Now, No More Free Local Calls on Skype, Whatsapp & Viber

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These days the major concern that’s gaining limelight is that Skype, Whatsapp & Viber would no longer be able to make domestic calls for free. A government committee upheld the concept of net neutrality. Its recommendations have raised the concerns for consumers and startups, as free domestic calls would not be allowed. However, international calls and instant messaging through voice over internet protocol services will remain free, if the recommendations are properly implemented.

Another suggestion put-forth by the committee is that zero-rating platforms should be treated on the case-by-case basis as well as clearance should be sought from the telecom regulator Trai.

In a major dampener for the end consumers, the report states that the VoIP services must be licensed in the same way, as the mobile operators are licensed. This means that the providers of such services would have to pay a license fee, which would eventually prompt them to charge money from the customers for using their services.

The logic provided by the committee is that the calls made via internet (calls through Viber, WhatsApp and Skype), are almost 6x cheaper than those made via conventional mobile network. Further, it claims that VoIP players do not have to comply with licensing conditions, thus they enjoy regulatory arbitrage. On the other hand, these conditions are mandated on telecom operators such as Vodafone, Airtel, Idea Cellular and so on.

The committee felt that this is a serious matter of concern for the policy makers. The committee reiterates that domestic OTT communication services should be governed via licensing powers available under the section 4 of Indian Telegraph Act. This report would be studied now by the government. Moreover, the committee has invited recommendations and suggestions from the public via discussion forum

This move is being largely seen as highly beneficial as it would aid the development of various applications by new-age entrepreneurs and startups.

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