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Indian Minister Says Telecom Companies Should Only Charge For Data 177

bhagwad writes "In the US, telecom carriers are trying their best to hold on to depleting voice revenues. Over in India, the telecom minister urged carriers to stop charging for voice calls and derive all their revenues only from data plans. Is this kind of model sustainable, where voice becomes an outmoded and free technology, and carriers turn entirely into dumb pipes which have no control over what passes over them? This is a step forward and hopefully will make Internet service more like a utility."
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Indian Minister Says Telecom Companies Should Only Charge For Data

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  • by rgbrenner ( 317308 ) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @11:44AM (#41506369)

    so you want to subsidize phone calls by overcharging on data...

    how is that an improvement?

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @11:52AM (#41506423) Journal
    According the the law, the phone companies can not charge for airtime of incoming calls. Most people use prepaid phones, with just enough money to keep the phone active. But they would not dial out any calls. Many very poor people use these phones. Street vegetable vendors, unofficial jitney taxis, servant maids, low paid gate security fellas. ...

    And they have developed some social customs regarding "missed call etiquette". Typically it is understood that you never accept a call from certain classes of people, drivers, maids, delivery boys etc. They call, let it ring once, and they hang up. You return the call. Sometimes I have answered these calls and they would go, "Sir, why did you answer the call? I was giving you a missed call, sir". Usually I give them a few rupees to make amends.

    Very typical conversation is:

    "Mom, going to the dance class".

    "OK, dear, do give me a missed call as soon as you get there"

  • by AliasMarlowe ( 1042386 ) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @11:56AM (#41506449) Journal

    so you want to subsidize phone calls by overcharging on data...

    how is that an improvement?

    The actual amount of data transfer which a voice call is "deemed" to have involved might be a surprise to the average customer.

    Yes, we all know your voice will be compressed to at best a barely tolerable audio content. But the data charge might be for full duplex 320kbps, if you're lucky. If you're unlucky, they'll charge your full theoretical bandwidth times the duration of the call (with a theoretically 5Mbps link, a 2 minute call would appear as 75 MB, and 1GB would be less than 27 minutes).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 30, 2012 @12:03PM (#41506491)

    You get all you can eat data for 15 pounds a month in the UK on Three. They still charge for calls, but you can Skype to your hearts content, until the cows come home (no fair use policy, no clause to let them introduce one later if they change their minds). Not sure how big their customer base is though... but it doesn't seem to scare the rest of the carriers into providing similar services.

    If the Indians get their way and say "everything is data" and start charging a flat monthly fee and only capping your top speed (i.e. you get less top speed for less money, should you be skint), only the greedy shareholders would have something to moan about.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 30, 2012 @12:43PM (#41506783)

    Not if they have a modern network, and are honest. Modern networks are completely ip on the inside. Price to customer pr megabyte of voice traffic is approximately 100x that of the same volume on a data plan.
    But note that carriers production cost on data is very high nowadays, due to very large build costs. Don't know about India, but in western networks data usage have been growing by about 80-90% year-over-year the last few years - that is, exponentially. Revenue is only increasing in the low double digits, far lower than cost. Equipment cost is also falling, but not quickly enough. In the long run this is unsustainable. That's the reason for the more restrictive data plans and price hikes you have been seing the last few years. For many carriers, voice is susidizing data right now.

    Source: I'm technical management at a large telco.

  • by Cinder6 ( 894572 ) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @01:25PM (#41507051)

    The moment I realized how seriously messed up the non-unlimited texting system was was when I was in senior year of high school. I sent a friend of mine a small (think four or five) string of short texts, just goofing off. He then got mad at me because "I just cost him a dollar". Ridiculous. I have unlimited texting, so I'm unsure if it's still this bad, but I assume it is.

    Interestingly, Apple's iMessages thing bypasses texting if you're messaging another iOS device. I can actually text my sister now that she has an iPhone (she's never paid for unlimited texting and thus never wanted people to text her). Does Android have an equivalent? It would be awesome if Apple and Google could agree on a cross-platform texting system that used data plans, so we could get rid of SMS fees altogether. I'm sure there are cross-platform apps that let you do this, but it'd be nice to have built-in without convincing everyone you know to download and use some random app.

  • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday September 30, 2012 @01:54PM (#41507255) Journal

    Hell I recently read an article (sorry I didn't think to save the bookmark) that MSFT was doomed in the mobile space precisely because the carriers don't want competition from Skype and are punishing MSFT for buying it by refusing to give WinPhone the same push and deals they do with the Droid phones. Considering how badly they screw you on voice and data? Certainly sounds believable to me.

    This is why the whole "pushing smartphones" frankly scares the living hell out of me, AT&T in my area has pretty much stopped bothering to add so much as a single foot or Mbps to their DSL offerings and are instead pushing cell phones where they can make insane profits and the cableco has decided to simply gouge the customers they have instead of adding more customers and running lines. Imagine a world where you can't get on the net except with a smartphone with no tether ability? Makes the carriers happy, they can gouge away, makes the content owners happy, you won't have enough bandwidth to do anything that would piss them off, but it would royally suck for the users as you'd be stuck on these crappy little screens with no hope of getting anything better.

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @04:13PM (#41508083) Homepage Journal

    That's what properly implemented QOS is for. Voice traffic goes to the front of the queue (possibly at the cost of dropping a bulk data packet) and emergency voice traffic can bump other voice packets into the bit bucket if necessary.

To be a kind of moral Unix, he touched the hem of Nature's shift. -- Shelley