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TRAI open house session: Telcos demand 'same stringent rules', adequate checks on competing OTTs

OTT apps have eaten into the revenue of telcos.

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MUMBAI: Telecom players have attacked OTT services such as WhatsApp and Facebook demanding that there be regulations on them similar to what they have to go through, as per a report by Mint. At the TRAI open house discussion on regulatory framework for OTT services, telecom operators showed indignation at the fact that some of the services provided by OTT apps are ‘perfect substitutes’ to their own services and need to be regulated.

However, OTT apps said that they were already being regulated by the IT Act and adding more regulations will hamper the growth of the sector. Telecom companies stated that the business model of OTT apps had led to a loss of revenue. It went on to ask TRAI to have similar rules for both such as data localisation, maintaining call records, etc.

Mint quotes Reliance Jio’s Sandeep Varma as stating: “There is a part of the regulatory oversight which is to do with national security and data protection. We believe, it is above the requirement of growth or innovation, because national security is in the interest of the nation. For any service provider which functionally provides similar communication services, national security and data protection law should be uniformally applicable.”

Broadband India Forum’s Debashish Bhattacharya countered, "OTTs are not free riders...OTTs are also leading to significant revenue generation and huge investments... they are innovating and creating new services, and have enabled explosive data growth amongst telecom service providers," Bhattacharya said, adding that the two services had a symbiotic relationship.”

There is a consultation paper pending on TRAI’s end and the regulator will come out with its views in a month on whether or not OTT services should also be under its regulatory umbrella.

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