Vodafone Idea on Monday moved the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal against the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s directive blocking its RedX plan, which offers higher speed to its premium customers. The matter is listed for hearing on Tuesday.
The basic prayer of Vodafone before the TDSAT is that the concerned tariff plan was filed with Trai in November 2019 and further modifications to it were once again duly filed in May 2020. In that sense, it has been in the market for around eight months now and the regulator never raised any objection to it. Suddenly, upon receiving some complaint last week on Thursday, the Trai asked the company on Saturday to block the plan and explain within seven days how it did not affect quality of services of lower denomination plans.
Since tariff plans are under forbearance, operators do not need any prior approval for launching a new scheme but need to file it before the Trai within a week of the launch. If the regulator does not find it in accordance with the norms of its tariff order it can direct the operators to drop such plans.
“There is no violation of tariff regulation on this plan. It is, therefore, shocking to receive a letter over the weekend, asking us to block it without any opportunity to respond on an important matter such as tariff. We are surprised with the haste in which this action has been taken which can lead to inconvenience to customers,” the company is understood to have said in its petition.
Though the Trai has also blocked a similar Rs 499 plan of Bharti Airtel, the company had not moved TDSAT in the matter till the time of going to the press on Monday.
Vodafone’s RedX plan is a high-end plan, which can be activated for Rs 1,099. The plan offers preferential benefits, including superior data speeds, preferential customer service, access to airport lounges and exclusive deals on handsets, hotel bookings, etc, as well as free subscription of Netflix. Given that most of the people are working from home these days, there was a good uptick for the plan.
“Blocking the plan will not only lead to inconvenience to customers but also financial loss to the company, which is already struggling,” the company sources said.
As reported, Trai’s action has started a fresh debate on the meaning and scope of net neutrality. The issue is whether the operators can provide higher speed to its premium customers who opt for higher tariff plans without lowering the speed of other lower denomination plans. The operators feel that offering higher speed, which means premium services to premium customers without blocking any sites or lowering the speed of customers in lower denomination plans does not constitute violation of net neutrality. Since Trai has decided to block the plans, means it feels otherwise.
Operators said that just as in fixed broadband there are different plans offering different speeds at different price points, the same can be done in the case of mobile broadband also.