Telekom Austria, recently rebranded A1, has introduced zero-rating in Austria, allowing access to certain video and audio streaming services that don't count towards customers' data allowances.
The A1 Free Stream service includes its own A1 Now streaming service along with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and a range of local and regional broadcasters' services. It also includes music streaming services from Apple, Amazon and Spotify. The operator has said it is open to other providers also joining the program. Zero-rated access to these services is free for customers that subscribe to the top three tiers of mobile data offered by A1.
Telekom Austria Group is the latest to offer a zero-rated service, joining Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone, both in Germany, which have been zero-rating content for their subscribers for some time now. Irish operator eir also offers zero-rated sports services to its higher tier subscribers, as do some others on the continent.
The exact regulatory position on this within the EU is not entirely clear. The EU's Telecom Single Market (TSM) regulation has not expressly forbidden it, but the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) has identified some implementations of zero-rating that it considers infringing on net neutrality requirements, and provides guidelines for European National Regulatory Authorities (NRA).
Regulatory responses to zero-rating have also not been entirely consistent across different European countries as this infographic shows. The German Federal Networks Agency Bundesnetzagentur, has allowed the practice in Germany, but feels certain elements of Deutsche Telekom's service are in violation of net neutrality requirements. Vodafone's zero-rating package is also being evaluated by the regulator currently.
In the US, operators AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon offer zero-rated services though the FCC has raised concerns about those plans in the past. But with the appointment of Chairman Ajit Pai, the FCC decided to drop its investigations into zero-rating earlier this year.
Increasingly, though, it does appear that unless the operator is actively limiting access for non-affiliated content providers in some way, regulators in most countries may be open to the practice.
— Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation