Department of Telecom Seeks TRAI’s Views on Regulating OTT Services Like WhatsApp: Report


The Department of Telecom (DoT) has reportedly approached the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), seeking its views on the preparation of a framework for the regulation of internet messaging and voice calling applications. The regulation could be directed at over-the-top (OTT) service providers like Meta-owned WhatsApp, Signal, Google Meet, and other apps and services, according to a report. Telecom operators in India for years asked TRAI to ensure the its rules for telcos are also applicable to these services that provide similar calling and messaging functionality.   

TRAI’s previous recommendations on internet telephony were not accepted by the DoT, after which the latter sought comprehensive reference on internet telephony and OTT service providers that allow users to make calls and send messages over the internet, according to a report by PTI citing an unnamed government official.  

TRAI had previously stated that there was no need to regulate OTT services, and the DoT last week asked TRAI for new recommendations, in light of the changing environment with new technologies. At the time, TRAI had recommended that internet service providers (ISPs) could provide internet telephony for making calls on phone networks, if they paid interconnection charges (which have since been scrapped for telecom operators) and installed lawful interception equipment, as per the report. 

The government is yet to officially announce plans to regulate OTT service providers. 

It is worth noting that TRAI has been facing pressure from telecom operators for years, over the regulation of OTT players in the country. The telcos have argued that these services should pay licensing fees and be subject to the same rules related to lawful interception, and quality of service. 

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