Turkey's leading cellphone operator Turkcell faced a growing number of disgruntled users who complained about the company's new policy introducing a fee for tethering, also known as mobile hotspot, which allows users to connect their Wi-Fi capable devices to internet using their phones as a modem device.
The company informed its subscribers through a statement and SMS messages, saying that users sharing their mobile data will automatically be assigned with a 2-gigabyte mobile data package slated only for hotspot sharing and charged 9 Turkish liras ($1.7) as of Jan. 15, 2019.
This data package will be valid for 30 days. For uses exceeding 2 gigabytes, a new 2-GB package will be assigned again for TL 9.
Similar data plans are being offered by cellphone operators, especially in the U.S., but Turkcell is the first company introducing such a fee in Turkey, where competition is strife among three cellphone operators – Turkcell, Vodafone and Türk Telekom – and their affiliated brands for the country's young and social-media addicted population.
Many people took to Twitter and other social media applications to express their discomfort with the fee, with the common theme being users should be free to do what they want with the cellular internet package they already pay for. For some others, this was a step that would initially become the norm and adopted by all service providers.
Vodafone Turkey was quick to react, but did not disclose its position for the future. "Vodafone, which operates under the vision of leading the digital transformation of Turkey, is not charging its users for mobile data sharing through hotspot," the company said. Türk Telekom released a statement Wednesday, saying it is does not charge its customers for hotspot use.
Turkcell released a statement later on Tuesday, altering the hotspot fee policy and saying that users using the "Speedy Entry" technology, which requires only their telephone number during website and mobile application entries, will be able to share their data through hotspot application free of charge. The company noted the 2-GB package was introduced upon user complaints who have problems in monitoring and controlling their internet data plan when using the hotspot application.
The hotspot fee came at a time when Turkish internet users were already unhappy with the rising fees of data packages of fixed line services after the fair usage quota (AKK) policy was discontinued. According to the new price rates of Türk Telekom to be applied for 2019, the largest fixed internet provider with more than 60 percent market share, the fees will approximately increase by 80 percent.
Since Türk Telekom, a former public corporation before privatized in 2005, controls more than 80 percent of the country's fiber line network as well as the entire telephone network, it is almost certain that its rivals will also hike their prices.