In its recent submission to the government on the draft Indian Telecommunications Bill 2022, Broadband India Forum (BIF) has asserted that over-the-top (OTT) communications service should be excluded from the elements mentioned in the definition of telecommunication services. BIF is of the opinion that many substantive reasons sharply differentiate OTT communications from telecommunications and thus should not fall under the purview of the bill.

According to BIF, bringing OTT services under the ambit of the telecom licence would mean that the government would only hold and have exclusive rights and privileges to decide, build, develop and operate the OTT apps. Such a situation would be grossly ambiguous and highly impractical and lead to a collapse of the entire app ecosystem, thereby impacting innovation and growth of the economy, the industry body added.

Further, BIF mooted that OTT services are essentially apps and not telecommunication services, and like any app, they use the internet, and do not own or work a telegraph/telecommunication network. As per BIF, the commercial argument that OTT is a free-riding service is neither correct nor is relevant in the current context. OTT service providers and users pay telecom service providers (TSPs) for network usage costs. The industry body also mentioned that the business models of OTTs and TSPs are different and OTT cannot bypass the broadband/telecom infrastructure to provide the OTT services to its users.

Separately, with respect to spectrum management, BIF noted that the satellite spectrum should continue to be administratively allocated.