The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has asked Airtel and Vodafone to withdraw the premium postpaid plans from their offerings, for the time being. In notifications sent out over the weekend, telecom operators have been asked to hold these plans as net neutrality rules seem to have been breached. This means that Vodafone cannot offer the RedX postpaid plan while Airtel cannot offer Platinum postpaid plans as well. TRAI says they want to review the claims of priority network usage that these plans offer, and whether that will impact the quality of service as well as 4G data speeds for users who are not on these premium postpaid plans.
In Airtel’s case, things are a bit more complicated. Earlier this month, Airtel had sent out a communication to users in which they said they will offer Preferential 4G Network for their Platinum users, which meant higher data speeds as well on 4G networks. “By the way, the good news is that for all of you who are a part of Airtel Platinum, we have launched several new features to ensure an un-interrupted work from home experience. You now have access to Preferential 4G Network, which translates into higher data speeds. You can enjoy superior indoor coverage through our Wi-Fi calling solution. You will get preferential service at both our call centres as well as retail stores. And that's not all,” Gopal Vittal, CEO of Airtel, had said in the communication. At the time, Airtel had said “As part of Airtel Thanks program, all postpaid mobile customers on Rs 499 and above plans are designated as Platinum and enjoy a range of exclusive benefits.”
At this time, Airtel’s postpaid plans start at Rs 499 with the options of the Rs 749, Rs 999 and Rs 1,599 postpaid plans. It is not clear whether Airtel will be unable to offer any of these postpaid plans till the time TRAI reviews certain conditions of preferential network usage or will have to reconfigure these to remove the Preferential 4G Network promise. It must be clarified that neither Airtel or Vodafone have ever explained in detail how subscribers to select postpaid plans get better 4G speeds on the network compared with others.
Vodafone had launched the RedX premium postpaid plan in November last year priced at Rs 999 per month with a host of add-ons and value adds for subscribers. The plan was listed with the TRAI at that time. In May this year, Vodafone revised the tariff to Rs 1,099 per month and listed the plan again with TRAI as per the required guidelines. Vodafone's other postpaid plans are priced Rs 399 onwards and do not offer any preferential 4G network access.