The Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) has directed Ncell to stop providing Twitter service for free citing the telecom company had extended the campaign without taking prior permission.
Ncell had launched Twitter Zero scheme, which allowed customers to browse popular micro-blogging site for free. The campaign launched in the last week of May was given continuity recently by Ncell after receiving good response from customers.
Along with Twitter Zero, two other schemes that provide bonus in receiving international calls and give 100 SMS service at Rs three per day have also been instructed to be stopped. Going by the NTA provision, promotional tariff schemes are allowed only for three months and prior approval from the authority is a must for giving continuity, according to NTA officials.
But browsing Twitter in Ncell network is a scheme that is not related to tariff issue, as per Ncell. NTA’ s guideline for tariff approval for telecommunications services state that ‘tariffs charged on customers for new features and facilities within licensed services shall have prior approval from NTA’.
Kumar Sharma, director of NTA said that they instructed Ncell to stop all promotional tariff campaigns exceeding three months based on the decision of NTA Board. He, however did not talk particularly about the Twitter Zero facility. A recent meeting of the NTA Board had decided to instruct Ncell to stop the schemes.
Sanju Koirala, corporate communications director of Ncell said that since Twitter Zero was a much loved service they will discuss with NTA regarding the direction to discontinue it. “It is a free service and also a part of freedom of expression of customers so we want to give continuity,” she added.
After constant growth in data users and free Twitter service, the number of Nepali people having Twitter handles has increased significantly. In May, there were 100,000 plus Twitter handles in the country, which has now increased significantly.
Last year, Ncell had proposed a tariff for Twitter package. However, after NTA did not give a go-ahead to the promotional scheme, it had launched free Twitter campaign. Currently, a committee under Director Sharma is also conducting a study regarding different schemes.
Arjun Ghimire, deputy director at NTA said that if Ncell wants
to make Twitter free for all the time, they will consider about it. He added that since Ncell had received permission for the Twitter scheme as a promotional campaign, the company has to stop it.
Besides Twitter Zero, Ncell is also providing free Wikipedia service called Wikipedia Zero.
It allows customers to access the world’s largest online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, free of data charges in partnership with the Wikimedia Foundation.