Airtel has launched an independent data pack for VoIP (voice over internet protocol) services even as the government has assured to look into Airtel's decision to charge separately for VoIP calling.
Airtel on Frday announced its VoIP data pack, which will cost prepaid Airtel customers Rs75 for 75MB of data over a 28-day period. The telco said similar plans for postpaid users will be announced soon.
The 75MB pack costing Rs75 will allow customers to make between 200 and 250 minutes of internet calls, or Rs1,000 for 1GB of VoIP data.
"We will look into it. Government will come back with structured response," communications and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on the sidelines of 'Good Governance Day' event on Thursday organised by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology.
Airtel, however, said its plans for VoIP will not be rolled out with immediate effect, but will be implemented in a phased manner over the next few weeks. Customers will be informed in advance about the changes, it added.
Airtel also issued a statement detailing the reasons for rolling out the new VoIP data pack that raises the question of the future of net neutrality in India.
Airtel said its investments to roll out voice and data services in India will not see sufficient returns if VoIP services continue to proliferate and hence it is charging for these services over and above regular data.
''Over the last twenty years, we have invested over Rs140,000 crores in rolling out telecommunications services in every nook and corner of the country. In addition, we have paid over Rs50,000 crores in terms of government levies in just five years. Going forward, we are committed to rolling out data networks across the country.
In order to ensure this, our business must be viable and sustainable. Our voice services that are enjoyed by every one of our customers provides us the capacity to continuously invest in and upgrade our networks on an ongoing basis.
We, therefore, believe that VoIP services in their current form are not tenable for us as a business. As a result, we will charge separately for VoIP services.
''However, in line with our philosophy of putting our customers above all else - we are committed to making VoIP services extremely affordable and attractive by ensuring adequate minutes for a very small charge on VoIP.
''As a result, in line with the recent announcement of our VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) pack, Airtel would like to clarify the following:
''Our customers can enjoy a superior VoIP calling experience on Airtel's network by choosing from a range of new VoIP specific data packs that will soon be launched. For prepaid users, the VoIP exclusive pack will be priced at Rs75 for 75MB with a validity of 28 days. This will allow customers to make between 200 and 250 minutes of calling. Similarly, affordable VoIP plans will soon be launched for postpaid customers. There would be no other charges in respective of VoIP calls.
''The VoIP update is not applicable with immediate effect. This change will be implemented in a phased manner over the next few weeks. In all cases, our customers will proactively be informed about these VoIP charges in advance through the company's standard communication channels like SMS, USSD pop-up, email etc.''