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Scope of OTT consultation process limited to examining regulatory imbalances, says TRAI

May 21, 2019
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According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the scope of its consultation process on over-the-top (OTT) applications is limited to examining whether there are regulatory imbalances between telecom service providers (TSPs) and OTT players.

TSPs have been claiming that there is a regulatory imbalance because OTTs also provide same or similar services as TSPs. However, TSPs are governed by a different set of obligations under their licensing conditions which are not applicable on the OTTs. Therefore, as per TRAI, there is a demand to check this regulatory imbalance. Further, TRAI has said that the scope of its current consultation would be regulatory issues and economic concerns pertaining to those OTT services that are ‘same or similar’ to the services provided by TSPs.

The TRAI recently held an open house discussion on the 'regulatory framework for OTT communications services’  where TSPs argued that competing OTT service providers should be subject to same stringent safeguards as TSPs, especially on lawful interception and data localisation aspects. Further, TSPs asserted that some of the popular OTTs offering voice and messaging services were ‘perfect substitutes’ to services provided by operators and hence need to be regulated to avoid an imbalance in the sector.

However, the proponents of OTT services claimed that such applications were already regulated under the Information Technology Act (IT Act) and any further control would only suppress innovation and growth.

The regulator is planning to finalise its views on whether OTT services should be brought under the regulatory ambit within a month.

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