OTT Services Must Be Licensed, Compensate Telcos For Data Traffic: COAI

Telecom workers’ body COAI on Tuesday made a strong proposal for OTT (over-the-top) communication services to directly compensate telcos for the data traffic they drive on the networks, as it advocates for a regulatory licensing framework and easy access to such services. . .

The Director General of the Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) SP Kochhar said that the organization, as part of the telecom bill, has given its suggestions on how OTT communication services should be defined to ensure that there is no ambiguity.

Other aspects such as a specific financial model for OTT communication services to compensate telecom service providers will be made in the government going forward as and when discussing the ideas of the light touch regulatory framework, Kochhar told reporters at the forum.

OTT communication services include the likes of WhatsApp, Signal, Google Meet, Telegraph and other similar applications.

In future, the same data usage principle of profit sharing basis can be applied to other OTTs (all categories) as well, he added. For now, COAI’s proposals are confined to the area of ​​OTT communication apps, not the entire ecosystem, as the draft bill deals with communication apps.

COAI maintained that KYC is an essential requirement, be it for telcos or OTT communication services.

Industry bodies COAI and Broadband India Forum (BIF) have been at loggerheads over the treatment of OTTs while the draft telecom bill was being discussed.

Telecom service providers, under COAI, have been demanding that OTT communication services be brought under the law. COAI has been promulgating ‘uniform service rules’ for OTT communication services and telcos, to ensure a level playing field.

On the other hand, digital think tank BIF — which counts technology companies such as Tata Consultancy Services, Cisco, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook owner Meta as its key members — warned that the regulation of OTT players may. hinder the socioeconomic ecosystem and damage the establishment.

COAI, in a paper explaining the latest submissions on the telecom bill, said: “OTTs provide telecom services similar to telcos such as voice/video calling and messaging in the definition of telecom Bill… clearly defined, and the same obligations. regulatory and security requirements that must be met as TSPs do by providing the same services.” Besides, it said, OTT communication service providers can pay directly to telcos to use their networks to provide services “in a fair and equitable manner in the form of a uniform interconnection charge (meaning network access charge) for the actual traffic carried by them. OTTs in the network of TSPs, which can be easily measured.” The contribution of OTTs to network costs can be based on evaluation criteria such as traffic volume, profit margin and number of users, among others.

COAI cited a report estimating that 56 percent of global data traffic on telcos’ networks comes from leading OTTs. The organization also went on to suggest that OTT’s contribution to the exchequer, if tax is included, would be around Rs 800 crore.

“Since the telecommunication service providers will be receiving revenue from OTTs as part of their telecommunications services provided, they will automatically pay a license fee to the Government (as part of the TSP’s Adjusted Gross Revenue) through an increase in the rate of payments. by OTTs to TSPs,” COAI said.

Other major recommendations of the COAI — whose members include Reliance jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea — include a reduction in license fee from 3% to 1%, a move the agency says will ensure more revenue is available to the players to be released. of networks. The tax cut proposal is part of COAI’s pre-budget wish list for the government.

COAI further said that internet shutdowns not only affect telcos’ average revenue per user, but also the consumer base.

“Non-commercial infrastructure is also required to be set up by the telecom service providers in this regard, incurring costs. Reimbursement of the same will be considered by the Government,” COAI suggested. There should be standard operating procedures defined for those actions and the same accountability should lie with the officials who initiate or direct those actions, it noted.

Apart from this, it said, the contributions towards the Telecom Development Fund should be met from the budget allocation and the prices collected through the spectrum auctions as well as from “contributions from organizations that cause traffic, that is, OTTs – broadcasting, games and communication companies”. .

Regarding the protection of users, “The Bill can be expanded to cover online or financial fraud or unsolicited commercial communications and can include a provision to harmonize the powers of the Department of Telecom in this matter with TRAI. Ideally there should be only one agency to control the matter,” COAI said.

The draft telecom bill seeks to replace three laws – the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933 and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1950.

The bill requires all internet calling and messaging applications to comply with Know Your Customer (KYC) provisions if they come under the telecom regulatory framework.

The telecom department has also proposed a condition of refund if the phone or internet provider surrenders its license.

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