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Not regulating OTT services to hurt telcos, COAI

The Cellular Operators Association of India on Monday said no regulation of over-the-top (OTT) communication services such as WhatsApp and Skype will continue to hurt telecom operators already burdened with a strict regulatory and licensing framework.

“While TSPs have to abide by a strict regulatory and licensing framework, no regulatory/licensing framework is applicable on those OTT players who offer similar services. These OTT services are substitutable to services provided by TSPs, and hence a case of non-level playing field exists,” said SP Kochhar, director general of COAI.

India’s telecom regulator on Monday recommended forbearance policy for internet communication service providers, saying that the issues related to economics and privacy/security do not need any regulatory intervention as of now.

In its recommendations submitted to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) said market forces may be allowed to respond to the situation in such OTT communication services.

COAI, the industry body for telecom operators, said without a resolution of these issues, telecom service providers (TSPs) will be at a disadvantage versus OTT service providers.

“The consultation paper issued by Trai two years back had posed various important issues like similarity and substitutability of TSPs and OTT communication services, regulatory imbalance and non-level playing field between TSPs and OTT service providers,” Kochhar said.

However, it appears none of these issues have been addressed by the telecom regulator in the recommendations submitted to the DoT on Monday, he added.

Trai said the need to get communication details in clear text from the OTT services would either compromise the safety of user data or may lead to provisions that make the communication agents vulnerable.

The matter of privacy with regard to OTT services is being examined by various international jurisdictions and no satisfactory solution has emerged yet, Trai added.

“The security issues, e.g. lawful interception which the TSPs comply with, are not applicable on OTT service providers, which remains a threat to the national security. The privacy and security norms are applicable on telcos but not on OTT service providers who also offer messaging and voice/video communication services,” Kochhar said. Livemint

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