Regulator TRAI on Monday said the time is not opportune to recommend a comprehensive regulatory framework for various aspects of OTT services beyond the laws and regulations prescribed currently, and decided against any immediate regulatory intervention.
The matter can be looked into afresh when more clarity emerges in international jurisdictions particularly the study undertaken by the ITU (International Telecommunication Union), TRAI said outlining its views on the issue of regulatory framework for OTT (Over-The-Top) communication services.
OTT services refer to applications and services that are accessible over the internet and ride on an operator's network. Skype, Viber, WhatsApp and Hike are some of the popular and widely-used OTT services.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has further said that no regulatory interventions are needed for privacy and security related issues of OTT services for now.
"It is not an opportune moment to recommend a comprehensive regulatory framework for various aspects of services referred to as OTT services, beyond the extant laws and regulations prescribed presently," TRAI said in a statement.
The regulator had come out with a discussion paper on regulatory framework for such services in November 2018 where it had sought industry's views on multiple issues.
These issues were similarity and substitutability of telecom service providers and OTT services, regulatory imbalance and non-level playing field between these two types of service providers, economic aspects, inter-operability, lawful interception of OTT services as well as access of emergency services from OTT.
TRAI has now said that market forces may be allowed to respond to the situation without prescribing any regulatory intervention.
"However, developments shall be monitored and intervention as felt necessary shall be done at appropriate time," TRAI said.
Telecom companies in India had long been demanding that OTT players be brought under the ambit of the regulatory framework, as they offer similar services without attached licencing obligations, conditions and levies (such as licence fee).
However, OTTs argue that a regulatory regime for them would stifle innovation.
Of late, some of these platforms have come under increased scrutiny, and the government is seeking greater accountability from these firms.
It is pertinent to mention that TRAI had made it clear that the scope of its consultation paper would be regulatory issues and economic concerns pertaining to those OTT services that are “same or similar” to the services provided by telecom service providers (TSPs).