To have a level-playing field, telecom operators have proposed a licencing regime for over-the-top (OTT) players like WhatsApp and Skype, a view which is opposed by Internet firms and associations.
This comes after all the stakeholders submitted their comments on Trai’s consultation paper on Net Neutrality. April 24 was the last day to summit the comments. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has released the name and email IDs of over one million people who gave their comments on the consultation paper. The telecom operators said they should be allowed to offer services based on mutual agreements with the OTT players. “There is a pressing need to find a fair regulatory and commercial solution especially for VOIP telephony services, which if not addressed could endanger the entire Digital India programme of the Government,” Vodafone India said in its comments on Trai’s consultation paper on regulatory framework for OTT services.
However, Nasscom said the Information Technology Act is mandated to ensure this and believe there is no need for any additional regulations for content and services. “Internet Platforms and Services communications do not require licensing. There are user led evaluation reports that helps consumers make an informed choice as they adopt internet platforms and services,” Nasscom said. Airtel said, at present, telecom service providers and OTT communication service providers offer the same communication services such as voice. “While TSPs are subject to a number of regulatory and licensing requirements, such as payment of licence fee, taxes, security conditions, among others, OTT communication service providers have no such obligations,” Airtel said.
Idea also said there should be “Same Service, Same Rules” so that all stakeholders are bound to offer same services under the same regulations and no one gets an undue advantage. Internet Service Providers Association of India echoed the demand for same service same rules. On OTT players impacting traditional revenue stream of telecom operators, Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) said it is not true that innovations of VoIP and text apps have affected the TSPs financial stability and available data, points to the contrary.
“Indicators of revenues from regulatory filings, earning calls of telecom companies and public statements clearly indicate that data is driving telecom growth,” IAMAI said. As the number of comments was huge, Trai has divided the comments under three categories — comments from service providers, comments from service providers associations and comments from other stakeholders. Telecom industry body GSMA said the efficient way to manage multiple traffic types is not to treat all traffic with the same priority, but to match the prioritisation of network resources to the traffic characteristics and the service requirements.
“To ensure internet remains open and functional, mobile operators should be permitted the flexibility to differentiate between different types of traffic,” GSMA said. Vodafone said companies should be free to pursue commercial agreements which offer consumers innovative new content and services underpinned by new business models. “This should include the option to pursue two-way charging models under which operators and content providers implement bilateral agreements for the benefit of consumers,” Vodafone said.