Vodafone Idea moves TDSAT over Trai objection to premium telecom plans

Vodafone Idea moves TDSAT over Trai objection to premium telecom plans

In a fresh twist to the controversy over premium telecom plans, Vodafone Idea on Monday moved the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), seeking a stay on the regulator’s diktat to block such schemes. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had in a written communication on July 11 asked Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea to hold their tariff plans prioritizing premium customers. The TDSAT is expected to hear the Vodafone Idea case on Tuesday.

Vodafone Idea has challenged Trai’s sudden direction to discontinue the premium services, which were launched last year. Asking for a speedy hearing, the company asked in its petition why the regulator passed the order on freezing certain plans without waiting to hear from the industry on the subject. Bharti Airtel is yet to take a call on its next move.

The plans put on hold promised faster speeds to certain priority users, prompting Trai to question whether the network preference for some came at the cost of deterioration in services for other subscribers. The existing users of these plans will get time to transition.

A Trai official told Business Standard the companies have limited bandwidth, and if they prioritize some customers over others, it would be unfair. ‘’If the companies can assure that no customer will suffer due to these schemes, they can go ahead,” he added.

According to analysts, the firms’ tariff plans are in line with international practice. In fact, for broadband services too in the country, such plans exist.

Under one such scheme, the customer gets 10-20 MBPS broadband speed with the Rs 799 tariff plan. And, the broadband speed is 40-100 MBPS with the Rs 1,400 tariff plan.

An Airtel spokesperson said, “We are passionate about delivering the best network and service experience to all our customers. At the same time, we want to keep raising the bar for our post-paid customers in terms of service and responsiveness. This is an ongoing effort at our end.”

On July 6, Airtel said it would give preference to platinum mobile customers, who pay Rs 499 and above per month for post-paid connection, on its 4G network. With that, the platinum customers will get better speed compared to others. Vodafone Idea had launched a postpaid plan, RedX, promising up to 50 per cent faster data speed, besides other benefits and privileges. The RedX plan was filed with Trai in November. Further modifications were filed in May. The plan has been in the market for eight months and customers are already using it.