In 2016, Reliance Jio revolutionised India’s relationship with data by drastically reducing the cost of 4G data to rock-bottom levels. This move ushered in an internet boom as tech giants like Meta (formerly Facebook), Google, and other internet companies capitalised on the availability of cheap data to offer a wide range of services to Indians. These services spanned digital transactions, calls, food delivery, and entertainment, giving rise to multiple unicorns in India’s start-up ecosystem.

As the telecom operators seek their share of the pie, the government is contemplating new regulatory measures to bring over-the-top (OTT) applications under the purview of the Ministry of Communications.

Read: Telcos urge ‘fair share’ contribution from OTT players

In this episode of the State of the Economy podcast, businessline’s Ayushi Kar speaks to Mansi Kedia, Senior Fellow, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, and Bharath Reddy, Programme Manager, The Takshashila Institution, about the various aspects of this regulatory debate.

The telecom operators argue that they are burdened with high taxes, regulatory costs, and infrastructure expenses, while OTT platforms benefit without complying with these obligations. With revenues from calls and SMS plummeting, telecom companies rely heavily on data for their income. They argue that they need a level playing field and contributions from OTT players to invest in network upgrades, especially for the transition to 5G.

Read: OTT, ed-tech platforms driving global payments to Indian businesses: Razorpay report

The debate explores the sincerity of these arguments, potential alternatives for funding infrastructure, and the challenges of regulating OTT apps. Key issues such as net neutrality, selective app banning during unrest, and the appropriate regulatory authority for OTT apps are discussed.

Read: What’s new in the new The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2023

In conclusion, the podcast presents a nuanced discussion on the complexities of regulating OTT apps and telecom operators in the context of India’s evolving digital landscape. Listen in.

(Host: Ayushi Kar, Producer: Nabodita Ganguly & Jayapriyanka J)


About the State of the Economy podcast

India’s economy has been hailed as a bright spot amid the general gloom that seems to have enveloped the rest of the world. But several sectors continue to stutter even as others seem set to fire on all cylinders. To help you make sense of the bundle of contradictions that the country is, businessline brings you podcasts with experts ranging from finance and marketing to technology and start-ups.