In a huge relief for over-the-top (OTT) players such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Google, Viber, Telegram, etc, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has ruled out bringing them under any form of regulatory framework, stating that market forces should be allowed to respond to the situation.
In its recommendations submitted to the department of telecommunication (DoT) on Monday, the regulator also rejected the need for any regulatory interventions in respect of issues related with privacy and security of OTT services at the moment, adding that market developments need to be monitored and if required an intervention can be made at an appropriate time.
This brings down curtains on an issue flagged by the telecom operators some 5-6 years ago demanding that OTTs be brought under a regulatory framework under what they called “one service, one rule”. However, times were different then with operators charging for voice services and data being quite expensive — almost Rs 50 per GB. Subscribers were increasingly using OTT services to make voice calls, thus causing revenue loss to the telecom operators.
However, with the coming of Reliance Jio in September 2016 and voice becoming free and telcos starting to charge only for data, the prices of which crashed to around Rs 3-5 for a GB, usage of data exploded and with various entertainment OTTs coming up, the old loss of revenue complaint evaporated.
Back then, the telcos had complained that while they paid for spectrum and other charges, the OTTs just rode on their networks without any regulatory charges.
However, most of the internet activists and associations representing digital application providers like IAMAI, Nasscom, US-India Business Council, etc, were against any kind of regulatory framework for the OTTs. The OTT players had maintained that their services are different from mobile operators as they transmit communication data over IP networks and there is no dedicated end-to-end channel being established for the duration of the communication.
However, Trai has earlier brought in regulation in some other aspects which touches OTT services like maintenance of net neutrality and stopping discriminatory tariffs.