Lobby groups call for OTT regulation

6 Aug 2014

India’s telecom operators have called for regulators to intervene and level the playing field for competition with over-the-top (OTT) service providers, the Economic Times writes. TV Ramachandran, the director general of industry lobby group Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI), spoke on behalf of industry stakeholders at a seminar on the matter hosted by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), noting that OTT operators do not face the same constraints as network operators, giving them an unfair advantage. ‘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,’ Ramachandran told the TRAI, adding: ‘There are so many regulations binding on us but the same don’t exist for OTT players. We can do a lot more if level playing field is given to us.’ The president of the Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India (AUSPI) CS Rao, meanwhile, pointed out that OTT operators are not held accountable for the quality of service (QoS) that they provide to users. Rao also explained that the use of OTT services places an additional strain on networks which is not compensated: ‘If 20% of our customers start using OTT service, then burden on network will increase USD55 per subscriber.’

Opposition to AUSPI and COAI came from the Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), which said that the TRAI should continue its hands-off approach and allow market forces to shape the ecosystem. For its part, the watchdog was keen to stress that the purpose of the talks was to help determine if there was a case for regulating services such as WhatsApp and Skype and not simply to protect the revenues of network operators.

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