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Telcos to urge DoT & TRAI to follow EC paper and get OTT players to pay for 5G infra

India’s top telcos want over-the-top (OTT) apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Hotstar, Sony Liv and others to pay for creation of 5G digital network infrastructure in the country. Indian telecom companies are reportedly set to once again push the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to evolve a mechanism for making OTT apps pay for 5G digital network infrastructure amid rising costs. The rationale is that they generate maximum data internet traffic.

These companies plan to draw the government and the sector regulator’s attention to the raging debate underway in the European Union (EU) and Brazil on the need for OTT streaming/communication service providers to make a fair contribution for building mobile broadband connectivity infrastructure. The plea is that these companies benefit the most from use of telecom networks that are worth billions of dollars.

According to the report, Indian telcos plan to point to the ongoing global consultations initiated by the European Commission (EC) and Brazil’s telecoms regulator, Anatel. They also plan to underline the need for OTTs generating maximum traffic on Indian telecom networks to make a contribution to the required infrastructure investments, based on a fair share principle. “Worldwide, there is a big debate going on around fair share, and we hope DoT and Trai will take cognizance of the consultations now underway in Europe and Brazil, and similarly explore ways to create a fair share mechanism with the biggest traffic originators to ensure continued investments in next-gen connectivity infrastructure in India, especially as it’s becoming a huge financial struggle for the telcos to shoulder this burden alone,” a senior executive at one of India’s biggest telcos said.

A top executive of another leading telco said that all operators in India “were aligned” on the matter, and plan to write to the government and the regulator shortly.

How EU is planning to tackle the issue
“Electronic communications operators, notably the incumbents, call for the need to establish rules to oblige content & application providers or `digital players’, who generate enormous volumes of traffic, to contribute to the electronic communications network deployment costs,” said the European Commission (EC) its consultation paper, titled `the future of the electronic communications sector and its infrastructure’. The EC is the executive arm of the EU, and the comments deadline on its discussion paper is May 19, 2023.

The EC paper has added that incumbent telcos in Europe believe that such contribution would be fair as these digital players would, otherwise, take advantage of high-quality networks without bearing the cost of their rollout.

Brazil’s Anatel too is in the midst of a holistic consultation to address the future regulation of digital platforms and the need for fair share, with June 30, 2023, being the stakeholder comments deadline. Anatel’s paper discusses the pros and cons of implementing a regulation that establishes a remuneration for use of telecom networks. It also poses questions on impact of new business models and players on the digital ecosystem of telecom networks. ToI

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