The Indian government might soon bring OTT (over-the-top) communication applications such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal and more under a strict regulatory framework. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has reportedly asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to start a consultation process on the same. This wouldn't be the first time that TRAI would start a consultation process on the matter of regulation of OTT communication platforms/apps in India. It was done once by the regulatory body back in 2018. In 2020, based on the comments from the industry stakeholders, TRAI had ruled out any need for regulating the OTT communication apps but had said that it would keep reviewing the stance periodically and intervene whenever necessary.
According to a report from TheHinduBusinessLine, the telecom department would also look for consultation from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) as well as the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY).
DoT is taking an active stance on the regulation of OTT communication apps because of the rising complexities in the rapidly evolving digital landscape of India, where the technology can easily be misused for nefarious purposes.
Telcos Would be Very Happy with the Move of Regulation
The telecom operators would want OTT communication apps to be brought under regulation to create a level playing field. Many times, telcos have complained about the freedom that apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal get for allowing their users to make calls and send texts and media without having the need to comply with any regulations.
Whereas telcos have a whole set of regulations, they need to comply with or pay fines/face punishments if they don't. Industry associations, on the other hand, don't want the OTT communication apps to be brought under any sort of regulatory framework. From a consumer standpoint, it would be hard to determine what would be the best scenario for how OTT communication apps should operate in India.