Indian net neutrality backers get boost from Flipkart retreat on free app access

The online retailer has abandoned a plan to pay for customers of Indian mobile operator Bharti Airtel to have free access to its mobile app

Indian online retailer Flipkart has abandoned a plan to give customers of mobile operator Bharti Airtel free access to its mobile app after criticism that the move posed a threat to net neutrality.

Earlier this month, Airtel launched a marketing platform, Airtel Zero, that allows app developers to pay for their customers to access their services without data charges. The move was, however, criticized by activists as a threat to net neutrality in the country, putting Internet startups and smaller players that can't afford the fees at a disadvantage.

Flipkart's CEO Sachin Bansal said on Twitter recently that the so-called zero-rating deals reduced data costs for users.

But on Tuesday the company announced it was walking away from talks with Airtel. "We will be working towards ensuring that the spirit of net neutrality is upheld and applied equally to all companies in India irrespective of the size or the service being offered and there is absolutely no discrimination whatsoever," the retailer said in a statement.

Other companies have also signed deals with operators that provide free access to their websites or apps. Reliance Communications, for example, teamed in February with Facebook-backed Internet.org to offer free access to some websites including that of the social networking company.

Indian Internet users are particularly sensitive to the move by Airtel as it comes a few days after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India released a consultation paper on the regulatory framework for Internet applications and services that ride on mobile operators' networks.

The paper pointed out that services such as voice-over-IP and messaging, which it refers to as "over-the-top" (OTT) applications and services, were directly competing with the operators' main businesses in international calling and SMS. While more apps like WhatsApp and Skype increased data usage by consumers, the TRAI paper wondered whether it adequately compensates the operators.

TRAI invited comments on a number of issues, including whether the OTT players should pay for use of the network over and above the data charges paid by consumers, raising user concerns that the new rules would place more costs on smaller OTT companies and even require users to pay for the use of certain popular apps.

A resolution to the issue will require that operators are adequately compensated to continue to invest in infrastructure and spectrum, without sacrificing the principles of a free Internet, said Kamlesh Bhatia, executive partner at Gartner.

Even as customers are using data more heavily on Internet applications and services, the operators are not able to increase their data tariffs because of fierce competition in this market from other operators, Bhatia added.

"The regulator has to find some balance between these interests," he added.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Bharti AirtelFlipkarttelecommunicationCarriersTelecom Regulatory Authority of Indiainternet

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?