Telecom operators, including Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, on Wednesday made a strong pitch for regulation of communication OTT players at a meeting with TRAI chief, according to industry sources.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had scheduled a meeting with telecom operators and ISPs to chalk out the agenda for 2023 where players raised multiple issues. Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal, Vodafone Idea Chief Regulatory and Corporate Affairs Officer P Balaji, and Reliance Jio board member Mahendra Nahata participated in the discussions on Wednesday.
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The meeting was chaired by TRAI chief P D Vaghela. Sources privy to the meeting told PTI said that telecom operators made a unanimous pitch for ‘same service-same rules’, arguing that OTT players which offer similar services as telcos do, should be regulated on similar lines. The industry has long been demanding a level-playing-field with communications OTTs, emphasising that regulatory conditions and licence treatment must be made uniformly applicable for similarly placed players.
Industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has also been emphasising the need to ensure a level-playing field among all technologies, that is Same Service Same Rules with respect to OTT Communication Services so that “fair and healthy” competition prevails in the industry. In fact, late last year the telecom operators’ body had even batted for OTT (over-the-top) communication services to directly compensate telcos for data traffic they are driving onto the networks, as it advocated a licensing and light-touch regulation framework for such services.
Briefing reporters in November last year, COAI Director General SP Kochhar had said that the association, as part of the draft telecom bill, has given its suggestions on how OTT communication services should be defined to ensure there is no ambiguity. OTT communication services include the likes of WhatsApp, Signal, Google Meet, Telegram and other similar apps. Meanwhile, during the meeting with TRAI on Wednesday, telecom players also sought reduction of levies such as licence fee.
TRAI officials were not immediately available for comments. During the meeting, a senior official of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) said that telecom companies should be incentivised to use indegenious equipment, sources added.