Voice call services of popular apps like WhatsApp, Signal, Google Meet, Skype, Facetime, Viber, among others, are likely to come under government regulation. Messaging may be left untouched as it is already being regulated under the intermediary rules, which came into force from May 26, 2021.
Last week, the department of telecommunications (DoT) sent a reference to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) seeking its recommendations on a framework for regulating Internet calls by such apps. Officials said that final rules in this regard will be made after receiving Trai’s recommendations.
The move basically means that there won’t be any fresh regulation for messaging, but these companies would need to take licence from the government to provide local or national long distance (NLD) call services.
What needs to be worked out is how such a segregation between calling and messaging services would be done.
If brought under a licensing framework, such firms would need to provide legal interception of calls, which currently applies to telecom operators, to security agencies. They would also need to pay an annual licence fee to the government.
Sources said that the basis of sending a reference to Trai on this matter is a 2015 DoT-appointed panel report, which had suggested regulation for internet calls via apps.