More reports on: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India

Telcos want Trai to regulate mobile apps like Skype, WhatsApp to be regulated

07 August 2014

Telecom operators have sought TRAI's intervention for a level-playing field with internet calling service providers like Skype and instant messaging service Whatsapp, which have been eroding their revenues.

They want OTT players, who are essentially providers of mobile apps, to pay for connectivity charges to the service providers as well as share some revenue with the government.

PTI reported, quoting data estimates from PwC, Skype-to-Skype phone calls using the internet was costing the telecom industry around $36 billion per year globally

Speaking at a seminar organised by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on 'Regulatory Framework for OTT services' on Tuesday, telecom industry veteran T V Ramachandran said on behalf of telecom operators that telcos wanted these over-the-top (OTT) service providers that are unshackled by regulation, unlike telecom firms, to be regulated in order to have a level playing field.

Ramchandaran said, "OTT operators provide voice calls and messaging services which come under Indian Telegraph Act. OTT players can switch calls over web outside India but we can't do that. We have to pay interconnect charges which OTT don't need to," he said.

License conditions bind telecom operators but not OTT operators, he reiterated.

According to Trai, the seminar on a regulatory framework for OTT services was a platform to exchange views on  new OTT developments, impact of OTT on telecom services providers and counter measures, legal and regulatory framework for OTT, Business Today reported.

Trai said it would come up with a discussion paper on OTT players. However, the telecom regulator was not likely to pose any major restrictions on OTT services, which were essentially downloadable apps.

Apart from Skype and WhatsApp, similar apps like WeChat, Viber, Line, among others, had gained immense popularity amongst mobile users by running on telecom bandwidth without being connected to the telecom industry. These offer free messaging across any telecom network in India, and came at the cost of SMSes, resulting in losses to telcos.

Consequently, mobile  service providers like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, want connectivity charges levied on OTT providers.

The telecom industry estimates it suffers Rs500 crore annual losses, which it currently incurs to cross Rs16,400 crore in the next two years, as increased smartphones usage would boost the popularity of downloadable mobile apps.

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