Europe’s operators have been periodically demanding better payments from over-the-top providers for years, and now their counterparts in India have joined the debate.
SP Kochhar, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), called on the government to force OTT and content providers to compensate the operators for use of their networks to deliver their services to end users. As in Europe, the argument is that the operators are the primary investors in new networks, which are then used by OTT providers whose applications may drive the need for new capacity without delivering significant additional revenue to operators.
COAI also claims that the Indian government would earn more tax revenue from operators if the OTTs paid higher fees potentially by INR8bn (100m) a year.
Kochhar said the government should clearly define communication services to remove ambiguity about what these include, and then introduce “a light-touch licensing regime” for OTTs that provide communications services within that definition.
COAI has submitted its suggestions to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) as part of a consultation on a draft telecom bill. In its regulatory filing, COAI said: “OTT communication service providers can pay directly to the telecom operators for use of their networks for providing their services in a fair and equitable manner by way of an equivalent of ‘interconnect charge’ (say network access charge) for the actual traffic carried by these OTTs on telecom networks, which can be easily measured. Since the telecom service providers will be receiving the revenue from OTTs as part of their telecommunications services rendered, they would automatically be paying licence fee to the government.”
The COAI is also calling for compensation for Internet shutdowns. “Internet shutdowns not only affect telcos’ ARPUs, but also the consumer base. Non-commercial infrastructure is also required to be set up by telecoms service providers in this regard, costing them.”