WhatsApp, Signal May Not Need Licences To Operate In India: Report

WhatsApp, Signal May Not Need Licences To Operate In India: Report

WhatsApp and Signal, the over-the-top (OTT) communication platforms, may not need licences to operate in India but will have to step up user protection, according to report by Livemint. The report said that a consensus that user protection must be prioritised has emerged from the talks between the government and the stakeholders on the draft telecom bill.

According to Livemint, the report said that various stakeholders will continue to discuss the “light-touch regulations” for the OTT communication platforms.

Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw in September said the draft telecom bill focuses on two points: protection of consumers and regulations. The regulations will be put in place primarily to protect customers from cyberattacks and will only be “light touch”.

The minister added that the new bill which replaces the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933, and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1950 will not dilute the powers of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

According to some officials privy to the matter, Livemint said, “What we understand now is that people (OTTs) are okay with user protection-related regulations…they did not want to have a licence and that was not our intent as well.”

However, many telecom firms have repeatedly urged the central government to bring OTTs under the licensing regime, while saying that the ITTs must be asked to comply with security requirements and other regulatory obligations.

A new, clearer definition of OTT communication services has also been sought by the Indian telecom companies in the new telecom bill.

Meanwhile, TRAI’s apprehensions over potential dilution of powers under the draft telecom bill have been addressed, and the government may look at the option of taking up provisions related to strengthening of the regulatory body separately at a later stage, The Department of Telecommunications (DOT) sources said.

On OTT communication apps, sources said, the focus is on user protection related regulation, not licencing. The DOT, through the provisions of the draft bill, will come down heavily on spammers and those indulging in cyber frauds, sources said.

Amid reports of TRAI’s opposition to certain clauses of the draft telecom bill, that were seen diluting its powers, sources said, ​​​discussions have taken place between the two sides. All the outstanding issues have been resolved, they said.

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