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Home / Companies / News /  Airtel likely to move TDSAT against Trai’s order on premium postpaid plan

NEW DELHI: Bharti Airtel Ltd will likely move the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) against the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's (Trai) order blocking the telco’s premium plan offering faster data speeds and priority services to higher-paying postpaid customers, a person aware of the development said.

This follows Vodafone Idea Ltd, on Monday, challenging the regulator’s order passed over the weekend to block the telecom operator's RedX plan launched in November for postpaid users.

Mint had on Sunday reported that Trai has stayed Airtel and Vodafone Idea’s premium plans, citing violation of service norms and the possibility of lower data speeds for those who have not opted for such schemes.

"These companies (Airtel and Vodafone Idea) had themselves submitted earlier that they cannot specify minimum or average speeds provided to customers and now they want to offer higher speeds to select customers. We just want to examine the details of the plans," a senior Trai official told Mint.

Telcom analysts argue that such plans already exist for broadband services, where subscribers get better speeds for higher-paid schemes and similar offers can be made for wireless services as well.

The official, however, said, "broadband services have dedicated bandwidths under which speeds cannot be compromised, while in case of wireless, whether the same space is being used to prioritise some customers needs to be seen."

Trai has asked Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea to hold these plans until the details are evaluated. This directive will not impact existing customers, using such plans. The regulator does not want new customers to come onboard and complicate the issue futher, the official said.

"We have sought details from Airtel and Vodafone and given them a week’s time to respond… We have just asked them to hold these plans," the official added.

Saurav Kumar, lawyer at IndusLaw, said, "over the years the tariff has moved from fixation of tariff regime to that of a forbearance regime with post facto reporting. Given that a ‘light touch regulation‘ approach is followed by Trai, such a measure of blocking a product at the first instance without giving an opportunity to the Telecos to explain or respond may be contrary to the guidelines."

This may also be viewed as curbing the freedom of telcos to design new products, which has been the policy so far, Kumar added.

Bharti Airtel Ltd on 6 July had announced faster 4G data speeds for all its platinum customers - postpaid users paying 499 or above. The Sunil Mittal-led telecom major had said it has deployed advanced technologies for its ‘Priority 4G Network’ that will give its platinum subscribers preference on the network.

Vodafone Idea had introduced its RedX plan in November for postpaid customers at alaunch price of 999, offering up to 50% faster speeds and special services. The price of the plan was hiked by 100 in May.

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