Internet calling, messaging apps like WhatsApp, Signal likely to be regulated soon

Representational image. Reuters

New Delhi: The Department of Telecom has sought views of sector regulator Trai to prepare a framework for regulating internet calling and messaging apps like WhatsApp, Signal, Google Meet etc, a government official said on Wednesday.

The Department of Telecom (DoT) has last week sent back a recommendation of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on internet telephony issued in 2008, for review, and has asked the sector regulator to come up with comprehensive reference due to the change in technical environment amid the emergence of new technologies.

"The Internet Telephony recommendation of Trai was not accepted by the DoT. The Department has now sought comprehensive reference from Trai for internet telephony and over-the-top players," the official, who did not wish to be named, told PTI.

Telecom operators have been asking the government to apply the principle of "same service same rules" for the industry.

They have frequently asked that internet calling and messaging apps should pay the same level of licence fee, comply with regulation of legal interception, quality of service etc, as applicable on telecom operators and internet service providers (ISPs).

In 2008, Trai had recommended that ISPs shall be allowed to provide internet telephony including calls on normal telephone networks but they will have to pay interconnection charges, install lawful interception equipment as per the requirement of security agencies etc.

The issue was raised by telecom operators in 2016-17 as well, when the issue of net neutrality was being discussed by the regulator and the government.

However, the government did not impose any restriction on call and messaging service being provided by apps.

The regulator, however, eased the cost burden on telecom operators by removing interconnect usage charges to bring their calling cost at par with that of calling apps.

IUC is a charge that is paid by a telco to another operator when its customers make voice calls to subscribers of the rival network.

However, calling and messaging apps never had to pay any such charge.

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