India to review policy on internet calling and messaging apps

India’s Department of Telecom (DoT) has sought views of sector regulator TRAI to prepare a framework for regulating internet calling and messaging apps like WhatsApp, Signal, Google Meet etc.
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DoT last week sent back a recommendation of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on internet telephony issued in 2008 for review and has asked the sector regulator to come up with a comprehensive reference due to the change in technical environment amid the emergence of new technologies.

Telecom operators have been asking the government to apply the principle of same service same rules to the industry, PTI news report said.

They have frequently asked that internet calling and messaging apps pay the same level of the license fee and comply with the regulation of legal interception, quality of service etc, as applicable to telecom operators and internet service providers (ISPs).

In 2008, TRAI had recommended that ISPs be allowed to provide internet telephony including calls on normal telephone networks but they will have to pay interconnection charges, install lawful interception equipment as per the requirement of security agencies etc.

The issue was raised by telecom operators in 2016-17 as well, when the issue of net neutrality was being discussed by the regulator and the government.

However, the government did not impose restrictions on call and messaging services being provided by apps.

The regulator eased the cost burden on telecom operators by removing interconnect usage charges to bring their calling cost at par with that of calling apps. However, calling and messaging apps never had to pay any such charge.