Airtel chairman wants YouTube to pay for mobile bandwidth

Airtel boss wants to "tax" content providers for using Airtel's bandwidth.
Written by Manan Kakkar, Contributor

Streaming videos on smartphones is one of the popular activity on the devices. According to Google, YouTube mobile gets 600 Million hits a day (via YouTube as of March 21), and that's a significant number. While researching for my previous story on the demand for cheaper smartphones in India, I stumbled across an intriguing quote by Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Mittal. Talking about mobile data tariff, Mittal says content providers like YouTube use bandwidth provided by carriers like Airtel and the customers end up paying all the price. (Some numbers suggest YouTube consumes almost 22% of the world's mobile bandwidth.)

Drawing a parallel to physical highways, Mittal says mobile carriers are data highways and content providers should pay a tax to use the service. He explained customers blame the mobile carrier for their high bills and data prices when it necessarily them to blame since there are limited resources. Mittal has proposed a solution for this; he wants content providers to pay carriers so the carriers can, in turn, reduce the data prices for the customers. Joji Thomas Philip writing for The Economic Times quotes Sunil Mittal saying, "We've become the bad gatekeepers. When somebody watches too many YouTube videos on mobile phone and then has a big bill, he curses the telecom operators. But YouTube is consuming a massive amount of resources on our network. Somebody's got to pay for that. Operators are under extreme pressures. If we are going to build the highways, there has to be a tax on the highways. I'm in favor of the customer feeling that the network providers are doing a great service. I don't want him to curse me. We are charging him to make our business viable."

Compared to the US (250MB fr $15 on AT&T), mobile data prices in India are very cheap. I enjoyed 500MB data for approximately $4 on Airtel. If Mittal's advice is in fact taken, AT&T, for example, may be able to offer better tariff plans and the customer does benefit in the end.

Noble thought sir.

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