Jio, Airtel, and Vi reportedly pushed for regulation of communication OTT services during a meeting with the head of the TRAI

OTT players, who provide identical services as telecoms do, should be governed similarly, according to telecom operators.

In a meeting with the head of TRAI on Wednesday, telecom companies like Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea made a compelling case for regulating communication OTT firms, according to sources.

According to sources, TRAI informed telecoms at the conference about the planned review of Quality of Service (QoS) rules and laws regarding bothersome calls (Unsolicited Commercial Communication).

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In a meeting with telecom operators and ISPs that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had organised to set the agenda for 2023, participants highlighted a number of concerns. Gopal Vittal, the CEO of Airtel, P Balaji, the chief regulatory and corporate affairs officer of Vodafone Idea, and Mahendra Nahata, a board member of Reliance Jio, took part in the meetings on Wednesday.

P D Vaghela, the director of TRAI, presided over the meeting.

According to sources with knowledge of the conference, telecom companies made a concerted argument for “same service, same rules,” claiming that OTT businesses who provide identical services to telecoms should be subject to similar regulations.

The sector has long called for a level playing field with communications OTTs, stressing that licencing requirements and player treatment must be made uniformly applicable for players in comparable positions.

Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), an organisation for the industry, has also emphasised the necessity of ensuring a level playing field for all technologies, or Same Service Same Rules with regard to OTT Communication Services, to enable “fair and healthy” competition in the sector.

In fact, the telecom operators’ group had even argued in favour of OTT (over-the-top) communication services paying telcos directly for the data traffic they are sending onto the networks as it promoted a licencing and light-touch regulatory framework for such services late last year.

In a press conference with reporters in November of last year, COAI Director General SP Kochhar stated that the association had provided its recommendations for how OTT communication services should be classified as part of the draught telecom bill to guarantee there was no ambiguity.

Applications like WhatsApp, Signal, Google Meet, Telegram, and others provide OTT communication services.

Meanwhile, telecom players requested a reduction in taxes like the licence cost during their meeting with TRAI on Wednesday.

According to sources, a senior official from Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) stated during the conference that telecom businesses should be rewarded for using innovative technology.

Sources claim that TRAI also informed the telecom providers that it will be reviewing the UCC and Quality of Service laws.

In addition, on February 17, the telecom regulator will meet with operators to go over steps and an action plan for enhancing service quality, reviewing rules, setting benchmarks for 5G services, and discussing unwanted commercial communications.

The meeting this week gains significance since better telecom service quality is sure to please mobile customers who are irritated by dropped calls and spotty networks. Additionally, it coincides with the nationwide rollout of ultra-fast 5G services.