Indian telcos want govt to force OTTs to pay for 5G rollout

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Indian telecom operators are planning to pressure the telecom regulator and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) once again to devise a mechanism for making OTTs (over-the-top players) pay for developing 5G digital network infrastructure in the nation.

Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio are bringing government and regulator attention to the discussion about the need to make OTT streaming service providers contribute pretty to the construction of mobile broadband networks worth billions of dollars; the Economic Times reported citing industry sources.

The issue is already being discussed globally, and Indian telcos will soon point to the ongoing global consultations initiated by the European Commission (EC) and Brazil’s telecoms regulator, Anatel.

Indian telcos argue that OTTs generate traffic

Telcos have argued that OTT companies that generate maximum traffic benefit most from telecom networks and must pay based on a fair share principle.

A senior executive working with a leading Indian telco told the publication that the fair share mechanism would ensure continued investments in next-gen connectivity infrastructure in India, especially as it’s becoming a huge financial struggle for the telcos to shoulder this burden alone.

Another telco executive told the publication that all three operators are aligned on the issue and will soon raise the issue officially to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and the telecom department.

Notably, the Indian telco lobby body, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), had last year said that OTT apps must compensate carriers for rolling out networks as they were the ones that used telco network infrastructure the most.

The body, which represents Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, urged the telecom department to bring OTT companies under a light-touch licensing regime.

However, the Broadband India Forum (BIF) and Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) countered the demand. Both bodies represent technology players in India.

BIF argues that OTTs should be paid

BIF, which represents tech giants like Meta, Google, Amazon and Microsoft, said that OTTs couldn’t be brought under the purview of telecommunications. It had then said that bringing such players under the ambit of the telecommunication service licence implies that the government alone holds the exclusive privileges to decide, build, develop and operate the OTT apps. It had added that telcos must pay OTTs for using the latter’s infrastructure, such as data centres, undersea cables, content hosting centres, and content delivery networks.

IAMAI had also then demanded that content and broadcasting be kept outside the purview of telecom. It further argued that the sending party network pays (SPNP) model would allow telcos to exploit internet businesses by formalising rent-seeking.

Related article: Telcos urge Indian govt to defer net neutrality and regulate OTT players

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