India wants to regulate WhatsApp, Telegram and other Internet calling and messaging apps

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has approached the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for its opinion on developing a framework to regulate other internet calling and messaging apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal. The old recommendation of TRAI on Internet telephony since 2008 has already been returned for review by DoT keeping in view the changes in the industry and advent of new technology.

There was demand before

In a recent media report, a government official said that TRAI’s Internet telephony recommendation was not accepted by DoT. The department has now sought a comprehensive reference from TRAI for Internet telephony and over-the-top players.

Meanwhile, telecom companies are also urging the government to make the industry equal for all on the basis of “same service, same rules”. They are urging the government to charge the same license fee and follow the same regulatory constraints and quality. Earlier, TRAI had argued against the need for regulation of apps and services that facilitate Internet telephony and Internet messaging. However, the DoT rejected the suggestions and asked for more clarifications.

DoT last week requested additional suggestions from TRAI in light of the emergence of new technology. According to the report, TRAI suggested that Internet Service Operators (ISPs) may offer Internet telephony facility to make calls over phone networks in lieu of payment of interconnection charges, which have since been done away with for telecom operators. They can offer the service only if they install the equipment for legitimate interception and pay the interconnection fee.

Will regulate messaging service operators like WhatsApp, Google Meet and Signal

Notably, the government’s proposals to regulate Internet telephony and messaging service operators such as WhatsApp, Google Meet and Signal are yet to be officially announced.

Now the question is why are telecom operators demanding to regulate internet calling and messaging? Well, with the availability of high-speed internet, people are opting for online instant messaging and prefer video and voice through internet. Due to this, the telecom sector is suffering financially. For providing calling and SMS service, these companies also pay license fee. As a workaround, these companies are asking the government to make license fee mandatory for apps that offer online calling and messaging benefits.

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