The advent of the Internet, proliferation of mobile telephony, adoption of new technology, coupled with the burgeoning growth of an innovation-driven, start-up eco-system and the Digital India vision, have created the perfect environment for rampant economic development and transformation of India through the use of technology.
A large part of the success of India's product start-ups in particular, rests on their unrestricted access to Internet and Internet platforms and services.
This trend, however, seems, on the face of it, to be at variance with the needs of the telecom industry and its strategies for survival. Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) not only need to scale infrastructure to keep up with forever expanding Internet traffic to meet the needs of new age users, they also need to step up revenues to offset these infrastructure investments.
Revenue models of TSPs today largely cater to a voice-dominated scenario, and are relatively low in terms of data intensity. Web 2.0 and its advent has seen an upsurge of content which is very heavily data driven and continues to expand at an exponential rate.
The new breed of application providers, the emerging product and services eco-system, is leveraging the Internet and the infrastructure of TSPs to deliver these data-centric services.
This tussle between applications providers and TSPs has led India's telecom regulator, TRAI, to deliberate on a Regulatory Framework for Over-the-Top (OTT) services. Simply explained, OTT services are audio, video and other media offerings that are delivered by third parties over the Internet, without involving a multiple system operator. According to Wikipedia, "besides the content of the Internet protocol packets, TSPs are not responsible for, nor able to control the viewing abilities, copyrights and/or other redistribution of content".
While it is true that OTT services do cut into the revenues of the TSPs, the fact is they spur data consumption, leading to a sustained rise in the revenues of these telecom companies.
What is really needed is a synergy between the two segments, where eventually revenue streams will be calibrated to the consumption of data. The OTT model of service delivery can be reconciled with the business model of the TSP.
For this to happen, there needs to be an understanding of the guiding principles of Net neutrality, an issue which is receiving a lot of attention in the media today. Net neutrality implies that users have unfettered, inviolable rights to choose the legal content they want to view over the Internet.
NASSCOM believes that users have a right to choose and that this right is seriously compromised when regulations fail to proscribe price and non-price based discrimination, which imposes an unnecessary and unacceptable demand on data curtailment.
Keeping in mind the different arguments being put forth, NASSCOM has proposed to TRAI a synergistic model for Internet platforms, applications and TSPs. It has strongly advocated Net neutrality and recommended that:
The universal principles of Net neutrality, access for all and leveraging Internet for development growth should be upheld
Given the variety of definitions worldwide, it is important to recognize that unfettered user rights of making an informed choice in deciding access to contents is the bedrock of Net neutrality
There should be no roadblocks to the rapid adoption of ICT enabled models and innovations that are expected to drive the Digital revolution in the country