Telecom Regulator To Issue Net Neutrality Recommendations Today

The consultation paper on the subject floated in January this year majorly focused on network speed so that telecom operators do not use it to give preference or prevent access to any website or service like voice calls which requires decent net speed.

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Telecom Regulator To Issue Net Neutrality Recommendations Today

Trai will send recommendations to the Department of Telecom which will take final call (File)

New Delhi:  Telecom regulator Trai plans to issue the much-awaited recommendations on Net neutrality today which is likely to impact the future of apps that provide calling and messaging services.

The consultation paper on the subject floated in January this year majorly focused on network speed so that telecom operators do not use it to give preference or prevent access to any website or service like voice calls which requires decent net speed.

"We will be bringing out Net neutrality recommendations tomorrow. You will find answers regarding OTT (over-the-top), VoIP (Internet based calls)...," Trai Chairman RS Sharma told reporters yesterday on the sidelines of an open house discussion on in- flight connectivity (IFC) for providing phone call and data services.

On the issue of Net neutrality, Telecom operators have demanded that same rules should be applied on entities providing similar services.

According to them, OTT players like Skype, Whatsapp and Viber provide calling and messaging services much like telecom operators and hence there should be level playing field between them.

Trai's consultation paper on Net neutrality was sought by the Department of Telecom (DoT) following the suggestion of a High Level Committee which proposed regulation of domestic calls on Internet-based apps by putting them at par with services offered by telecom operators.

That move came under immediate attack from various industry bodies and the civil society members.

Supporters of Net neutrality back the principle that the entire Internet traffic should be available to everyone on equal terms without any discrimination based on business considerations of service providers.

In February last year, Trai addressed a part of Net neutrality which was under its jurisdiction. It barred platforms like Facebook's Internet.Org and Airtel Zero which allowed free access to select websites to check 'gate-keeping' in cyber space.

The Trai's recommendations today will come at a time when there is a debate raging over Net neutrality globally. The US regulator, Federal Communications Commission, has said recently that it plans to roll back the "Net neutrality" rules the were adopted in America in 2015.

On the issue of in-flight connectivity, Mr Sharma said the recommendations on IFC will be issued within 10 days.

"We have done consultation with the stakeholders (on IFC). Now, that process is complete today. Hopefully in a week or 10 days' time we will be able to give our recommendations.

Lawful interception will have to be made available. We will discuss what technology will have to be used. We will take call for providing in flight connectivity," Mr Sharma said.

Representatives of satellite companies and telecom operators demanded light regulation on companies providing IFC service. Most of the players were of the view that mobile service should be allowed on flights and Internet service should be started on priority basis.

Reliance Jio representative said that communication in flights should not be restricted to satellite only but air-to-ground technologies should also be allowed. Under the air-to-ground technology, Jio said that equipment from a tower will look up in the sky and provide connectivity.

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Most of the satellite companies have favoured setting up of a gateway in India for providing IFC to address the government's security concerns.

Trai will send recommendations to the DoT which will take final call on the policy framework.

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