No more tension with Internet firms but Trai must clarify rules: Sunil Mittal

Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal says telecom operators are unable to match the rates of over-the-top players due to high capital expenditure


Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal. Photo: AFP
Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal. Photo: AFP

Barcelona: Telecom operators are now happily working with Internet firms like Google, Facebook and Whatsapp but regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) must clarify rules to resolve differences over app-based calling and message services, Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal has said.

“OTT (over-the-top) players and telecom players are very happily co-existing. Gone are the tensions and I think they love putting up more networks, lower the prices,” Mittal told PTI in an interview in Barcelona.

Operators have been demanding that app-based calling and messaging services should be brought under the licensing regime. However, Internet firms have been opposing any such move as it would scuttle innovation, affordable or almost free messaging services and adversely impact people adopting Internet.

“This is a digital society with collaborative effort but it can’t be said that telecom operators have no role to play and only OTT players (Internet-based calling and messaging providers) will do it. They cannot do it without backbone that telecom networks have to built. This will go hand in hand that is why our relationship with Google, Facebook , Apple, Whatsapp, Hike ... very healthy,” Mittal said.

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Telecom operators have complained to the government and the regulator Trai that Internet-based calling and messaging companies are making a dent on their revenues by providing the same services without having need to follow rules and regulations applicable on mobile services firms.

Mittal said that telecom operators are unable to match the rates of OTT players due to high capital expenditure. “You must remember that OTT players have no capital expenditure. Their market caps are through the roofs, they have to spend nothing. Telecom companies have to spend 200 billion dollars in capex,” Mittal said.

As per experts, typically an average voice user ends up consuming around 400 minutes of network time in a month which if delivered using mobile broadband service like 3G and 4G translates into 18 to 72 MB (MegaBytes) per month. Telecom operators are now offering 1GB (1024 MB) of mobile Internet for around Rs 50 these days which is more than enough for consumers to meet their monthly calling needs.

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