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COAI wants OTT players to share network costs

Telcos body COAI has demanded that large traffic generating platforms and applications — including OTT players such as WhatsApp and Netflix — should contribute towards the costs of maintaining network infrastructure.

In a white paper, the COAI said heavy traffic on the platforms is a factor behind the high costs of network management.

The large traffic-generating platforms, despite earning both from subscription fees and advertising revenues, do not contribute to the network costs, said Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) whose members include Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.

Telcos have been demanding a fair share from such platforms amid rising infrastructure expenses and increasing costs of network deployment and maintenance.

The platforms consume a significant portion of bandwidth, leading to increased network costs for the operators.

However, they pay no direct fees to utilise the infrastructure. This disparity hinders the operators’ ability to invest in network upgrades and expansion such as the launch of 5G services.

Putting the entire burden of rising infrastructure costs, driven by heavy traffic on the platforms, on telcos “is neither sustainable nor prudent”.

“The best solution is for an equitable share of these costs to be borne by the 4-5 LTGs responsible for the disproportionate traffic growth,” S.P. Kochhar, director-general, COAI said.

Against the misconceived suggestions to raise consumer tariffs to recover network expenses, the telcos have adopted a clear stand: that is not to burden the end-user for the purpose.

The white paper — Addressing Rising Data Traffic and Associated Infrastructure Costs in Indian Telecom — adopts a data-centric approach to seek the sharing of infrastructure development, maintenance and upgradation costs.

The COAI noted that startups and MSMEs need not come under the “fair share model”.

It analysed and formulated five models of resolution to the issue at hand, and said two of these models were workable solutions.

“However, the final recommendation is for a model that keeps MSMEs and start-ups out of the ambit of fair-share (as consistently maintained and intended by the TSPs), and shows that the burden on the TSPs  due to the LTGs’ growing traffic patterns, even without the smaller players, is substantial and needs to be addressed,” Kochhar said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Telecommunications  has cautioned the public about malicious calls from international numbers spreading false information about Indian stock exchanges. Telegraph India

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