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    TRAI gets 24 lakh comments on differential pricing paper

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    New Delhi, Jan 8 (IANS) Indian telecom regulator TRAI has received 24 lakh comments from stakeholders on its consultation paper on “Differential Pricing for Data Services” where operators said pricing flexibility is a core tenet of marketing and innovation, an official statement said here on Friday.

    The last date of submission of comments was on January 7 and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) will come out with counter-comments by January 14.
    “Majority of the comments received are template responses and many of which do not address the specific questions that were raised in the consultation paper. In view of the fact that there is quite a large number of responses and also that many of these are repetitive template responses, no useful purpose would be served by publishing all such responses,” the regulator said in the statement said.
    “Therefore, it has been decided to publish only sample copies of responses which contain identical or similar subjects/ source or contents,” it added.
    The regulator on December 9 said differential pricing of data services, an important aspect of net neutrality, by various operators might potentially go against the principle of non-discriminatory tariff and sought comments or opinions from stakeholders.
    The regulator received comments from service providers like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Reliance Communications, Aircel, Idea Cellular, Sistema Shyam Teleservices, Tata Teleservices, Telewings Communications Services, Videocon and state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited.
    “Pricing flexibility is a core tenet of marketing and innovation. The differential pricing or marketing innovation is critical for the growth of data services.
    Customers find differential offerings, a great value proposition as these enable them to use various products or services of their choice at a much lower price. Thus, TSPs (telecom service providers) should continue to have the flexibility to offer a variety of packages to consumers,” Bharti Airtel said in its comments.
    British telecom major Vodafone India said: “The content provider may like to enter into commercial arrangements with the service providers to offer a differential tariff for its content.
    “Such arrangements will be a win-win for the customers, the telecom operators and content or app developers as it will help defray the costs of infrastructure build-out, ensure affordable services and high quality experience to end users, which in turn will fuel development and growth of the market.”
    Industrialist Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications (RCOM) said: “The Authority should allow the offering of differential pricings within the scope of the existing regulations itself. Imposition of any further regulations on data services will only distort the market and could be to the detriment of the end users.”
    The regulator said more than 13.5 lakh were comments received through
    “About 5.44 lakh comments have been received through’. Most of these responses are in support of a specific product, that is, ‘Free basics’, even though the consultation paper had not raised any issue on such specific product without addressing the questions raised in the consultation paper,” it said.
    RCOM, the only telecom service provider offering Free Basics in India, on December 23 said its commercial launch has been put on hold after the regulator said it should not come till the ruling on differential pricing is out.

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