Sectoral regulator Trai is likely to come up with a consultation paper on over-the-top (OTT) players like WhatsApp, Skype, Viber and Line by the end of this month seeking comments on issues such as bringing them under a licencing regime, revenue sharing and net-neutrality. Also Read - TRAI's new SMS regulations will prevent spam, fraudulent messages: Here's howAlso Read - Starlink satellite broadband service faces challenge in India, Elon Musk led company questioned
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has been working on the consultation paper for quite some time but new issues keep on emerging regarding the OTT players. OTT players facilitate their users to make calls or send voice and video messages through Internet for free. Issues like voice over internet (VoIP) calls, net neutrality emerged recently and they have also been included into the consultation paper. Sources said Trai is going to ask questions if the present licencing framework of unified licence can cater the OTT services or a different licence has to be issued to OTTs. Also Read - Skype will now let users add up to 100 participants to join the chat simultaneously
In case of OTT players offering voice services, what security conditions including maintaining data records, logs etc should be imposed on them and if they are residing out of India, how these conditions can be ensured by the government. Regarding net neutrality, Trai is going to seek comments of stakeholders if the market competition is enough to control non-discriminatory internet access or there is a need of regulator or government intervention in this regard, sources said.
The regulator will ask if there is a need of revenue sharing arrangement between OTT players and telecom operators in order to maintain a level-playing field and also what measures should be taken to encourage India specific OTT applications. Country’s largest telecom firm Bharti Airtel in December proposed to charge extra for voice calls made over the Internet using applications like Skype, Viber and Hike, but it later dropped the plans following an outcry on social media.
Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had also said the principle of net neutrality, which means access to Internet and related services without any discrimination or barrier, is important and views of all stakeholders would be taken for evolving a governance model for the Web.
“Internet is property of world. Global world must be linked to local. Net neutrality is important as Internet is meant for masses. We will need to take stakeholders views to see broadly what should be the governance architecture to deal with it,” Prasad had said.
Under the principle of net neutrality, telecom operators or anyone who plays a role in delivery of Internet should not discriminate or impose any kind of barrier for accessing the Internet or services based on the Internet. Department of Telecom has also constituted a panel on net neutrality.