Reliance Jio, India’s largest telecom operator, has slammed over-the-top (OTT) platforms for benefiting massively from telco networks without adequately compensating them. In its recent submission to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Jio stated that OTT players consume large amounts of bandwidth but do not pay telcos for building and maintaining the network infrastructure.
Jio suggested OTT contribution should be based on factors like volume of traffic generated, annual turnover of the company and number of users. Airtel and Vodafone Idea have also backed Jio’s demand that OTT communication service providers should be brought under the unified licensing regime applicable to telcos.
Telecoms have exclusive access to interference-free
OTT Players Dismiss Demands Telecom
OTT platforms and major technology companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and others have rejected the demands being made by telecom providers. They argue that telecom companies and OTT services are not on equal footing. “Telecoms have exclusive access to interference-free spectrum that gives them advantages like high barriers to entry, reduced competition, and exclusivity in business operations – things that OTT players lack since they have no control over telecom infrastructure deployment,” said the Broadband India Forum, whose members include Netflix, Amazon, Cisco, Google, Microsoft, Meta, and Intel.
They added that “treating unequals equally” is inequitable and unconstitutional, violating Article 14. OTTs claim they are already regulated under the IT Act and additional rules would stifle innovation.
Nikhil Pahwa, one of the key advocates for Net Neutrality in India posted on X (formely twitter ) that “It’s 2023 and I’m not sure if anyone cares for #netneutrality in India anymore, but Jio, Vi and Airtel are coming for it. Don’t take my word for it. Here are excerpts from their submissions to @TRAI (uploaded last night) :”
Similar Debates in South Korea, Europe
As data consumption grows exponentially with new technologies like 5G and 6G, network operators in other countries like South Korea and Europe have also pushed for OTT players to share costs. However, efforts to undermine net neutrality principles have faced opposition there as well.
TRAI Consultation to Determine Outcome
The TRAI consultation process will determine if India revisits its previous net neutrality guidelines. Stakeholder responses suggest there are arguments on both sides of this complex issue.
The TRAI will have to balance these factors while safeguarding consumer interests.