The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) under the telecom operators industry body has written to the government to prepare a license and regulatory framework for charging “usage fees” from large internet-based calling and messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Signal and Google Duo.
In a letter to the Secretary of Communications K. Rajaraman last week, he said Association of Cellular Operators of India The general manager, SP Kochhar, said that fees may be limited based on network usage without any encumbrances over the top (OTT) in the MSME sector.
The Department of Communications has proposed defining OTT operators that provide calling and messaging service as Telecom Service Providers (TSPs).
COAI said that OTT players must pay telecom service providers for the use of the telecom network to provide OTT services to customers in a fair and equitable manner by means of the equivalent of a “usage fee” on the basis of mutual agreement.
“There may be cases where OTT players and TSPs may not mutually agree on ‘usage fees.’ If no mutual agreement is reached, an appropriate license and regulatory framework should be put in place that will govern the contribution of OTT players towards the network infrastructure,” Kuchar said.
He said that COAI’s goal is definitely not to discourage OTT services because they are already generating huge network traffic generated by TSPs.
At the same time, telecommunications service providers (OTTs) continue to make huge direct and indirect gains at the expense of telecom operators.
“Therefore, we believe that OTTs should reasonably compensate telecom service providers for using the network created by TSPs,” Kuchar said.
He said the European Commission (EU) is calling for appropriate legislation to be formalized for OTT operators to share the burden of network investment for telecom players in a proportionate manner.
“The EU continues to express concern that there are large technology companies that generate a large amount of data traffic but do not invest in building infrastructure. The governments of France, Italy and Spain sent a joint paper to the Commission in August 2022, calling for the speedy development of a legislative proposal in this regard.”
COAI said that telecom service providers will receive revenue from the telecommunications services they provide as part of the telecom services they provide which in turn will benefit the government in terms of collecting higher licensing fees from telecom companies on the back of increased revenue from online calling and messaging applications.
Kochar said the letter from COAI to the Department of Transportation is in addition to the industry’s comment on the telecoms bill.