Home >Industry >Telecom >Not regulating OTT communication services is in consumers' interest, says BIF
OTT communication services refer to apps where providers deliver text, audio, video and other media over a data network, bypassing traditional telecom operators. Skype, Viber, WhatsApp and Hike are popular examples. (Bloomberg)
OTT communication services refer to apps where providers deliver text, audio, video and other media over a data network, bypassing traditional telecom operators. Skype, Viber, WhatsApp and Hike are popular examples. (Bloomberg)

Not regulating OTT communication services is in consumers' interest, says BIF

  • The Broadband India Forum said concerns raised over lack of a level-playing field for telecom service providers and over-the-top communication services overlook the fact that OTTs cannot acquire spectrum, own network, control infrastructure access and interconnect using public network.

New Delhi: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai) recommendation to not regulate over-the-top (OTT) communication services such as WhatsApp and Skype is largely in the interest of consumers, said Broadband India Forum (BIF) on Tuesday.

The industry think tank said concerns raised over lack of a level-playing field for telecom service providers (TSPs) versus OTTs are incorrect and “erroneously overlook" that the latter cannot acquire spectrum, own network, control the access to infrastructure and interconnect using public network.

“Article 14 of the Constitution of India, which governs level-playing field, guarantees equal treatment only to persons who are equally situated… To put TSPs and OTTs at par is wholly unjustified, arbitrary, unconstitutional and violative of Article 14," BIF said.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) on Monday said no regulation of OTT services will continue to hurt telecom operators already burdened with a strict regulatory and licensing framework. Failure to resolve the economic, security and regulatory issues of OTT services will put telecom companies at a disadvantage, COAI said.

Trai on Monday recommended forbearance policy for internet communication service providers for now. In its recommendations submitted to the department of telecommunications (DoT), Trai said market forces may be allowed to respond to the situation in such OTT communication services.

OTT communication services refer to apps where providers deliver text, audio, video and other media over a data network, bypassing traditional telecom operators. Skype, Viber, WhatsApp and Hike are popular examples.

Allaying COAI’s concern, BIF also clarified that OTT communication services cannot substitute telecom service providers but rather depend on them as internet-based applications cannot be offered without access to the physical networks that only telcos deploy.

“TSPs and OTTs are as different as chalk and cheese, and therefore should not be compared on equal grounds. We firmly believe that the interests of a particular segment of the industry should not prevail over the numerous benefits to the citizens, the national economy, and the overall growth of the sector," said T.V. Ramachandran, president, BIF.

BIF supported Trai’s recommendation against regulation of OTT communication service providers and said the regulator has adopted a forward-looking approach for a sector with no instances of harm or dysfunction of the markets.

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