Internet bans cost India’s mobile carriers millions in lost revenue

Internet services were suspended in Kashmir in a bid to end protests. (AFP)
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Updated 28 December 2019

Internet bans cost India’s mobile carriers millions in lost revenue

  • On Friday, mobile Internet was ordered shut in at least 18 districts in northern Uttar Pradesh state

NEW DELHI: Indian mobile operators are losing around 24.5 million rupees ($350,000) in revenue every hour they are forced to suspend Internet services on government orders to control protests against a new citizenship law, a top lobby group said on Friday.

Countrywide protests have raged for three weeks after India’s Parliament passed legislation that gives minorities from neighboring Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh a path to citizenship but excludes Muslims.

That, coupled with a plan for a national register of citizens, are seen by critics as anti-Muslim moves by the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

To quell protests, the government has deployed thousands of police and intermittently ordered mobile data shutdowns at a time people have used social media such as Instagram and TikTok to wage a parallel battle online.

Such Internet suspensions have been criticized by Internet freedom activists.

On Friday, mobile Internet was ordered shut in at least 18 districts in northern Uttar Pradesh state.

A Reuters witness received a text message from an Internet service provider announcing that home broadband services on the outskirts of capital New Delhi will be unavailable for 24 hours, till the morning of Dec 28.

FASTFACT

9.8GB

Indians consume an average 9.8 gigabyte of data per month on their smartphones, the highest in the world.

Indians consume an average 9.8 gigabyte of data per month on their smartphones, the highest in the world, according to Swedish telecoms gearmaker Ericsson. The country is the biggest market by users for social media firm Facebook and its messenger WhatsApp.

Internet shutdowns should not be first course of action, said the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which counts mobile carriers Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Industries’ Jio Infocomm among its members.

“We’ve highlighted the cost of these shutdowns,” COAI director-general Rajan Mathews said.

“According to our computation at the end of 2019, with the increase in online activities we believe the cost (of Internet shutdowns) is close to 24.5 million rupees for an hour of Internet shutdown.”

The revenue losses will add to the woes of India’s telecoms sector, bruised by a price war and saddled with a combined $13 billion in overdue payments following a Supreme Court ruling in October.

Bharti, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio did not respond to emails seeking comment.

The bans follows an unprecedented shutdown of Internet and text messaging services in parts of New Delhi last week, widening a communications clampdown in areas stretching from disputed Kashmir to the northeast.

Internet services in Indian Kashmir were suspended for over 140 days after New Delhi relegated its status to a federal administered territory from a state, making it the longest such shutdown in a democracy, according to digital rights group Access Now.


Etihad Airways to resume flights to some destinations on April 5

Updated 03 April 2020

Etihad Airways to resume flights to some destinations on April 5

  • The Abu Dhabi-based carrier will fly to some destinations including Singapore, South Korea, Manila, and Amstersdam

DUBAI: Etihad Airways will resume regular service to several destinations on April 5, but are subject to government approvals, the airlines said in a statement.

The UAE has earlier halted international travel to curb the spread of COVID-19, which has so far infected more than a million people worldwide.

Etihad said it will open flights to Seoul, Melbourne, Singapore, Manila, Bangkok, Jakarta and Amsterdam from April 5.

The Abu Dhabi carrier has been operating special flights to repatriate foreign nationals stranded in the UAE.

These special flights have been carried to various destinations including the US, Australia and Sri Lanka.

In some cases, the airlines said, the flights were being used to carry fresh produce to Abu Dhabi, as part of the UAE Food Security Program.