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Net Neutrality Committee says using data packs for voice is not cool

net-neutrality-reportDepartment of Telecom’s Committee on Net Neutrality said the use of data packs by consumers to make voice calls amounted to bypassing “existing licensing and regulatory regime”.

The committee therefore said that such a state of affairs must be rectified.

It did not specify how consumers were “bypassing regulations” by using their data packs for voice calling.

The Committee was set up after telecom operators said consumers should not be allowed to make voice calls using their data plans. Telecom operators argued that if consumers used their data service to make voice calls, no one would use their voice service.

The DoT committee seemed to agree with the telecom operators’ stance that usage of data packs for making calls is outside the regulatory regime, or, in other words, semi-illegal.

As a result, the committee noted, there exists “regulatory arbitrage” and consumers are taking advantage of this regulatory arbitrage to make calls using their data packs.

“In case of VoIP OTT communication services, there exists a regulatory arbitrage wherein such services also bypass the existing licensing and regulatory regime creating a non-level playing field” between telecom operators’ voice services and the usage of their data service for voice calling.

This asymmetry should be fixed by the government, the committee said.

“The nature of regulatory similarity (required), the calibration of regulatory response and its phasing can be appropriately determined after public consultations and TRAI’s recommendations to this effect,” it said.

It also pointed out that data prices are cheaper than voice prices, and that this is why consumers are using data to make voice calls instead of directly dialing the number on their phones.

It said that if voice calling is not restricted in some way, telecom operators may choose not to offer high-speed data services fearing that offering data service will hurt their voice revenue. This could affect the availability of Internet in India.

“Telecom service providers may become reluctant to invest in expansion of broadband infrastructure if the possibility exists of competitive OTT (app) communication services cannibalising expected increase in revenues from such investments. The immediate imperative for Government is to facilitate investment in broadband infrastructure and bring out policy certainty in the investment climate,” it said.

You can read the full report here.

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