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TRAI recommends 100 MB free data per month for rural areas

MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India ( TRAI) has recommended that telecom service providers (TSPs) provide 100 MB of free data per month to rural subscribers to encourage data usage and cashless transactions in rural areas.

TRAI feels that the cost of providing 100 MB of free data to 50 million users for a period of one year will work out to approximately Rs 600 crore (Rs 6 billion). However, considering the sharp decline in expected data prices, this scheme could be implemented at an even lower cost, it added.

The recommendations are part of the authority’s consultation paper on ‘Encouraging Data usage in Rural Areas through Provisioning of Free Data’.

TRAI further stated that the cost of implementation of the scheme may be met from the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).

TRAI also recommended introducing third-party (aggregators) to facilitate schemes that are TSP agnostic and non-discriminatory in their implementation to increase participation of other entities in incentivising free data.

It also stated that the scheme for free data must be TSP-agnostic, must not involve any arrangement between the TSP and the aggregator/content provider and not be designed to circumvent the ‘The Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations’, notified on 8 February 2016.

The following mechanism is recommended:

  • The aggregators will need to register with DoT.
  • The registrant must be a company registered under Indian Companies Act, 1956.
  • The validity of registration will be five years.
  • The registrant will not, either directly or indirectly, assign or transfer the registration in any manner whatsoever to a third party either in whole or in part.