Indian mobile operator reckons Google, Facebook should share profits

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The issue of Net neutrality has reared its ugly head, this time in India. Mobile operator Bharti Airtel reckons that web-based companies should pay for using its infrastructure.

In an interview with the Hindu Business Line, company executive Jagbir Singh said that the situation was unfair, saying that nearly all the data costs fell to the mobile companies:

Today, Google, Yahoo! and others are enjoying at the cost of network operator. We are the ones investing in setting up data pipes and they make the money. There is interconnection for voice then why not for data.

Network is capital-intensive, we have to pay for spectrum and voice revenue is coming down. At the same time, companies like Google, which have not invested more than a few billion dollars, are enjoying valuations that are ten times that of a traditional telecom player. It’s an unfair game.

They are completely bypassing the telecom operator. There should be a fair revenue share.

Balancing the rising demands that data places on mobile companies with the need for a free internet has been an issue for some time. As far back as 2010, a proposal between Google and US operator Verizon had people crying foul, saying that the internet giant had sold out the net neutrality cause.

As we increasingly use our mobile devices to access the web, neutrality proponents (especially in developed countries with high broadband penetration) have started moving their sights from fixed-line telecom companies to mobile operators.

The argument however remains the same: in order to control the pipeline and thereby remove competition, create artificial scarcity, and oblige subscribers to buy their otherwise uncompetitive services.

What’s interesting in this particular case is that the argument has reached one of the world’s top emerging market economies. That it’s a mobile operator making big noises is particularly pertinent. The number of people accessing the web via mobile in India is set to overtake desktop users by the end of the year.

As more and more phones capable of accessing the web hit the Indian market, the load on mobile operators will only increase. Small wonder that Bharti, with 183-million customers in India alone is pushing for big web companies to share the burden with it.

Image: Bigstock

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