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Home / Industry / Telecom /  Telecom operators seek level playing field with WhatsApp, Skype

New Delhi: Differing with over-the-top (OTT) service providers like Skype and WhatsApp, which feel market should shape the evolving ecosystem, telecom operators on Tuesday sought Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai) intervention for a better level-playing field with internet companies.

“We want some kind of regulatory help to get a level-playing field. There are so many regulations binding on us but the same don’t exist for OTT players. We can do a lot more if level-playing field is given to us," telecom industry’s T.V. Ramachandran said on behalf of operators. He was speaking at seminar organized by Trai on“Regulatory Framework for OTT services".

As per data shared by Neeraj Kataria, managing consultant with Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC), it is estimated that Skype, which offers free Skype to Skype phone calls using internet, is costing telecom industry around $36 billion/year globally.

Ramachandran said licence conditions bind telecom operators but not OTT operators.

“The regulator must give some consideration. OTT operators provide voice calls and messaging services which come under Indian Telegraph Act. OTT players can switch calls over web outside India but we can’t do that. We have to pay interconnect charges which OTT don’t need to," Ramachandran said.

C.S. Rao, president of Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India (AUSPI), said though OTT players provide services that mobile service providers offer, but there is no rule to ensure that they provide quality service to customers. Also, they have no commitment on customer service, he alleged.

“Major regulatory realignment is needed when consumers are moving from minutes usage to megabyte usage era. I want Trai to note issue of stressed capacity of network. If 20% of our customers start using OTT service, then burden on network will increase $55 per subscriber," Rao said.

On the other hand, Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) president Subho Ray said Trai should not intervene in the ecosystem and it should be left to market forces to shape this ecosystem.

“It is a business to business thing. TRAI should keep completely keep out of it. This shows that there is clear evidence that relationship between OTT and telcos has failed. It is reverse of what we use to say about VAS (value-added services) to the regulator that we are not getting revenue share. Same operators used to ask us don’t go to telecom regulator," Ray said.

Meanwhile, Trai said that the event was to understand the ecosystem for the OTT services with respect to current regulatory environment after telecom service provider (TSPs) approached it on several occasions.

“They wanted a sort of discussion on treatment of OTT services like WhatsApp, Skype and others which are actually cutting in to their revenue. The purpose (of the seminar) is not to protect revenues of TSPs but to understand if there is any case of regulating such services," Trai secretary Sudhir Gupta said.

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