Bharti Airtel wrote to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for permission to offer exclusive video content over its Closed Electronic Communication Network (CECN) on Monday.
The company has been approached by a leading global content company for exclusive content to Airtel customers.
The company has told Trai: “While such an arrangement with the global content provider over CECN, along with its exclusive offerings to our consumers, would be compliant with the regulations, it may well be viewed by some stakeholders as violation of the principle of net neutrality.” Hence, before proceeding, it wants approval from the regulator.
Trai has defined a CECN as one where data is neither received nor transmitted over the internet. In a notification this February, the regulator had prohibited discriminatory pricing for data services but an exception was made for closed communication networks “unless such tariffs (rates) are offered or charged by the service provider for the purpose of evading the prohibition in this regulation”.
While the TRAI’s notification clearly states that differential tariffs being offered for data transmitted over closed electronic communications networks, such as intranets are not prohibited by these regulations. It also goes on to say if these networks are used to evade regulations, then prohibition will apply. Effectively, the understanding is that operators can offer exclusive content that is not available online to their consumers on these closed communication networks or intranets where data tariffs are not charged. So, if Netflix partners with Airtel to offer its exclusive content on these closed communication networks, it is possible, if its exclusive content is not already available in India.