No rationale

No rationale

There is no genuine case or rationale  for regulating the use of internet-based voice and texting apps like WhatsApp, Viber, Skype and others by imposing a cost on them, which may be passed on to consumers.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had been considering a proposal for providers of these apps to pay connectivity charges to telecom operators and to share revenue with the government.

The proposal had come from telecom companies which claimed that they were losing revenues because of the increasing use of free apps.  They have been lobbying with the regulator and with the government to take steps to counter loss of revenue caused by the fall in number of SMS messages and phone calls.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) had prepared a white paper on the fall in revenues and increasing operational costs resulting from the use of apps to buttress their case. It was estimated that the loss may be to the tune of Rs 5,000 crore, which may go up in future.

But, it may be noted that the claimed loss is only notional. It is only the cost of services which are not actually availed of and therefore, it is unfair to penalise those who provide alternative services. The use of services of apps providers has become very popular as they are free.

They are internet-based. There is no ground for charging them because carriers already charge for internet connectivity and what users do with these services should not make any difference to the telecom companies. There is no illegality involved in their use.

Security-related issues have also been raised but the government has clarified that they have to work within the framework of the law of the land.  As long as they do that, there is no case for putting curbs on their use in any way.

Communications have become progressively easier and cheaper over time. This would not have been possible if older players had to be compensated for the purported loss of revenue caused to them with the advent of new methods of communication.

The TRAI has said that the telecom industry can expect better revenues from growing data services and better realisation rates of voice services. So, it has done well to clarify that it is not inclined to consider the demand of the industry   and further consultations on the matter may not be necessary.