The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Monday re-started the discussion on “regulatory issues and economic concerns” with regard to over-the-top (OTT) services such as WhatsApp and Skype, with its consultation paper on ‘Regulatory Framework for OTT Communication Services’.
“This consultation paper seeks to analyse and discuss the implications of the growth of OTT services… the relationship between TSPs and OTT players, whether any change is required in the current regulatory framework and the manner in which such changes should be effected,” the regulatory body said in the consultation paper.
Among other things, TRAI has sought comments from stakeholders on whether regulatory or licensing imbalance is impacting investments in the telecom networks, if there is any issue of non-level playing field between OTT providers and TSPs, and any issues related to lawful interception of OTT communication that are required to be resolved in the interest of national security. TRAI has also sought to know which OTT services could be regarded the same or similar to the services provided by TSPs.
“In case, any regulation or licensing condition is suggested to be made applicable to OTT service providers then whether such regulations or licensing conditions are required to be reviewed or redefined in context of OTT services or these may be applicable in the present form itself?,” it said. TRAI also asked if inter-operability among OTT services would benefit competition as well as the users. At present, there are no regulations for interoperability between OTT platforms.
The telecom operators has been pitching that the OTT players be brought under a licensing regime to create a level playing field since they offer similar services such as voice calling and messaging. A licensing regime will likely lead to OTT players paying up levies such as license fee, spectrum charges, besides adhering to quality of service, lawful interception and customer grievance redressal norms.
TRAI had earlier issued a consultation paper on regulatory framework for OTT services in March, 2015. This also included questions on the principles of net neutrality and traffic management practices, among others. “Due to the large number of issues and their complexity, it became difficult to deliberate upon and conclude all of them together. Therefore, Authority decided to deal with related issues in separate parts,” TRAI said. – The Hindu