Right after Reliance Jio announcing the JioPhone, several industry analysts highlighted that the affordable feature phone will spurn several net neutrality issues. And now, two of India’s leading telecom operators- Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular also raised voice against the JioPhone saying that a carrier locked handset violates net neutrality, reports Economic Times.
Airtel and Idea said that the JioPhone which offer limited apps under a tariff plan as good as a ‘walled garden.’ Yesterday, the telecom regulator said that the recommendations on net neutrality from their side will be sent to the government in a month, and the discussion on JioPhone sparked on the same meeting.
“It’s locking customer because he would come to know that he cannot delete or add an application. This should be a free choice for the customer who can use the device wherever he wants to, otherwise it is equivalent to blocking, which is a more serious issue than throttling,” said Ravi Gandhi, head of regulatory affairs at Bharti Airtel.
Idea Cellular’s chief corporate affairs officer Rajat Mukherjee said, “The device and the ability or inability to load or unload or offload certain kind of application, is clearly discriminatory. It is what was referred at one point of time as a walled garden.”
“Today, there are network providers who are offering devices also in a bundled case, in a way you’re not giving the customer the choice, or you are in some sense influencing his choice to have a device which is restricting. Can that be a case (of net neutrality violation),” Trai chairman RS Sharma questioned stakeholders in the open house that had representations from carriers, content providers, analysts, internet search engines and consumer activist groups.
And the operators responded that a mobile phone must have access to any browser, operating system or applications that are available on the internet. Otherwise, it will be a violation of net neutrality.
Earlier, several market research firms claimed that the JioPhone would cause net neutrality issues with the apps. At the moment, it’s unclear whether Jio will restrict the users with limited data per day for the Jio apps, and it’s even unclear whether the operator will count the data consumed by Jio apps under the data plan or not.
“We note that Jio already has an entire spectrum of apps spanning the social, content, payments verticals. Thus, a JioPhone user will likely have a very low churn both due to the ‘refund feature’ and the software platform,” Deutsche Bank said in the Deutsche Bank Market Research report.
However, back then, a Jio spokesperson said that the JioPhone is absolutely not violating any net neutrality principles whatsoever. It’s interesting to see how Jio responds to these claims from Airtel and Idea Cellular.