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TRAI may introduce lighter form of regulation on OTT communication services

TRAI released a new consultation paper last November on OTT services

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MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) may impose a lighter form of regulation on over-the-top (OTT) players such as Skype and WhatsApp. While there have been several debates on the issue, the regulatory body has scheduled its first open house session on Monday, 1 April 2019. According to media reports, the recommendations are expected to come out by May.

“There is a need for a light-touch regulation. A final decision will be taken after discussion in the open house. By May, TRAI should be able to come out with its views,” a senior TRAI official said as quoted by DNA Money.

TRAI released a new consultation paper last November on OTT services seeking to expand the definition of the sector and also the regulator’s jurisdiction over the sector. However, the present consultation paper is more focussed on OTT voice or communications services (OTTs) like WhatsApp, Facebook’s Messenger and similar Indian products like Hike.

The consultation paper mainly revolves around the topic of level playing field between telecom service providers and OTTs. With the fall in data prices, OTT communication services have emerged as important mediums of communication. While TSPs are highly regulated, the main point of the debate is whether there is regulatory imbalance.

In response to the paper, major broadcasters, as well as OTT platforms, did not favour any further regulatory intervention on OTTs. Most of the players clearly depicted their view that OTTs should not be seen as a substitute to Television Service Providers (TSPs). However, some of the cable operators and DTH platforms spoke in favour of the regulation.

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