TRAI probing Bharti's special deals on Facebook, WhatsApp

Bharti Airtel's data packages offering access to Facebook and WhatsApp for fixed but nominal amounts are under examination by the telecom regulator to determine whether they amounted to "preferential access" for such services, an issue at the centre of the debate on net neutrality, a concept recently backed by US president Barack Obama, The Times of India reported.

A senior official at the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India told ET that Airtel would be asked to explain how these packages had been worked out - whether it amounted to blocking equal access to other content providers on the bandwidth. Such services were referred to as over-the-top (OTT) applications in the industry.

The operations are carried out on platforms provided by mobile phone companies or routed through Wi-Fi. The offers under examination include Airtel's bundle of 15 MB data for five days and the seven-day access package that cost a customer Rs7 for 21 MB of data.

The report added that the regulator was also trying to understand the WhatsApp package for 200 MB, the official added.

Uninor, the Indian unit of Norway's Telenor, would also be asked for similar clarifications.