Trai Consultation Paper on Broadband Next Month; WhatsApp, Skype to Follow

Trai Consultation Paper on Broadband Next Month; WhatsApp, Skype to Follow
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) will invite views of public on issues related to roll-out of broadband in the country by end of next month.

Trai is also planning to issue a consultation paper to discuss regulatory framework for over-the-top (OTT) players like WhatsApp, Skype, Viber, WeChat etc.

The OTT players facilitate free calls and messaging services, making it affordable for consumers to use them. Telecom subscribers are required to pay only Internet charges to their operators for using OTT services.

"Hopefully we will come out with paper on broadband may be by end of next month," Trai Chairman Rahul Khullar said at a telecom summit organised by industry chamber Assocham.

Khullar clarified that the paper will be around issues related to roll-out of broadband services in the country. The Trai Chairman said the pace of broadband roll-out in the country is disappointing.

In this regard, he referred to the roll-out under national optical fibre network which aims to connect 2.5 lakh village panchayat with high speed broadband by 2017.

"Our progress has been very disappointing. Of 1.8 lakh kilometres cable that has been ordered, 15,000 km has been delivered which is less than 10 percent. Of the 6 lakh km for ducting, actual achievement is 2,000 km which is roughly about 0.3 percent...There are lessons to be learnt from this. We didn't go as far as we could," Khullar said.

Later speaking on the sidelines of the event, Khullar said that Trai will also come up with consultation paper on OTT players.

As per the process, Trai consults public before framing any recommendation for a new sectoral policy. The regulator then sends its recommendations to government for policy formulation. After this, it is government's prerogative whether to form a policy or new rule based on Trai's recommendation.

Telecom operators have been pushing for a regulatory framework around OTT players as they see applications like Skype, WhatsApp, Viber etc., as competitors who are cutting telecom operator revenues in voice-calling and messaging segment.

At global level, Internet-based companies have been opposing any move that can make access to online services expensive or put any restrain on flow of information over the Internet.

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