Trying to offer their own little contribution to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic crisis, telecom companies in India have suggested that the customers be allowed free access to critical websites during this period without being charged for the data usage, as per a report in the Economic Times.
There are only three companies currently offering telecom services in the country, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio. All of them offer prepaid packages to the mobile users where a small amount of data is allowed to be used and any usage beyond that daily limit is charged.
The body representing these three operators, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has sent this communication to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) as well as to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). The sites listed by them in their letter include those offering government services, e-commerce sites, digital payments etc.
With work from home being implemented across the spectrum, many people would be forced to use their personal mobile devices to access these sites instead of from their workplaces and the prospect of their exhausting their daily data pack is quite real.
The background behind this letter to the DoT and TRAI is that TRAI does not permit the telecom operators to charge discriminatory rates for data usage. The only exception is for usage within intranets.
It is now for the DoT and TRAI to take a call on this suggestion from the industry players themselves.
In all the lockdown and curfew situations, telecom has been identified as an essentials service, but the sector is also facing issues similar to many others where their personnel cannot reach their workplaces due to the restrictions being imposed by the police or the employees themselves abstaining due to the fear of contamination.