The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has launched a consultation paper to prepare a framework for over-the-top (OTT) services like Whatsapp, Skype, and Viber, which facilitate internet telephony.
"Worldwide, there is an ongoing debate among governments, industry and consumers regarding regulations of OTT services and net-neutrality. In this background, TRAI today released a consultation paper on regulatory framework for OTT services," the regulator said in a statement New Delhi on Friday.
"Today, users can directly access these applications online from any place, at any time, using a variety of internet-connected consumer devices. It is becoming increasingly difficult for consumers to know if there is an economic difference in connecting to various networks via a landline phone, cell phone, or a computer," the consultation paper said.
The characteristics of OTT services are such that telecom service providers realise revenues solely from the increased data usage of the internet-connected customers for various applications and do not realise any other revenues, be it for carriage or bandwidth, it said.
"They are also not involved in planning, selling, or enabling OTT apps. On the other hand, OTT providers make use of the TSPs' infrastructure to reach their customers and offer products/services that not only make money for them but also compete with the traditional services offered by TSPs," it added.
The regulator said written comments on the consultation paper are invited from the stakeholders by 24 April and counter comments by 8 May.