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Draft telecommunications law: BIF calls for exclusion of OTT services from Elements -Newzflash

The Broadband India Forum (BIF) has argued that the Over-The-Top (OTT) communication service should be excluded from the elements mentioned in the definition of telecommunication services as the industry body submitted its observations on the draft Telecom Bill.

BIF said many strong and material reasons sharply distinguish OTTs from telecommunications.

“By bringing the OTTs under the scope of the telecom license, it would mean that the government would only have and have exclusive rights and privileges to decide, build, develop and operate OTT apps. Such a situation would be grossly ambiguous and highly impractical and lead to a collapse of the entire app ecosystem, thereby affecting innovation and growth in the economy,” BIF said in its recent submission to the government on the draft bill.

The bill includes OTT communication services, even if such players do not have any telecommunications network, BIF argued.

It submitted that sectors other than telecommunications, such as broadcasting and OTT communications (or having a different nomenclature instead of OTT communications) cannot be covered by the draft law.

“OTT Communications/OTTs are essentially apps and not telecommunication services and like any app they use the Internet and they do not own or operate a telegraph/telecommunications network,” it argued.

BIF noted that there were some arguments arguing that OTT communications should be brought under the scope of the draft law, and went on to add that “such claims are not correct, both in law and in policy”.

“Further such claims may be driven by commercial objectives,” the forum added.

According to the forum, the commercial argument that OTT is a free-ride service is “neither correct nor relevant” in the current context.

OTT service providers and users pay TSPs (Telecom Service Providers) for network usage costs.

Moreover, the business models of OTTs and TSPs are very different and OTT never and simply cannot bypass the broadband/telecom infrastructure to deliver the OTT services to its users, it said.

“It is respectfully submitted that OTT communication service should be excluded from elements of the definition of telecommunication services in the draft bill,” BIF added.

On spectrum management, the industry think tank said satellite spectrum should remain administratively allocated.

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