More reports on: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India

Telcos seek curbs on WhatsApp as SMS revenues fall

18 August 2014

Telecom companies are actively lobbying the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to end the free-of-cost chat application `WhatsApp' that is eating to mobile phone companies' SMS revenues.

There has been a sharp fall in mobile revenues due to increasing popularity of Internet apps. It is estimated that the telcos could lose as much as $3.1 billion in SMS revenues by 2016 due to the emergence of the social messaging apps such as Skype, Facebook messaging and now WhatsApp (See: Telcos want Trai to regulate mobile apps like Skype, WhatsApp to be regulated).

Reports quoting Trai chairman Rahul Khullar, however, said, he was ''not keen'' on proposing regulations. However, Trai may issue a ''consultation paper'' on regulating apps. ''The consultation paper will test the ground to see how grave the problem is,'' Khullar was reported as saying.

While revenue loss could be a genuine issue for the telcos, Khullar said, the consultation paper would be issued only after preliminary discussions with all stakeholders.

In a confidential white paper circulated among members, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) had earlier warned the telecom industry of a ''perfect storm'' of declining mobile revenues and increasing operator costs as more users turned to products like Skype, Facebook messenger and Whatsapp.

COAI has estimated that ''Indian telecom operators may lose $3.1 billion in SMS revenues by 2016 due to the emergence of social messaging apps''.

The paper has advised operators to block these apps if the regulators permit or adjust their pricing to make apps less attractive.

Alternatively, they may either charge more for such rival services that run on their networks or make cheaper applications on their own or in partnership with third parties, COAI suggested.

Trai has to observe ''net neutrality'' while recommending measures to facilitate growth and competition in the telecom sector, but it can also lay down standards relating to the quality of service to be provided by telcos, COAI suggested.

The COAI white paper also suggests, ''as the network is choked with high bandwidth services'' of apps, operators are ''struggling to add capacity''.

Trai has not taken a stance on COAI's protests over alleged revenue losses due to the wide use of the free-of-cost chat application.

Meanwhile, maligning reports have claimed that the misuse of WhatsApp has been causing considerable harm to individuals and the society. According to one report, the use of WhatsApp has put the love marriage of a couple in Bhopal on the rocks.

According to the report, trouble started when the wife got a new smart phone and started using WhatsApp and Facebook chat. The report citing the women's commission said the free-of-cost chat application caused an escalation of the problems so much so that the husband had to tell his wife to leave the house with her phone.

Also, another report from Mangalore said a rumour that originated on Sunday, claiming that the death of a student at the National Institute of Technology Karnataka (NITK) Suratkal about three weeks ago had been caused by Ebola virus, had spread like wildfire through WhtsApp.

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