The Cellular Operator Association of India (COAI) has said that OTT (over the top) players should be brought under the ambit of the new Telecom Act to maintain level playing fields. COAI, which is the umbrella organization representing all three private telecom operators — Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea— said the same service and same rules are the foundation for fair and healthy competition.
It said telecom service providers (TSPs) invest massive amounts in creating network Infrastructure and they are incurring huge operational expenses in terms of meeting various regulatory compliances, TSPs also pay exorbitant levies and taxes in terms of license fees, SUC (spectrum usage charge), GST, etc.
On the other hand, OTT communication service providers such as WhatsApp and Telegram who are enjoying huge direct and indirect benefits and revenues by utilizing the TSPs’ networks are not subjected to such taxes and levies, thus causing loss to the government exchequer. “There is a need to ensure a level playing field among all technologies, i.e. same service same rules with respect to OTT communication services so that fair and healthy competition prevails in the industry,” said COAI in a statement.
It welcomed the inclusion of OTT communication services in the draft Indian Telecommunication Bill 2022, recently released by DoT (Department of Telecommunication). It is of the view that the government should define OTT services in the draft Telecom Bill. “It has been erroneously suggested that telecom services and OTT applications do not operate on the same layer, when in fact; services such as calls (voice/video) whether provided by the TSPs or the OTT apps, operate on the same layer, essentially riding on the network layer,” said COAI in a statement.
COAI said OTT players consume a big amount of bandwidth, which puts pressure on the network infrastructure established by TSPs. At the same time, OTT players gain massive direct and indirect benefits without incurring any additional costs.