Trai floats plan to put fee on free apps, including WhatsApp and Viber
Sanjay Singh August 5, 2014
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) will meet on Tuesday to initiate the process of bringing in a regulation for over-the-top (OTT) companies or providers of apps like WhatsApp and Viber to pay connectivity charges to telecom companies and share revenue with the government as well.
Trai on Monday said a seminar will be organised on Tuesday on regulatory framework for OTT services that aims to provide a platform to exchange the views on key issues related to OTT such as new developments in OTT, impact of OTT on telecom services providers and their counter measures, legal and regulatory framework for OTT.
Following the seminar, Trai would come up with a discussion paper on OTT players, said a Trai official. However, the telecom regulator is unlikely to pose any major restrictions on OTT players.
Currently, these apps have become very popular amongst mobile users by running on telecom bandwidth without being connected to the telecom industry. They offer free messaging across any telecom network in India, resulting in losses to telcos.
Mobile companies, including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, want apps providers to pay a connectivity charge.
According to telecom industry estimates, telcos currently lose around Rs 5,000 crore annually due to these free apps and the figure is expected to cross Rs 16,400 crore in the next two years, as mobile subscribers using smartphone with internet are growing rapidly.
A senior official with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) said that the OTT players would anyway have to follow the law of the land.
"We may be asking them to put their servers in India as they get connected to any telecom network in India without getting themselves registered that is something which is also a security concern for us," the official added.
The government had earlier said that it wasn't looking at regulating these Internet-based services, though mobile operators have been pressing for it.
In association with Mail Today