial matter. It was just a price plan.”
The Vodafone India chief, however, said he wants applications offering voice communication facility — such as Skype, WhatsApp and Viber — should follow the same regulations as mobile operators. “We are subjected to various regulations as part of the licence conditions, including interceptions. If there are rules, they should apply to all. They cannot be partial.”
Mobile operators have argued that zero rating plans, which allow them to charge websites for offering them preferential treatment, are “pro-subscribers” as they get to browse the sites free-of-cost.