The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) on Friday stayed the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) order that required the telecom operators to withhold the premium plans promising “priority” access. The TDSAT said that the Trai directive issued to both Vodafone and Bharti Airtel “lacks even prima facie reasons” as Trai said that the suspension of plans would facilitate detailed examination. The decision by TDSAT paves way for Vodafone Idea to continue its RedX plan that was introduced in November, 2019. However, TDSAT highlighted that its order was only possible as the operator had modified its plan in May, 2020.
Vodafone Idea RedX Plan Modification Becomes Major Factor
In November, 2019, Vodafone Idea introduced its RedX premium plan that offered numerous benefits including 50% higher data speed as compared to other postpaid plans. However, the operator in May revised its plan by introducing several commercial policy restrictions. While Vodafone Idea continues to offer the benefits, the operator in May revised the higher data speed phrase to “priority 4G network” with “faster data speeds” as compared to its other plans.
Similarly, Airtel introduced its own version of the postpaid plan by launching Platinum tier in July. Airtel said that its postpaid users on Rs 499 plan and above would be classified as Platinum users with promise of “faster 4G speeds through network preference.”
It was reported that the telecom regulator in identical letters to Vodafone Idea and Airtel asked to “withhold, with immediate effect and until further orders” the two plans.” The regulator is said to have highlighted that such schemes could lower the quality of mobile services for those users who haven’t opted for premium plans.
It also emerged that Reliance Jio played a role in the regulator’s directive as the operator in a letter voiced concerns about the two plans.
The development resulted in Vodafone Idea filing a petition in TDSAT seeking interim relief from the regulator’s directive.
TRAI Holds Final Narrative on Premium Postpaid Plans
While the order issued by TDSAT offers temporary relief to Vodafone Idea, it was highlighted that Trai is free to proceed with the inquiry of the premium plans and pass the final orders.
“But it is made clear that it would be open for TRAI to proceed with the inquiry and pass final orders in accordance with law at the earliest after ensuring that requirements of natural justice are satisfied and the appellant is given opportunity to explain any alleged contravention of extant directions of the Authority,” TDSAT said in its order on Friday.
The final order from the regulator would likely revolve around the “meaning of the assurance of priority 4G network” promised by both Vodafone Idea and Airtel. The TDSAT said that “such assurance of priority 4G network has not been found so far.”
Further, it was also highlighted that the Trai directive was largely down to the 50% higher data speed, an assurance that was modified by Vodafone Idea in May.