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TRAI Wants To Tame OTTs With Licenses & Regulations; Net Neutrality Is At Threat In India

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OTT players Net Neutrality Telecom

“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change -” Heraclitus

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and Telecom firms in India are so much afraid of “Over the Top (OTTs)” players that they want to tame them with licenses and regulations. It seems that the fear is now not merely of revenues, but of their existence and survival.

Last week, TRAI published a consultation paper on “Regulatory Framework for Over-The-Top (OTT) Services”, where in they have put 20 solid questions infront of the general public, and sought their views on licenses and Net Neutrality.

Incase, you want to know who are OTTs, they are referred to as the ones who deliver of audio, video, and other media over the Internet without the involvement of a multiple-system operator in the control or distribution of the content. [Wiki]

Here is how Internet has been classified according to TRAI. Check OTT communication and OTT media.

OTT classification

Last year, when Telecom firms requested TRAI to include new charges and fees from OTT players, the idea was rejected. But now, it seems that after the expensive spectrum auctions, where telecom players committed billions of dollars, it seems that the ghost of licenses and regulations have come back to haunt us.

Last year we had reported that in case TRAI induces 8% licensing fees, then there can be an overall increase of 30% in Internet traffic.

Why TRAI Is Scared?

In the consultation paper, it is mentioned that in 2013, Skype carried 214 billion minutes of International Calls within their worldwide network. This is almost 40% of the global telecom market, and within this year, Skype will actually overtake the traditional telecom firms in International calls usage.

TRAI said, “With innovations in OTT services, Full-HD voice is slowly becoming a reality for customers all over the world. The call quality of Skype and Google Voice is improving rapidly and, in some markets, nearly matches that of a circuit switched call,”

TRAI, on behalf of telecom firms have said that OTTs are single handedly eating their revenues using their platform, and they want to implement licenses and regulations to milk money from OTTs.

Some other stats shared by TRAI in this paper:

  • As on January 2015, WhatsApp had 700 million users, all over the world and 30 billion messages were sent on a daily basis
  • In 2011, Blackberry had 50 million users who sent 100 billion+ messages daily
  • SMS traffic in India has dropped from 5346 million in 2013 to 4367 million by 2014 end, a drop of 18.3%

TRAI added, “The user base of OTT messaging services has grown to more than one billion in less than five years, impacting TSPs and other service providers all over the world. This impact has also been felt in India.”

On one hand, this is an open acknowledgment of the improvement in technology but also, on the other hand, its an SOS about the future of telecom in India. And the statements aptly reflects their fear.

Glimpse of a Future With Licenses & Regulations for OTTs & Internet Companies?

In case TRAI is able to pull this through, and implement these licenses and regulations on OTT players, then imagine some scenarios:

  • You need to check your email while using Google hangout? Buy another plan from your telecom service provider (TSP)
  • Your favorite free Chess app wants to add chat facility in their app. They will need to take a license for that feature
  • A new cricket app wants to start real time video chat with players. Wait a second.. have they taken the license?
  • Want to make a call using Skype on your phone? Buy a new plan with 7 day validity
  • Youtube will open superfast on Reliance but Dailymotion will take ages to open as Youtube has paid Reliance some extra money
  • and many more such examples….but you get the point

This last example is not mere a fiction but had nearly become a reality when Airtel started offering different plans and tariff for different websites and apps, which is totally against Net Neutrality which states that all Internet services should be provided without any discrimination.

All Internet and Mobile users are informed that they need to send in their replies latest by April 24, 2015 by emailing at advqos@trai.gov.in. The last date for counter comments is May 8th, 2015.

[box type=”shadow” ]If you do care about the freedom which Internet brings, and if you are concerned about saving the Net Neutrality and Indiscriminate access of tools and services using the web, then do send in your replies of all the 20 questions by mailing TRAI at advqos@trai.gov.in.[/box]

Here are the 20 Questions that TRAI is seeking answers for…

  1. Is it too early to establish a regulatory framework for OTT services, since internet penetration is still evolving, access speeds are generally low and there is limited coverage of high-speed broadband in the country? Or, should some beginning be made now with a regulatory framework that could be adapted to changes in the future?
  2. Should the OTT players offering communication services (voice, messaging and video call services) through applications (resident either in the country or outside) be brought under the licensing regime?
  3. Is the growth of OTT impacting the traditional revenue stream of telecom service providers (TSPs)? If so, is the increase in data revenues of the TSPs sufficient to compensate for this impact?
  4. Should the OTT players pay for use of the TSPs network over and above data charges paid by consumers? If yes, what pricing options can be adopted? Could such options include prices based on bandwidth consumption? Can prices be used as a means product/service differentiation?
  5. Do you agree that imbalances exist in the regulatory environment in the operation of OTT players? If so, what should be the framework to address these issues? How can the prevailing laws and regulations be applied to OTT players (who operate in the virtual world) and compliance enforced? What could be the impact on the economy?
  6. How should the security concerns be addressed with regard to OTT players providing communication services? What security conditions such as maintaining data records, logs etc. need to be mandated for such OTT players? And, how can compliance with these conditions be ensured if the applications of such OTT players reside outside the country?
  7. How should the OTT players offering app services ensure security, safety and privacy of the consumer? How should they ensure protection of consumer interest?
  8. In what manner can the proposals for a regulatory framework for OTTs in India draw from those of European Telecommunications Network Operators (ETNO)? What practices should be proscribed by regulatory fiat?
  9. What are your views on net-neutrality in the Indian context?
  10. What forms of discrimination or traffic management practices are reasonable and consistent with a pragmatic approach? What should or can be permitted?
  11. Should the TSPs be mandated to publish various traffic management techniques used for different OTT applications? Is this a sufficient condition to ensure transparency and a fair regulatory regime?
  12. How should a conducive and balanced environment be created such that TSPs are able to invest in network infrastructure and Content and Application Providers (CAPs) are able to innovate and grow? Who should bear the network upgradation costs?
  13. Should TSPs be allowed to implement non-price based discrimination of services? If so, under what circumstances are such practices acceptable? What restrictions, if any, need to be placed so that such measures are not abused? What measures should be adopted to ensure transparency to consumers?
  14. Is there a justification for allowing differential pricing for data access and OTT communication services? If so, what changes need to be brought about in the present tariff and regulatory framework for telecommunication services in the country?
  15. Should OTT communication service players be treated as Bulk User of Telecom Services (BuTS)? How should the framework be structured to prevent any discrimination and protect stakeholder interest?
  16. What framework should be adopted to encourage India-specific OTT apps?
  17. If the OTT communication service players are to be licensed, should they be categorised as Application Service Providers (ASP) or Communications Service Providers (CSP)? If so, what should be the framework?
  18. Is there a need to regulate subscription charges for OTT communication services?
  19. What steps should be taken by the Government for regulation of non-communication OTT players?
  20. Are there any other issues that have a bearing on the subject discussed?
  1. mustufa bohra says

    bohot mengha he alag net pack nahi hona chaiye

  2. […] 20 questions regarding net neutrality; and here is your chance to be a part of the movement. Checkout this post for the reasons and the answers to these questions, and send your replies by mailing TRAI at […]

  3. marco says

    The trai has to realize that its time for the companies to invest,and improve services,people shifted to the OTTs,just because they were better,cheaper and accessible. Regulating internet in India will clip the young generation of the much needed access to the world,we need faster internet and better call quality,we don’t need more regulation.

  4. max says

    SAVE THE INTERNET. UPHOLD NET NEUTRALITY.

    Telecom companies want to regulate internet. You can stop them. Sign the petition:
    http://chn.ge/1Enucrm

    TRAI has asked consumers to respond with views on 20 questions related to net-neutrality by April 24th 2015. Please send replies to TRAI email id advqos@trai.gov.in.

    http://bit.ly/1c4Pty2

  5. Anuj Tripathi says

    This is totally ridiculous

  6. K.Satya Narayan says

    Principles means rules or laws. They are made with a view that evry1 follows them. And if anybody is voilating the principle should be stopped. There is no any sense on discussing about net neutrality principle as it itslf makes clear tht no website should be givn priority. Everythng shld be free. Why TRAI is raising the issue and seeking the public view when evrythng about the principle is clear. TRAI should themselves take the decision to stop this violation and think about consumer welfare.

    1. Sudharsan says

      100 % Right TRAI has become a handicapped authority in India.

  7. […] TRAI has asked general public to share their views on the Net Neutrality principle, and we would again, strongly urge you all to write to them to save Internet and Ideas in India. More details here. […]

  8. […] Telecom firms in India are so much afraid of “Over the Top (OTTs)” players that they want to tame them with licenses and regulations. It seems that the fear is now not merely of revenues, but of their existence and […]

  9. Sudharsan R says

    It is totally against net neutrality and against consumer interest.

  10. Ramandeep says

    This is India where companies make Indian people fool, first of all companies increase tariff of internet pack in India before launch of 3g in India like before launch you can buy 2g plan for Rs 249 per month then after just before 3g launch it goes nearly Rs 600 per month and so I switch to broadband unlimited, after launch 3g launch unlimited plan in mobile company in prepaid is now gone. And 3g plans are also very costly because I use both of the plan of company 3g is use more data consumption over 2g, for example your 2g plan for month can last for a month on other other 3g data with same data plan over in few days.
    India has major companies like Airtel, idea, Vodafone, Aircel etc which are not very competing company they just make Indian people fools and sell their product, remember you have to recharge of validity and talktime even now customer does not have full control over their sim services like we can not even see which plan we are using and it will cost you extra to see your own call detail of prepaid number.
    Telecom company has make this move after buying spectrum on high cost so they can justify their approch, we should ask Indian telecom companies facebook and whatsapp are not charging on very message like telecom company do and we have to buy data plan from these telecom companies on high rates then before and 3g should be cheaper than 2g.
    just ask telecom companies, if all call messages are data calls and why messages packs are higher then data plans, if you convert your message into a text file just see its it will not reach 1MB, They are making Indian fools
    And without buy internet Pack we can not use whatsapp hike facebook etc, and these companies are not charging Indian people like telecom company and not increasing rate like telecom industry
    On the other hand Indian telecom should see Korea telecom companies gives better data plans then indian companies and much faster speed with affordable prices
    American telecom company was also giving good speed over internet after Google launch of Up to 1 gigabit (1,000 Mbps) upload & download speed on reasonable plan and their is no issue like in India.

  11. Albert says

    This is happening only in India. Not in Pakistan or Bangaladesh, Sri Lanka… But only in INDIA.

    God save India. Or Remove our state form India. We are better off without this country’s corporate ruling.

  12. Anirudh Narain says

    TRAI has started focusing on monetizing every aspect of the telecom spectrum, the prime motive is greed. How can you say that the Spectrum allocation is a win for the consumer when you are burdening the consumer with additional charges for every aspect of use ? In case these regulations are applied, this would be the worst telecom auction in consumer history. It is a deregatory auction fueled by corporate greed with the support of the government. The Net Neutrality bill in the US stands testament to the fact that the larger telecom companies will jump at every opportunity to bully the consumer with additional charges, it is the government regulations and framework which keep them at bay (which they have). It is paramount that such regulations are not passed for the greed of a few companies and the interests of the consumers is protected.

  13. harshit bavishi says

    So typical of us Indians! The internet subscriptions are growing because of the ljre of these apps. Regulate their usage and you kill the goose that is laying the golden eggs.
    This is clearly laziness on the part of telecom service providers. If they are so scared of loss of revenue, why don’t t they work hard and come up with competing apps and services? Clearly there is a market for them and clearly there are people profiting from it, so why not compete with them and create better services?

    The government is committed to abolishment of license raj and beaurocratic red tape. It would reflect t poorly on their commitment to do so if they pass laws which will effectively throttle net neutrality. It would be a regressive move.

  14. rtdp says

    Sorry, but what all 20 questions? Any link to that please.

    1. Ashu says

      Here are the 20 Questions..

      Is it too early to establish a regulatory framework for OTT services, since internet penetration is still evolving, access speeds are generally low and there is limited coverage of high-speed broadband in the country? Or, should some beginning be made now with a regulatory framework that could be adapted to changes in the future?

      Should the OTT players offering communication services (voice, messaging and video call services) through applications (resident either in the country or outside) be brought under the licensing regime?

      Is the growth of OTT impacting the traditional revenue stream of telecom service providers (TSPs)? If so, is the increase in data revenues of the TSPs sufficient to compensate for this impact?
      Should the OTT players pay for use of the TSPs network over and above data charges paid by consumers?

      If yes, what pricing options can be adopted? Could such options include prices based on bandwidth consumption? Can prices be used as a means product/service differentiation?

      Do you agree that imbalances exist in the regulatory environment in the operation of OTT players? If so, what should be the framework to address these issues? How can the prevailing laws and regulations be applied to OTT players (who operate in the virtual world) and compliance enforced? What could be the impact on the economy?

      How should the security concerns be addressed with regard to OTT players providing communication services? What security conditions such as maintaining data records, logs etc. need to be mandated for such OTT players? And, how can compliance with these conditions be ensured if the applications of such OTT players reside outside the country?

      How should the OTT players offering app services ensure security, safety and privacy of the consumer?

      How should they ensure protection of consumer interest?

      In what manner can the proposals for a regulatory framework for OTTs in India draw from those of

      European Telecommunications Network Operators (ETNO)? What practices should be proscribed by regulatory fiat?

      What are your views on net-neutrality in the Indian context?

      What forms of discrimination or traffic management practices are reasonable and consistent with a pragmatic approach? What should or can be permitted?

      Should the TSPs be mandated to publish various traffic management techniques used for different OTT applications? Is this a sufficient condition to ensure transparency and a fair regulatory regime?

      How should a conducive and balanced environment be created such that TSPs are able to invest in network infrastructure and Content and Application Providers (CAPs) are able to innovate and grow? Who should bear the network upgradation costs?

      Should TSPs be allowed to implement non-price based discrimination of services? If so, under what circumstances are such practices acceptable? What restrictions, if any, need to be placed so that such measures are not abused? What measures should be adopted to ensure transparency to consumers?

      Is there a justification for allowing differential pricing for data access and OTT communication services? If so, what changes need to be brought about in the present tariff and regulatory framework for telecommunication services in the country?

      Should OTT communication service players be treated as Bulk User of Telecom Services (BuTS)? How should the framework be structured to prevent any discrimination and protect stakeholder interest?

      What framework should be adopted to encourage India-specific OTT apps?

      If the OTT communication service players are to be licensed, should they be categorised as Application Service Providers (ASP) or Communications Service Providers (CSP)? If so, what should be the framework?

      Is there a need to regulate subscription charges for OTT communication services?

      What steps should be taken by the Government for regulation of non-communication OTT players?

      Are there any other issues that have a bearing on the subject discussed?

    2. Tanishq Desai says

      If anyone is interested in reading the entire document, you will find it at this url-
      http://www.trai.gov.in/WriteReadData/WhatsNew/Documents/OTT-CP-27032015.pdf

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