The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) on Tuesday pitched for regulating all OTT players, including communication over the top (OTT) players such as WhatsApp, and those such as Netflix that consumed huge bandwidth.
“Regulation on communications OTTs as well as OTTs consuming humongous bandwidth is a necessity. There is a need to ensure a level-playing field among all technologies, i.e., same service, same rules with respect to OTT communication services, so that a fair and healthy competition prevails in the industry,” the industry body, which counts the three private telecom operators Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea as its members, said.
While welcoming the inclusion of OTT communication services in the draft Indian Telecommunication Bill, 2022, the industry body said that in order to bring comprehensiveness and avoid any possible ambiguity, the OTT communication services needed to be defined.
“Since OTTs and TSPs provide the same voice/video/data communication services, they operate in the same situation, and hence should not be seen as un-equals,” it said.
Noting that telecom service providers (TSPs) underwent a government mandated process for allocation of right to use of spectrum, numbering resources, etc. by undertaking critical commitments in terms of deliverables defined by the licence agreement and invest heavily in setting up networks, COAI added that OTTs were free from any of these obligations, but enjoyed all the privileges of delivering the same services.
It further said that OTT communication service providers enjoying huge direct/indirect benefits and revenues by utilising the TSPs’ networks were not subjected to similar taxes and levies such as licence fee, SUC and GST, thus causing loss to the government exchequer.
“OTT players consume humongous amounts of bandwidth, which puts tremendous pressure on the network infrastructure established by the TSPs. At the same time, OTT players gain massive direct/indirect benefits without incurring any additional costs. Thus, it would be all the more fitting that they contribute towards the cost of this infrastructure development, which is presently borne by the TSPs alone,” it said.