Telecom industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) on Friday said that regulations which treat telecom service providers (TSPs) and over-the-top (OTT) players that provide similar basic communication services differently may result in reduced investment from telecom companies in the future or increase in data charges for customers.
OTT players are mainly the net-based service providers such as Skype and WhatsApp. Subjecting TSPs to spectrum usage charges and quality of service and security obligations, results in a cost arbitrage that unduly favours OTT players that provide VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) or IM (Instant Messenger) services, which essentially provide similar services but operate through the infrastructure set up predominantly by TSPs, contended COAI.
In the absence of uniform regulations, “investments will get hit or data charges will go up,” said Gopal Vittal, CEO of Bharti Airtel which is a member company of COAI. “The only way (in the absence of uniform rules) it is viable is if data charges become six times (the current level) and it will result in a lot of people not using the internet,” he warned. “Investments to the tune of Rs 5,00,000 crore (required over the next five years) will be under jeopardy,” he said.
Applications and websites, referred to as OTT players, on the other hand contend that they are already regulated through provisions of the Information Technology Act, CrPC and IPC.
The Trai had invited responses to its consultation paper pertaining to the regulation of OTT players and net neutrality in India, with Friday being the last day for submission of reactions. COAI had also launched a Sabka Internet campaign, asking for mobile users who “believe that solutions should be found to make the internet more affordable” to give a missed call to a toll-free number.