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Telcos didn’t want to raise rev-share, b2b issues for mobile VAS, so why for Internet services? – Subho Ray, President, IAMAI

This is a part of our ongoing coverage from presentations and comments made at the TRAI seminar on regulation of Internet services, held on the 5th of August 2014 in Delhi. Check our entire coverage here. Please pardon the typos.

Some statements are paraphrased, and some comments may have been missed.

Subho Ray, President, IAMAI:

“On a lighter note, in the last 15 years, I have never seen a presentation from the telecom industry which has not painted a doomsday picture for the industry. All these beautiful presentations do exactly that: ‘The industry is dying, it is in the last gasps, and the reasons are external factors like OTT, VAS guys, this that or the other’. I saw a lot of consistency today in that stance. That is on a lighter note.

On a slightly more serious note, the presentations that we saw from the telcos, clearly laid out the problem. As I understood it, the problem is business-to-business. There are usually other factors, but today, those were discarded. What I saw were primarily business to business issues. I have, in my last 15 years, primarily on the other side of the table, I’ve understood how telco’s and regulators deal with business to business issues. I’ll take you back seven years, when I went to the regulator with an issue, regarding Mobile VAS, I was told clearly by the operators that do not raise ‘rev-share’ issues. It is a B2B issue. I was told by the regulators, ‘we are not here to fix business problems.’ Today, I see telco CEO’s coming and saying ‘fix our revenue issues, our top-line and bottom-line issues. I can give the same answer to telcos today.

The third point is, slightly more seriously. The OTT’s are new here, and they are coming on the mobile platform, which is also very new. I think the business relationship between 2 or three large OTT’s, and three of the largest telecom operators in our country is yet to be scripted. We have to give sufficient time for business between these categories to grow, before we find can find some indication of a market failure and start looking at it. Because the regulator had said that unless they see a case of market failure, they will not regulate business to business. We have to give it three years or four years, to see if it is harming telcos or harming OTT’s.

Finally, I can submit to you, that there is a strong case of regulatory intervention to make the telcos slightly more freer from the shackles that they are burdened with at this point in time. Those shackles were mentioned, that for everything you start, you have to take regulatory clearance and it takes three months, there are rampant fines. I am all in favor of removing those shackles so that our Telco principals can become more competitive, faced with such overseas competition. There is no case for bringing the OTT’s down to the same level and burdening them with the same shackled, which is the argument that was being made: ‘We are chained and we want our competitors to be chained.’ My argument is that let us work together to remove those chains, instead of chaining everyone, and going back to a scenario where there are no OTT.”

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