Indian Telecom regulator, TRAI, sends down a Googly

Indian Telecom regulator, TRAI, sends down a Googly

TRAI seeks industry comments
Indian regulator Trai taking a different Net Neutrality line

Cricket is close to a religion in India.  Any Indian should be able to tell you a Googly is a ball that spins the opposite way to what is expected.  (us Ozzies called it a wrong’un).  Cricket axioms aside, in what appears to be reversal of the situation in the US, it is the Indian operators that are pushing for legislation.  Monday this week, India’s Telecom regulator, TRAI, published a consultation paper on a regulatory framework for OTT services and is seeking responses from industry stakeholders.

“This consultation paper covers the views of the service providers and OTT providers, all related issues (including network neutrality), international experience with network neutrality and regulation of OTTs (communications and non-communications),” the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said in a statement.

“Worldwide, there is an ongoing debate among governments, industry and consumers regarding regulations of OTT services and net-neutrality. In this background, Trai today released a consultation paper on regulatory framework for OTT services,” the regulator said in a statement on Friday.

“Today, users can directly access these applications online from any place, at any time, using a variety of internet connected consumer devices. It is becoming increasingly difficult for consumers to know if there is an economic difference in connecting various networks via a landline phone, cell phone, or a computer,” the consultation paper said.

“They are also not involved in planning, selling, or enabling OTT apps. On the other hand, OTT providers make use of the Telecom Service Providers) TSPs’ infrastructure to reach their customers and offer products/services that not only make money for them but also compete with the traditional services offered by TSPs,” it added.

  • The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has been demanding regulations for OTT operators. Recently Bharti Airtel had announced differentiated pricing for voice calls over the internet but pulled back the plan after online protests by users who said Airtel was violating the principles of net neutrality. Regarded as an essential ground for open internet, net neutrality standards mean that mobile carriers should treat all data equally and not impose differential treatment or charges on different kinds of data.

As you can imagine, not everyone is happy about this move.  The promise of a huge, relatively untapped opportunities in the Indian market will undoubtedly provide the backdrop for serious “discussions” on these issues. It will be rather interesting to watch how this plays out on the sub-continent.

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