The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has finally released consultation paper on Regulatory Framework for Over-the-top (OTT) services seeking comments of all stakeholders. After reports that TRAI is planning to implement charges for over-the-top (OTT) players of apps like WhatsApp, Viber, Skype etc. it rejected the proposal of carriers to make OTT players that offer these services share part of their revenue with them or the government. Airtel announced VoIP packs for Skype, Viber and others back in December, but it decided not to implement it soon after.
Regarding the consulting paper on Regulatory Framework for Over-the-top (OTT) services, TRAI said:
OTT providers make use of the TSPs’ infrastructure to reach their customers and offer products/services that not only make money for them but also compete with the traditional services offered by TSPs. Leave aside TSPs, these apps also compete with brick and mortar rivals e.g. e- commerce sites, banking etc.Today, users can directly access these applications online from any place, at any time, using a variety of internet connected consumer devices.
Digitalization of content has reduced conservation, reproduction and distribution costs, which, in turn, has promoted the explosive growth in the supply of online content. Paradoxically, the broadband networks provided by incumbent TSPs are used as a platform by the OTT players for the development of new businesses. The growth of traffic apart, the OTT applications have created an increasing demand for faster broadband speed, which translates into a need for huge investments in network up-gradation by the TSPs.
This Consultation Paper covers the views of the service providers and OTT providers, all related issues (including network neutrality), international experience with network neutrality and regulation of OTTs (communications and non-communications), said TRAI. This includes,
- Policy and regulatory environment and need for regulation
- Current policy dispensation for OTT players vis-a-vis TSPs
- Security concerns of OTT players providing communication services
- Issues related to security, safety and privacy of the consumer
- Issues arising because of ‘net-neutrality’
- Network discrimination and traffic management practices
- Non-price based discrimination of services and ensuring transparency to consumers
- Pricing-related issues, including differential pricing for data access
Stakeholders can offer comments regarding this by 24th April, 2015 and counter comments by 8th May, 2015. You can read the full consultation paper on TRAI website here (PDF).