Thursday, August 7, 2014

TRAI may put usage fee on WhatsApp, Viber and the likes: report

With the rise of instant messaging apps like WhatsApp, Viber and others, telcos had started to make noise against the rampant adoption of these services. In April, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) disclosed to be working on discussion paper that looks at the impact of Over-The-Top (OTT) players such as messaging apps. Looks like, TRAI is on its way to find a solution by putting a fee on such apps.

According to a report by Business Today, TRAI held a seminar to initiate the process to bring in a regulation for providers of apps like WhatsApp and Viber to pay connectivity charges to telecom companies and share revenue with the government.

The key pointers of discussion at the seminar were ‘new developments in OTT, impact of OTT on telecom services providers and their counter measures, legal and regulatory framework for OTT’. It also plans to release a discussion paper. However, the report further points out it may not pose major restrictions on such apps.

The good old ‘SMS’ and even phone calls have been suffering due to the rise in popularity of these apps. Several telcos including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, reportedly want app providers to pay a connectivity charge to make up for the losses in revenue, since many apps replace core revenue streams such as SMSes or phone calls.

The report points out that telcos currently ‘lose around Rs 5,000 crore annually’ because of such free apps . This figure is expected to cross Rs 16,400 crore in the next two years, as the number of users opting for data will increase.

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