Telecom operators have written to the government requesting for ‘same-service-same-rules’ principles to be adopted for regulating over-the-top (OTT) communications apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram. The operators have demanded that such apps should be regulated and brought under the purview of telecommunication services in the upcoming Indian Telecommunications Bill.

Earlier, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) objected to the Department of Telecommunications’ (DoT) move to bring OTTs under the ambit of telecommunications. Responding to this, telcos said that the government’s earlier decision to include and define OTTs in the Indian Telecommunications Bill was a prudent and forward-looking approach and deviating from the same may be a retrograde step for the telecom industry, which is an essential infrastructure sector.

In a recent letter to the government, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said that such technologies which operate by heavily exploiting telecom networks and also offer services which perfectly substitute the fundamental offerings from licensed telcos must be defined clearly in the Indian Telecommunications Bill. It highlighted that the upcoming bill should govern all aspects of OTT services, including financial and security conditions, which presently do not fall under the purview of any other rule or act. COAI also reiterated the operators’ demand for a revenue share from large OTT players.