The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has decided to reduce the regulatory measures on over the top (OTT) services like WhatsApp, Skype and Viber. The development comes as the telecom operators in the country, who once complained of the regulatory imbalance by the telecom regulator, are now seeing a rise in their revenues owing to the increased data consumption on their networks because of the use of such apps.
Back in 2015, TRAI had floated a floated a paper seeking views on whether the OTT services should be brought under the purview of the licensing regime and whether the growth of OTT services was affecting the revenue stream of telecom operators in the country.
At the time, telcos had reiterated their demand of bringing the OTT services under the purview of regulations saying that these services were eating up the revenue of the telecom operators in the country. The service providers and industry bodies at the time had argued that the OTT players utilised the underlying infrastructure of the telecos and not only made money from their services but also competed with the voice services offered by the telecos.
But now, the operators are saying that the scenario has changed and that the increased data consumption by the OTT apps is helping the telecom operators earn revenue. “We have reduced the scope of that paper. We have already issued recommendations on net neutrality and previously on differential pricing. Now, very few issues are left with respect to OTT. We have to look at regulatory imbalance (with respect to telecom operators). But telecom operators themselves are saying that OTTs are helping data consumption,” said a senior TRAI official told LiveMint.
The TRAI official said that telecom operators are now happy that data consumption is happening through services like WhatsApp. “WhatsApp calls ride on data and cost very little in terms of data usage. In any case, most telecom operators are giving unlimited free voice calls. So the arbitrage opportunities are reducing day by day,” the official added.
Meanwhile, industry bodies are still demanding the OTT services to be brought under the regulatory regime. “It is true the issue around revenue loss has reduced with most operators offering free voice calls. Operators do earn revenue from data being consumed, but they also have to make significant investments on their networks to be able to carry these huge amounts of data. We want same service same rule,” Rajan Mathews, director general, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) told the publication.
Notably, this will be the second time that the regulatory body will ponder over its decision of bringing the OTT services under the regulatory regime.