Indian telecom companies are ready to fight WhatsApp, Skype and other OTT apps for stealing their revenue ans has asked TRAI to charge a fee from such data-based service providers. OTT or over-the-top facilities are those which use the internet to function, meaning operators do not earn as much from them as SMS or calls.

The only benefit positive thing companies like Bharti Airtel, Reliance, Vodafone and others can look forward to from the rising popularity of WhatsApp, Skype, BBM and similar options is revenue from customers using higher amounts of data. But this does not really make up for the losses incurred due to the declining preference for sending texts and making calls over a regular network.

Though discussion in an initial stage, the regulator and participants shed light on the OTT players’ impact on telecom companies as well as measures to cope with the new challenge. The regulator said it is analysing the OTT services’ ecosystem. If the operators have their way, the OTT players may be asked to pay for connectivity charges to the service providers as well as share some revenue with the government.

One could say that telecom companies have been slow to react to a massive sea change in mobile usage, not being wise enough to see where the market was trending towards. It could be called vision paralysis, but that’s not a consideration for the average user. For users, the big question is will I have to pay to use WhatsApp. And what if I have already paid? This is where things get tricky. While telcos want regulation, it’s not yet clear who will incur the costs, or whether costs will be for all OTT services or only the ones being used most. What counts as a OTT service? There’s really no clarity.

“We want some kind of regulatory help to get a level playing field. There are so many regulations binding on us but the same don’t exist for OTT players,” telecom industry veteran TV Ramachandran said on behalf of operators.

TRAI Secretary Sudhir Gupta later said that the idea of the meeting was not to protect the revenue of the telecom operators, but to understand whether any kind of regulations were needed on OTT services.