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TRAI Not In Favour Of Regulating OTT Communication Apps


TRAI communicated its opposition to the proposal during the consultation for the draft bill

In 2020, the industry regulator had said that no regulatory intervention was needed for OTT communication services

In the draft Indian Telecommunication Bill, 2022, the DoT has proposed extending the scope of the term telecommunication services to include OTT services

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has opposed the proposal in the recently released draft Indian Telecommunications Bill to regulate over-the-top (OTT) telecommunication services. 

The regulator communicated its opposition to the proposal to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) during the consultation for the draft bill, Business Standard reported citing sources.

Earlier in 2020 as well TRAI had said that no regulatory intervention was needed for OTT communication apps like WhatsApp. It was of the view that the moment was not opportune for introducing a comprehensive regulatory framework for OTT services. 

“We had suggested a relook at the issue may be attempted later on, especially after more clarity in international jurisdictions emerged. This was based on how the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) was studying the issue on a global scale,” a senior TRAI official was quoted as saying. 

As per the official, the ITU has made no major suggestion yet to regulate the sector, while the latest telecommunication bill has proposed regulations for OTT communication services.

Rather than bringing OTTs under the same regulatory ambit that exists for telecom companies,  TRAI had advocated an issue-based approach to policymaking for OTTs, another official said. For instance, the discussion was on two separate points – one on the impact of OTT services on traditional telecom service providers and the other one on the economic and security implications of such services. 

In the draft Indian Telecommunication Bill, 2022, DoT has proposed extending the scope of the term telecommunication services to include OTT communication apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal. The draft bill has proposed that OTT communication apps such as Whatsapp obtain a licence from the government.

Meanwhile, Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has reportedly said that the DoT is addressing the concerns of TRAI. The ministry is planning to bring light-touch regulation for OTT communication services, he said.

On the other hand, the ministry has extended the deadline for submission of comments on the draft bill till October 30 from October 20 earlier on requests from various stakeholders.

“In response to requests received from several stakeholders, the ministry has decided to extend the last date for receipt of comments till October 30,” a DoT notification said.



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