Free calls WhatsApp, FB, Instagram paid? DoT requests views from TRAI

The DoT asked TRAI for an opinion on the regulation of calls via Internet applications such as WhatsApp, FB, Instagram. Here is the full report.

WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and other apps that let you make calls for free may soon ask you to pay, if TRAI’s proposal goes into effect. Based on a report by The Economic Times, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has asked the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to express its views on the latter’s proposal to regulate calls Internet-based. There has been pressure from telecom operators and service providers to consider the “same service, same rules” principle for the entire industry.

TRAI originally sent this proposal in 2008, when mobile internet in India was still in its infancy. The DoT has now responded to the proposal, asking TRAI to provide a full reference. This is due to the changing technical environment with the emergence of new technologies. The new rules have been requested to be framed with internet telephony operators and even OTT players in mind.

No more free calls on the internet?

TRAI’s original recommendation dates back to 2008. It was said that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) may be allowed to provide Internet calls over normal telephone networks. However, they will have to pay interconnection fees, install legal interception equipment and comply with the various security agencies.

The issue was raised once again in 2016-2017 when the issue of net neutrality was under discussion. However, the DoT is now reviewing the proposal.

Telecom operators are said to have long been calling for a similar law for all Internet-based calling and messaging services. “[They] should pay the same level of fees, comply with regulations on lawful interception, quality of service, etc., as they apply to telecommunications operators and Internet Service Providers (ISPs),” says The report.

If such a law is finally passed, users who are heavily dependent on free texting and calling services such as Google Duo, WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Signal, Telegram and all similar services etc., will have to pay for the services. It remains to be seen how rates and charges will be applied to these services given that everything on the internet is based on data packets. Will WhatsApp users have to buy talk time separately to make voice and video calls?

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