WhatsApp, Telegram and other OTT apps should compensate telcos for network usage: COAI

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The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents major telecom companies, has proposed a framework for over-the-top (OTT) communication apps such as WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram to compensate telecom operators for the use of the network to provide their services. .

Fighting for a “same service, same rules” principle, telcos have proposed network access fees for OTT communications providers for the data traffic they carry on telco networks.

“The contribution of OTTs to network costs can be based on assessable criteria such as traffic volume, revenue threshold and number of users,” COAI said in its comments on the bill on telecommunications.

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According to COAI, the government would earn about 800 crore per year in license fees with the regulation of OTT players (which mainly includes entertainment and communication service providers).

“Since TSPs (telecommunications service providers) will receive revenue from OTTs as part of their rendered telecommunications services, they will automatically pay license fees to the government (as part of TSPs’ adjusted gross revenue) on a incremental basis to the extent of payments by OTTs to TSPs,” COAI said in its comments.

The association has not yet shared a complete financial model for this and has demanded regulation of OTT communication apps, as they offer a service similar to that of telecom operators. COAI reiterated that the government should clearly define OTTs providing similar telecom services to telecom operators such as voice/video calls and messaging in the bill.

“Today, TSPs create the network and they pay for it, ISPs (Internet Service Providers) buy bandwidth from that network and provide services to consumers who pay for the services. ) for free and provide services to consumers, but obtain indirect benefits,” SP Kochhar, managing director of COAI, told reporters.

According to Kochhar, telecom operators only want light regulation for OTT communication applications, which broadly includes a financial model like compensation and compliance with law and security enforcement.

The association also wants OTT applications, games and social media companies to contribute to the Telecommunications Development Fund and invest in the creation of digital infrastructure.

COAI’s comments stand in stark contrast to those of the Broadband India Forum (BIF), an association of major tech companies, which has urged the government to remove OTT communication services, internet-based communication services and broadcast services from the domain. telecommunications services.

“In our view, the definition of ‘telecommunications services’ is incorrect and misleading because ‘telecommunications services’ cannot be provided without the ‘telecommunications network’ and this part is missing from the definition of ‘telecommunications services'” , BIF said, adding that OTT communication services are not produced from the telecommunications network.

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The COAI also urged the government to consider reimbursing the losses suffered by telecom operators in the event of the government shutting down internet services. Under the bill, the government has the right to order the suspension of telecommunications services in situations of public emergency, public safety or national security.

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