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TRAI May Issue Consultation Paper on OTT Players In November: Report

Some telecom operators are of the view that a level playing field needs to be established.

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is planning to issue a consultation paper in November to decide whether over the top (OTT) players like WhatsApp and Skype, should be regulated, DNA reported.

Over the top applications are accessible on the internet and ride on operators’ network.

The draft consultation paper has already been prepared, and will be finalised and released in a week or two, a senior official from the regulator told the paper.

Telecom operators have been pushing for a regulatory framework for OTT players as they saw applications like Skype, WhatsApp, and Viber as competitors who were eating into their revenue in the voice call and messaging segment.

The operators argued that they are subjected to a licence fee, a number of levies and spectrum charges, while OTT players ride on their network without any costs.

In March 2015, TRAI had floated a consultation paper on whether OTT players offering voice, messaging and video call services through applications should be brought under the licensing regime.

The regulator had, among other things, also sought information on whether OTT growth was affecting the traditional revenue stream of operators.

The operators, however, now seem to be content as these applications are driving data consumption on their networks.

Back then, voice calls accounted for a relatively larger share of a telecom operator’s revenue. While it still continues to be an important source of revenue, operators are now focusing more on data.

In the April-June period, the average revenue per user (ARPU) from voice was Rs 73 for Idea Cellular, while data ARPU was Rs 82. The rise in the operator’s revenue stems from increased data usage because of these apps.

Some telecom operators are still of the view that a level playing field needs to be established.

According to the report, the new consultation paper would override the one issued in 2015.

It would, however, consider the comments received on the previous consultation paper, which addressed only the issue of net neutrality and differential pricing access of data, leaving out the OTT aspect.

In November 2017, the telecom regulator, while issuing recommendations on net neutrality, had said that it will issue a separate consultation process on OTT players and issues around their regulation. – Money Control

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