Telcos fire fresh salvo in net neutrality debate, COAI demands regulation for OTT apps

COAI has written to the telecom authorities requesting for regulation of over the top (OTT) voice communication services such as WhatsApp, Viber and Skype.

Telecom service providers have written to the telecom authorities under the banner of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) requesting for regulation of over the top (OTT) voice communication services such as WhatsApp, Viber and Skype. This has been a long sanding demand of telecom service providers, that the same service require the same rules.

A major portion of telecom operator revenue is still through voice, and these applications allow for voice calling for free, as long as the data is paid for. For those arguing that the consumers pay for the data rate anyway, the telecom service providers claim that the rates for data will have to be increased by six times to realistically support voice calling. The problem is that telecom service providers are regulated, have quality of service requirements, and need to collect documentation for setting up new connections.

The burden of getting through all the licensing requirements fall on the telecom service providers. However, over the top players are not regulated, have to pay no licensing fees, do not have to check the credentials of their users and are not penalized for substandard services. The government recently axed the call drop penalty on telecom service providers, over the top service providers do not have to face any such regulations. COAI wants a level playing field with such service providers, and not be caught at a disadvantage. COAI has suggested time and again that if the same service is being offered, then the same rules must also apply.

Partial text of the letter written by COAI in this regard is available with the Economic Times. Last month, COAI had written to the Telecom Secretary requesting that applications should not allow VoIP calling through apps based on the numbers assigned by telecom service providers.

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