Telecoms recommend regulatory regime for OTT

Major telecom operators like Reliance Jio, Reliance Communications, Bharti Airtel and others have favoured a regulatory regime for OTT services.

In their responses to the sector regulator, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the companies favoured a regulatory regime, which, they felt, will help the industry proliferate in the future.

“India’s OTT landscape is still taking shape and we believe that for increasing the broadband penetration and growth of OTT services to ensure greater good to the common public, it is the right time to put in place an appropriate regulatory framework,” Reliance Jio Infocomm said in its response to TRAI consultation paper on ‘Regulatory Framework for OTT Services’.

It added that subsequent to enhancement of ecosystem, it would be difficult to implement a new regulatory framework. “Timely establishment of regulatory system will also allow all stakeholders to take informed decisions.”

The TRAI last month released a paper inviting comments from users and companies on how OTT services should be regulated and asked stakeholders to send suggestions by April 24, and counter-arguments by May 8.

In its response, Reliance Communications said: “The current trends clearly indicate that OTT services are being adopted fervently by the consumers in India and their inflection point vis-a-vis classical telecom services is not far. Hence, a case is indeed made out for initiating their regulation which can be adapted as the need arises later.”

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Bharti Airtel stressed the need for a level playing field.

“It is critical that the playing field be leveled and those providing the same services be governed by the same set of rules. In short, the OTT Communication Service Providers should be governed by the same set of rules as are applied on TSPs (telecom service providers),” it said in its response.

The TSPs have invested Rs 750,000 crore since inception of the industry in India. Of this amount, Rs 2,90,000 crore has been invested in acquiring radio spectrum during the last five years.

Further, it is expected that the industry will need to invest an additional Rs.500,000 crore over the next five to seven years towards spectrum, building towers, fibre and core network resources.

“Regulations must be adapted in order to be fit for purpose for this new world. There are clear advantages to implementing regulations now, when the market is still nascent so that services have time to adapt and to prevent consumer harm occurring,” Vodafone India said in its response to the regulator.

“A new framework should be implemented which is light touch, to encourage innovation but which is also strong enough to protect consumers and ensure that there is a level playing field in relation to the same services,” it added.

Idea Cellular in its response said: “There is a need to address the various regulatory imbalances that exist in the eco-system and ensure regulatory neutrality, that is, ‘Same Service, Same Rules’ so that there is a level playing field for all the players that exist in the eco-system.”

It also called for a framework ensuring a level playing field.

A committee on net neutrality was set up by the Department of Telecommunications, which will submit its report by May’s second week to help the government make a comprehensive decision on the contentious issue.