OTT communications, broadcasting, cannot be described as communication services.

The Broadband India Forum (BIF), which represents technology companies, said that Internet calling services, broadcast services and Internet-based communications cannot be described as telecom services and therefore should not be subject to scope licensing.

The submission of the BIF came on the last day of the deadline for submitting comments on the telecoms bill. According to officials, nearly 900 comments have been received and work has already begun on drafting a revised communications law.

Emphasizing the point about OTTs, the BIF said in its submission that placing these players under the scope of a telecom service license implies that the government holds only the exclusive privileges to decide, build, develop and operate OTT applications. “Such a situation is completely abnormal and highly impractical and will lead to the collapse of the entire application ecosystem and thus affect innovation and economic growth.”

The BIF, which counts technical players such as Meta, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Intel, TCS, OneWeb, Star and others as its members, has provided that the definition of a telecommunications service should be modified keeping in mind that a license should be required for a telecommunications network. The BIF echoes the views of another body of tech players, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), which has also demanded that content and broadcasting should be kept out of the telecom domain. In contrast, telecom companies like Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea as well as the Cellular Operators Industry Association of India (COAI) want the government to bring OTTs under the regulatory regime.

All stakeholders presented their views on the telecom bill, which was put up for public consultation in September. The DoT has attempted to simplify the language and regulatory framework in the bill, which will be the nodal legislation governing the telecoms sector.

The BIF said that while it appreciates the need to update the framework, it should not dismiss the existing one.

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