Indian telcos demand same treatment as OTTs

India's telecom operators have called on the government not to give preferential treatment to Internet services such as WhatsApp, Skype, Google Duo and Facebook Messenger.

A letter sent to the Department of Telecommunications ask for "same service, same rules" treatment and a level playing field.

Citing the recent changes to WhatsApp's privacy policy, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents the country's telcos, has asked for regulation of Internet platforms or a relaxation of rules that affect operators.

"[The] Recent example of a proposal to change the privacy policy of users by WhatsApp clearly demonstrates that privacy of consumers is totally compromised, and OTTs [over-the-top players] can share complete data of users with any other company," says the letter.

The COAI notes that while operators must pay heavily for spectrum, license fees and taxes, OTT players do not face similar obligations.

It wants regulatory obligations on telcos to be relaxed and thinks net neutrality rules should be dropped.

The government mandated net neutrality principles in 2018, stipulating that telcos must not discriminate between different Internet services. The rules mean operators cannot throttle speeds or performance for any specific content.

Telcos also complain that OTT platforms are under no obligation to respect user privacy, while operators must comply with various measures under their licensing terms.

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The service providers also draw attention to the substantial investments they have made in Lawful Interception and Monitoring (LIM) systems so that government and security agencies can trace calls, messages and other communications.

The COAI argues that OTT players do not have to guarantee the confidentiality of user data are not even obliged to provide encryption keys to security agencies. It alleges there is no monitoring of data on OTT platforms, and says this is why data can be "grossly misused" by malicious parties.

Indian telcos have been raising concerns about OTT for some time. Last year, the Indian telecom regulator said "no regulatory intervention was needed" on issues relating to privacy and security of OTT services.

It has also shied away from recommending a regulatory framework for OTT services.

— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, Light Reading

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