Telekom Srbija mulls free access model to get round net neutrality

AMSTERDAM--Telekom Srbija is exploring fresh approaches to monetising mobile data traffic, including giving away free access to selected services, said Nemanja Ognjanovic, manager of the Serbian operator's network and services planning department.

In an exclusive interview with FierceWireless:Europe during the LTE World Summit here this week, Ognjanovic said the company is considering offering free access to some messaging applications and social media sites including Facebook, to get round proposed net neutrality rules that would prevent the company charging a premium for access to services such as video.

"There are some ideas from the commercial side [of the business] that we try to offer premium mobile access" to business customers on the company's current HSPA+ network, Ognjanovic explained. While the benefits of such an approach may be clear, he noted the company is currently hitting some "technological issues" in terms of offering end-to-end quality of service. The potential introduction of net neutrality rules might also "make this story more difficult", Ognjanovic said.

Due to those problems, Telekom Srbija has "not segmented based on speed yet", Ognjanovic said, but is instead considering the free to market approach for some popular applications and services.  "Nobody can prevent you giving Facebook [away]  for free or some messaging services instead of throttling [data rates]," he noted.

The operator is still preparing to launch LTE. Ognjanovic said Serbia's regulator has yet to auction off the necessary frequencies--he noted it needs bandwidths of 15 MHz to 20 MHz and some refarming to launch LTE properly--but also explained the company doesn't yet need LTE.

"Actually we are quite ok with the capacity that we provide today. We expanded our HSPA+ coverage to [between] 60 per cent and 70 per cent of our territories, which provides users…with 42 Mbps" in the best conditions.

Much stronger drivers of Telekom Srbija's LTE strategy are its rival operators. "In Serbia, you cannot be the last man to implement LTE, so you must keep track with the others as well," Ognjanovic explained, adding: "It's not a story of a need for LTE from a technological perspective, it's more [of] a marketing story."

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