The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) on Monday said that the recommendations released by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Regulatory Framework for Over-the-Top (OTT) services does not address important issues. SP Kochhar, director general of COAI said that the consultation paper released by Trai in 2018, had raised several “important issues” such as “lawful interception of OTT services.” However, Kochhar said that the recommendations released by Trai on Monday does not address the key issues. Trai on Monday said that the regulatory interventions are not required “in respect of issues related with privacy and security” of OTT services.
OTT Services Are Substitutable to Telecom Services: COAI
The authority in its recommendations said that the developments related to OTT services “shall be monitored” and that the “intervention as felt necessary” shall be done at applicable time.
Kochhar said that the consultation paper also posed issues like “Similarity and Substitutability” of telecom service providers (TSPs) and OTT communication services along with “regulatory imbalance and non-level playing field" between TSPs and OTT apps.
“However, it appears none of these issues have been addressed by TRAI in their current recommendations,” Kochhar said. “We were actually hopeful that Trai would address and rectify these long pending market anomalies once for all.”
The COAI, the industry body representing operators like Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio also highlighted that the “TSPs will continue to be at a disadvantageous position” without a resolution of the issues.
“While TSPs have to abide by a strict regulatory and licensing framework in order to provide the communication services, no regulatory/licensing framework is applicable on those OTT players who offer similar communication services in the form of messaging, voice and video calls,” Kochhar said.
Crucially, Kochhar highlighted that the COAI is of the view that the “OTT services are substitutable to the services provided by the TSPs and hence a case of non-level playing field exists.”
OTT Apps Pose Threat to National Security
Kochhar said that the TSPs comply with the regulations on security issues like lawful interception but that these are “not applicable” on OTT service providers “which remains a threat to the national security.”
“The same is true in case of the privacy and security norms which are applicable on telcos but not applicable on OTT CSPs who also offer messaging and voice/video communication services,” Kochhar said.
The authority on Monday said that it observed that the “architecture of OTT communication services is evolving to protect the end users.” Further, Trai said that the “imposition of any requirements” would result in change in the architecture of OTT services “which might not provide same level of protection as offered today.”
The authority said that “it is not an opportune moment to recommend a comprehensive regulatory framework” for OTT services. However, it added that the issue “may be looked into afresh when more clarity emerges in the international jurisdictions.”