Mobile operators are losing around Rs 2.45 crore in revenue every hour they are forced to suspend Internet services on government orders to control protests against the amended citizenship law, a top lobby group said on Friday.
Countrywide protests have been raging for three weeks since Parliament passed the new legislation.
To quell the protests, the government has deployed thousands of police as well as intermittently ordered mobile data shutdowns at a time people have used social media such as Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and Facebook to wage a parallel battle online. Such Internet suspensions have been criticised by Net freedom activists.
On Friday, mobile Internet was suspended in at least 18 districts in Uttar Pradesh, a telecom industry source told Reuters.
A Reuters witness received a text message from an Internet service provider announcing that home broadband services on the outskirts of New Delhi would be unavailable for 24 hours, till the morning of December 28.
Indians consume an average 9.8 gigabyte of data per month on their smartphones, the highest in the world, according to Swedish telecom gearmaker Ericsson. The country is the biggest market by users for social media firm Facebook and its messenger WhatsApp.
Internet shutdowns should not be the 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 as its members.
“We’ve highlighted the cost of these shutdowns,” COAI director-general Rajan Mathews told Reuters. “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 Rs 2.45 crore for an hour of Internet shutdown.”
The revenue losses will pile on to the woes of the telecom sector. Bharti, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio did not respond to emails seeking comment.