The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has stated the need for level playing field among all technologies i.e Same Service, Same Rules with respect to OTT communication services. It welcomed the adoption of new technologies and services by various players but called for uniform applicability of regulatory conditions and treatment to ensure health competition prevails in the industry.
COAI has welcomed the inclusion of OTT communication services in the draft Indian Telecommunication Bill 2022 but is of the view that it needs to be defined in the draft bill to avoid any possible ambiguity. This is due to certain quarters opining that ‘Same Service, Same Rules’ principle may not apply to OTT communication players as telecom services and OTT applications don’t operate on the same layer.
COAI argued that voice/video calls whether provided by the TSPs or the OTT apps operate on the same layer, essentially riding on the network layer. It argued that since OTTs and TSPs offer the same services in the same situation it should not be seen as unequals.
It highlighted that TSPs undergo government mandated process for allocation of right to use of spectrum, numbering resources etc by undertaking critical commitments and invest heavily in terms of setting up networks. OTTs on the other hand are free from such obligations and enjoy the privilege of delivering the same services without any regulatory obligations, investment, or network requirements.
It further noted that TSPs are subject to various regulatory obligations such as security, QoS, subscriber verification, anti-spam, etc whereas OTT communication providers aren’t subjected to any form of regulation denting the level playing field in the market.
TSPs further pay exorbitant levies, and taxes in form of license fee etc whereas OTT applications aren’t subject to such taxes and levies. COAI has suggested bringing OTT communication service providers under the ambit of the Telecom Act and having them contribute to the development of network infrastructure in India.
COAI has suggested that all OTT players must meet the requirements of National Security and Consumer Rights. Incase they are not brought under the ambit of the Telecom Act, COAI has pressed for equal relaxation of licensing conditions and regulatory obligations.