A regulatory body to oversee and even issue licences to WhatsApp and Twitter? This is what the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, TRAI is asking all stakeholders. The telecom regulator is questioning why these services loosely termed over the top or OTT services, Mint reports.
The situation itself has been brought about by the telecom operators who feel these is no level playing field. Their grouse can be understood. They spent huge amounts in securing licences and setting up infrastructure. Their earnings were to come from the voice calls and messages that their customers would use their service for. But then there was a paradigm change with the entry of a player like Reliance Jio offering free calling feature.
And these services like WhatsApp or Google Duo allow smartphone users to make free calls within their network and messaging, in any case, has shifted to these apps. The resultant struggle being faced by the Indian telecom companies has possibly made TRAI sit up and take notice. What if these OTT services also were to be brought into the ambit of some kind of regulation, requiring a obtain a licence, etc? At this stage it is only a discussion paper and TRAI has invited comments from everyone.
TRAI’s concerns also relate to the health of the industry. From the operational point of view too, there are obvious inequalities. Whereas in the telecom sector, there is interoperability, by which calls from one service provider to another is feasible, the OTT service providers don’t permit such things. Imagine, if you have a WhatsApp account and you can send a message or make a call to someone who has a Snapchat account? As of now this is unthinkable. TRAI feels the situation can lead to even one of abuse of dominance.
And the telecom providers claim they supply the SIM and unique number to the user which they use and the connection they provide to download the apps and take membership. They use their network to exchange messages and even make calls but they have no say in the whole process.