OTT communication services must be licensed and carriers compensated for data traffic, says COAI

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Telecom operators’ body COAI on Tuesday made a strong bid for OTT (over the top) telecom services to directly compensate telecom carriers for the data traffic they drive on the networks, calling for a light regulatory framework to be authorized for such services.

Association of Cellular Operators of India (COAI) Director General SP Kochhar said the association, as part of the Telecommunications Bill, has put forward its suggestions on how OTT communication services should be defined to ensure there is no ambiguity.

Kochar told reporters at a press briefing that other aspects such as the exact financial model for OTT telecom services to compensate telecom service providers will be presented to the government going forward when the nuances of the light regulation framework are discussed.

OTT communication services include the likes The WhatsAppAnd the SignalAnd the Google is deadAnd the cable And other similar applications.

He added that in the future, the same principle of data consumption based on revenue share could be applied to other OTTs (all categories) as well. For now, the COAI proposals are limited to the realm of OTT communications applications, not the entire ecosystem, because the bill mentions communication applications.

COAI emphasized that KYC is an essential requirement, whether it is for telecom companies or OTT telecom services.

Industry bodies COAI and Broadband India Forum (BIF) fought a pitched battle over the issue of handling OTTs while consultations on the telecom bill were under way.

Telecom service providers, under the auspices of COAI, have been pushing for OTT communication services to be subject to regulation. COAI is publishing “same same service rules” for OTT telecom services and carriers, to ensure a level playing field.

On the other hand, the digital think tank BIF – which counts tech companies such as Tata Advisory ServicesCisco AmazonAnd the The GoogleAnd the MicrosoftAnd the Facebook-Her meta As key members – warn that regulation of OTT operators could stifle the social and economic ecosystem and harm innovation.

In a memorandum outlining recent submissions on the Telecommunications Bill, the COAI committee said: “OTTs that provide telecom services similar to telecom companies such as voice/video calls and messaging within the meaning of the Telecommunications Act…regulatory and security obligations they are required to meet as does Telecom service providers to provide similar services. Alternatively, OTT providers can pay carriers directly for using their networks to provide services “in a fair and equitable manner by way of an interconnection fee equivalent (such as a network access fee) to the actual traffic transmitted by these OTTs on the TSPs’ network, which can be easily measured.” . The contribution of OTTs to network costs can be based on assessable parameters such as traffic volume, turnover threshold, and number of users, among others.

COAI cited a report estimating that 56 percent of global data traffic on the telecom network comes from leading OTT companies. The association also suggested that OTT contribution to the treasury, if taxed, could be around Rs 800 crore.

“Because the telecom service providers will receive the revenue from the OTTs as part of the telecom services provided, they will automatically pay the licensing fee to the government (as part of the TSP’s adjusted total revenue) on an incremental basis to the extent of payments by OTTs to the TSPs,” COAI said.

Other key recommendations of COAI — whose members include Reliance jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea — include lowering licensing fees from 3 per cent to 1 per cent, a move the association says will ensure more money is available for players to splash out on. from networks. The fee reduction proposal is also part of COAI’s pre-budget wish list for the government.

COAI also said that the internet shutdown affects not only average revenue per user at carriers, but also the consumer base.

“Non-commercial infrastructure is also required by telecom service providers in this regard, which costs them. The government should consider reimbursement for it,” COAI suggested. He indicated that there should be specific standard operating procedures for these procedures, and accountability for these procedures should lie with the officials who legislate or supervise such procedures.

Besides, the report said, contributions to the Telecom Development Fund should be covered from budget allocations and from amounts collected through spectrum auctions as well as “from contributions from traffic-causing entities, i.e. OTTs – broadcasters, games and social media”.

As far as protecting users is concerned, “the bill may be extended to electronic or financial fraud or unsolicited commercial communications and may include a provision to align the Communications Department’s authorities on this matter with TRAI. Ideally, there should be only one body regulating the issue.” .

The Telecommunications Bill seeks to replace three laws – the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885, the Indian Wireless Telegraph Act of 1933 and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act of 1950.

The bill proposes all online calling and messaging applications to comply with know-your-customer (KYC) provisions when they fall under the scope of the communications regulation.

The telecom department also discussed a clause for refunding fees in the event that a telecom or internet provider waives its license.

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