At a time when the government is proposing to regulate OTT communication applications such as WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, cloud telephony players believe that the regulation of OTT communication services is essential for the protection of end users and national security.
Cloud telephony refers to a communications service that offers businesses a cost-effective way to set up a virtual call center using a telecommunications network and the Internet, eliminating the need for traditional systems such as as the private telephone network or private automatic branch exchange (EPABX) used by businesses to handle customer calls, or internal communications.
Simply put, if any customer service center from Amazon or Flipkart has managed to handle multiple calls during the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s thanks to a virtual call center that also offers features like answering interactive voice, automated call recordings, call routing, etc. .
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Much like telecom operators, the reason cloud telephony players support the government’s move to regulate OTTs is the demand for a level playing field. At a time when cloud telephony players have to obtain numerous licenses to offer services, OTT communication providers, although offering some similar services, are not regulated by the government.
“The proposal to place communication players on the Internet and OTT under common law is a well-thought-out long-term measure. This helps create a level playing field in the industry and ensures that the interests of end users in India can truly be protected by the DoT as we bring these OTT players under India’s telecom regulations,” said Gaurav Agrawal, senior vice president at Exotel.
“The government can then guide this industry through telecommunications and data protection regulations to better protect users and enhance national security,” Agrawal said.
Exotel is a comprehensive consumer engagement platform and offers solutions such as a business communication suite, Voice-Over Internet Protocol (VoIP), among other cloud telephony solutions.
“If OTT participants were also subject to licensing requirements, the services would undoubtedly be safe and secure,” said Vidhu Nautiyal, co-founder and chief revenue officer at CloudConnect Communications. The company also provides enterprise communications solutions and recently obtained a virtual network operator license for its services in Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
According to Nautiyal, the telecommunications bill will also pave the way for the recognition of licensed cloud telephony players in the country: “So under the current scenario, this (the telecommunications bill) does not should not affect the cloud telephony industry; instead, this should be an encouraging turn of events for cloud telephony players,” he said.
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Apart from the level playing field, these companies also welcome the government’s argument for a mandatory KYC requirement for calls on OTT apps. “KYC and lawful interception will help users in the long run as they will be more effective tools to control financial fraud on OTT platforms. The government could also put in place DLT-like measures to ensure spam on OTT players is under control,” Agrawal said.
A distributed ledger technology is a blockchain solution that is currently used by telecommunications companies to verify authentic senders of messages and control SMS spam.
According to experts, many corporate customers of cloud telephony players complain that their virtual numbers appear as spam to their customers, causing them to lose the business.
Once formalized, KYC standards will also help solve the problem to a greater extent, as call recipients will know the identity of the other person. Through the Telecommunications Bill, the government has also proposed a strict penalty in case the information provided by anyone during the KYC is incorrect.
While telecom operators such as Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea have also pushed for regulation on OTT communication apps, the same is opposed by some industry bodies on the grounds that it would overload OTT apps. with multiple regulations. Currently, telecom companies have to buy spectrum and comply with regulations while offering voice and data services, while OTT players can provide free audio and video calls, eating away at telecom players’ revenues.
At this stage, key government departments are also not aligned on the regulation of OTT communication players. The government will soon organize a stakeholder discussion on the draft telecommunications law.