The Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI), on Tuesday, made a strong pitch for over-the-top (OTT) communications services to directly compensate telcos for data traffic they are driving onto the networks, as it advocated a licensing and light-touch regulation framework for such services.

In its suggestions to the draft Telecom Bill, the telecom operators’ body said there should be a level-playing field — the same service, same rules for telecom service providers (TSPs) and OTT communication service providers.

“All communication services, including OTT, are today engineered on the IP network set up the telco and, therefore, they are really speaking something akin to VOIP (voice over Internet protocol),, whether it is OTT or TSP or anybody else who is using these networks to reach out to the consumers, he has to first go to OSI (open systems interconnection) layers of IP networks and the offering to the subscribers is technically on the applications,” SP Kochhar. Director General, COAI told reporters here.

He said an OTT is not an TSP, but it is riding on the TSP’s network; so, therefore, they need to ‘compensate or contribute’ and take ownership and not confuse the issue.

OTT communication service providers can pay directly to TSPs for use of networks for providing their services in a fair and equitable manner by way of an equivalent of “interconnect charge” (network access charge) for the actual traffic carried by these OTTs on TSPs’ networks, which can be easily measured, he said.

Contribution of OTTs to network costs can be based on assessable criteria like volume of traffic, turnover threshold, number of users, the COAI suggestions said, adding that since the TSPs will be receiving the revenue from OTTs as part of their telecommunications services rendered, they would automatically be paying license fee to the government (as part of TSPs’ AGR) on an incremental basis to the extent of the payments by OTTs to TSPs.