Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is seeking suggestions on whether or not Over-The-Top (OTT) communications services such as WhatsApp, Skype, Viber, and Hike should be regulated like telcos. TRAI on Monday issued a consultation paper ‘Regulatory Framework for Over The Top Communications Services’ to discuss changes in regulatory regime.
Telecom regulator TRAI essentially feels that communication apps like WhatsApp, Skype and more should be regulated like telecom operators in the interests of national security. It believes that such apps are sometimes “misused” to spread harmful rumors.
Telecom companies in India have long been demanding that OTT players be brought in the ambit of the regulatory framework, as they offer similar services without attached licensing obligations, conditions and levies (such as licence fee). In addition, telecom operators also have to abide by stringent service quality benchmarks and invest in networks and infrastructure.
TRAI invited industry’s views to debate on whether OTT services should brought under regulatory regime. OTT services refer to applications and services that are accessible over the Internet and ride on an operator’s network. WhatsApp, Skype, Viber and Hike are some examples of the popular and widely-used OTT services.
The discussion paper is aimed at analyzing and discussing “changes that may be required in the current regulatory framework to govern these entities and the manner in which such changes should be effected”, reads TRAI statement.
It has also asked whether “regulatory or licensing imbalance” is impacting telecom network investments especially required for capacity expansions and technology upgradations, and how OTT service providers can participate in infusing investment in the telecom networks.
“Would inter-operability among OTT services and also inter-operability of their services with TSPs services promote competition and benefit the users,” the TRAI consultation paper said, asking stakeholders to state measures that can be taken to promote competition.
TRAI has asked the industry to give its views on various issues raised in the consultation paper by December 10, 2018, and counter comments by December 24, 2018.
Written with PTI inputs