To support governments efforts towards a cashless economy, Indian telecom watchdog Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended free monthly internet data benefits for rural mobile subscribers. Under this scheme, mobile subscribers in the rural area will get a reasonable amount of data of minimum 100 MB per month for free.

The free data scheme could be funded from the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF). This includes Universal Access Levy (UAL) which is a prescribed percentage of the charge levied on telecom operators revenue. According to various media reports, the government has more than 4 billion dollars of unused USOF funds.

TRAI also suggested that to increase participation of other entities for incentivizing free data, there is a need to introduce a third party (Aggregator). These aggregators need to facilitate schemes which are telecom service provider (TSP) agnostic and non-discriminatory in their implementation.

Other recommendation from TRAI

  • Minimum 100 MB of free mobile internet data per month benefits for rural mobile subscribers.
  • The cost of implementation of the scheme may be met from USOF.
  • With this scheme, Internet usage will become affordable to a greater proportion of the Indian population.
  • Enable rural community to get access to information from a vast range of sources and participate in the digital economy, including digital payment systems.
  • Need third party (Aggregator) to facilitate schemes which are TSPs agnostic and non-discriminatory in their implementation.
  • There must not involve any arrangement between the TSP and the aggregator/content provider so that it won’t violate the earlier free internet ruling.
  • The third part aggregator providing free data service will need to register with Department of Telecom (DoT). Each registration will have a validity of 5 years. They shall not either directly or indirectly, assign or transfer the registration.

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