Airtel will stop premium plan if Trai wants
Tired of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) constantly asking for more and more clarifications, Bharti Airtel has decided that it will stop its ‘priority 4G network’ service for premium customers, if the regulator is adamant and wants that the service is not offered to consumers. However, the company is clear that it has not violated any regulatory tariff guidelines and has provided all the details of the plan as asked for.
In the early part of last week, Bharti Airtel had given a presentation to Trai officials, explaining the technical and other details about its offering for Platinum customers on Rs 499 and above plans. Trai has put the plan on hold till the time it completes its probe. Vodafone Idea, too had shared details about its RedX plan to Trai but the regulator has so far not been satisfied with the replies.
According to sources, Bharti Airtel reportedly told Trai that it launched the plan on the lines of Vodafone Idea RedX offering, which has been in the market for over eight months. Also, the company has undertaken various pilots before rolling out the plan commercially. “During the pilots also, it emerged that the quality of service of the non-premium users was not impacted…the Airtel network has been ranked best by many global analytic firms,” Airtel executives told Trai. The company has also shared data to back its claims.
During the discussion, Airtel raised the point that Vodafone Idea’s plan was in the market for so long and since no objection was raised by the regulator, it also launched a similar plan, giving priority 4G speed to premium customers. While Vodafone Idea’s RedX plan has been in the market since November 2019, with some modifications made in May 2020, Airtel launched its Platinum plan on July 3, 2020.
Airtel also reiterated that its plan was in complete compliance with tariff guidelines of Trai. The telco said it has only promised to give priority network to premium customers but not made a promise to guarantee any minimum speed as the same is difficult to be ascertained in a wireless network.
Airtel did not comment on the query regarding the issue. The company though said, “We are passionate about delivering the best network and service experience to all our customers. This is why we have a relentless obsession to eliminate faults…At the same time, we want to keep raising the bar for our postpaid customers in terms of service and responsiveness. This is an ongoing effort at our end.” But even after meeting officials from Airtel and Vodafone Idea, Trai is not satisfied and has sought more details. Sources in Trai said the operators were not able to provide satisfactory answers to technical queries.
It must be mentioned that Trai on July 11 had asked Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel to immediately stop their premium plans. As per Airtel, its postpaid customers on Rs 499 and above plans, designated as Platinum, would get several preferential benefits, including faster 4G speeds, as part of its Thanks programme. The exclusive benefits include a preferential service at call centres and retail stores, a customised user interface on the Thanks app and faster 4G speeds by giving them preference on the network.
Similarly, the Vodafone Idea RedX plan offered preferential benefits, including superior data speeds, preferential customer service, subscription of Netflix and Amazon Prime, access to airport lounges and exclusive deals on handsets, hotel bookings etc. The RedX plan can be activated for Rs 1,099.
Vodafone Idea had dragged Trai to Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) regarding its RedX plan. The telco got an interim stay from the tribunal, which allowed it to get new customers for the premium plan but TDSAT also directed that Trai will continue with its probe.