Regulators

TRAI says nyet to regulating communication OTTs

The regulatory body stated that the OTT sector is in a nascent phase; regulations can wait.

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MUMBAI: The Indian communication OTT ecosystem can breathe easier now. After slapping oodles of regulation on the TV sector, as voiced regularly by the television broadcasting community, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)  has recommended that no controls need to be imposed on  OTT services such as voice over internet telephony, SMS, video calling, and instant messaging services.

On three counts, the TRAI has agreed to wait for it to evolve and consensus on regulations at the ITU level to emerge before imposing any further controls on OTTs:

. Market forces may be allowed to respond to the situation without prescribing any regulatory intervention. However, developments shall be monitored and intervention as felt necessary shall be done at appropriate time.

The TRAI further said in a report released today that the increase in usage of OTT, traffic of telecom service providers has also grown. “Various studies on appropriate business models are already under consideration in various jurisdictions and it is emerging. Therefore, any regulatory prescription in haste may leave adverse impact on industry as a whole.”

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No regulatory interventions are required in respect of issues related with privacy and security of OTT services at the moment.

The TRAI noted that:  ”After studying the issues, it has been observed that architecture of OTT communication services is evolving to protect the end users and encryption technology deployed in a manner which prevents intermediaries from getting the communication in a clear text or in an intelligible form. Imposition of any requirements to cater to get the details of communication in an intelligible form or clear text would either lead to change in the entire architecture of such OTT services which might not provide same level of protection as offered today or would require to introduce provisions which may make the agents involved in the communication vulnerable to unlawful actors.”

It is not an opportune moment to recommend a comprehensive regulatory framework for various aspects of services referred to as OTT services, beyond the extant laws and regulations prescribed presently. The matter may be looked into afresh when more clarity emerges in international jurisdictions particularly the study undertaken by ITU.

Regulation of OTT services is a widely debated topic in many jurisdictions as well as in ITU. While few jurisdictions have started exploring possibilities to regulate some aspects of a few OTT services through legal and technical measures but these efforts are yet in nascent stage and the overwhelming majority of jurisdictions and the ITU are still studying various aspects of OTTs. Since, ITU deliberations are also at study level, therefore conclusions may not be drawn regarding the regulatory framework of OTT services. However, in future, a framework may emerge regarding cooperation between OTT providers and telecom operators. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) are also actively participating in the ongoing deliberations in ITU on this issue. Based on the outcome of ITU deliberations DoT and TRAI may take appropriate consultations in future.

Market forces may be allowed to respond to the situation without prescribing any regulatory intervention. However, developments shall be monitored and intervention as felt necessary shall be done at appropriate time.

Industry has anywhere for some time been stating that the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the Information Technology Act, 2000 are robust enough to regulate the OTT sector. 

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