As per industry sources, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has urged the government to bring over-the-top (OTT) service providers such as WhatsApp, Google Duo etc, under the licensing regime. As such, COAI has said that until same rules are applied to the OTT players, net neutrality rules on telecom operators should be deferred.

Earlier on February 9, 2021, in response to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) recommendation on OTT players, COAI had written to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) stating that no regulations should be imposed on the calling and messaging apps till the time clarity emerges in the international jurisdictions.

In the recent past, telcos have been requesting the government to impose ‘same service, same rules’ to provide a level playing field in the sector.

Earlier in 2018, DoT had approved the net neutrality principles, which prohibit service providers from discriminating against internet content and services by blocking, throttling or according preferential higher speeds.

As per COAI, while telcos are required to comply with quality of service norms, audit accounts, procure spectrum for services, pay goods and services tax, licence fees and spectrum usage charges, etc, OTT players are not bound under any such obligations.

OTT players, on the other hand, have argued that licensing and regulation on telecom operators are primarily because of installation and operation of data networks.