Regulators

TRAI to finalise views on regulating OTT services by May end

The regulator has also studied the European Electronic Communications Code.

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MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is hoping to finalise its views on over-the-top (OTT) communication services towards the end of May. By then, the regulatory body will make clear its stand on the issue of bringing WhatsApp, Skype and others under the regulatory regime.

According to a PTI report, TRAI chairman RS Sharma also added that the regulator has studied the European Electronic Communications Code. He also added that the regulator would keep global best practices in mind while formulating its opinion.

"We have an open mind, like in all consultations where we follow a set process ... By May-end we should be able to formulate our recommendation or regulation on the matter," Sharma said as quoted in the report. The regulatory body is holding an open house discussion on OTT issues in Bengaluru on Wednesday with plans to have a similar one in Delhi.

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 contention 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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