While a six-member department of telecommunications (DoT) team is examining if over-the-top (OTT) players who offer voice services need to be licensed — as part of Trai’s larger consultation on net neutrality — DoT is also getting separate inputs from the home ministry on security-related issues.
Discussions of the committee with OTT players over the past few days have also focused on 24×7 monitoring of such calls which is something the telecom companies have to do by law today. At least one OTT present at the meeting earlier this week said it would get back with details of whether monitoring was possible and, if so, how.
Top government sources said that the home ministry is being consulted on how OTTs are to be monitored since they do not have servers in India.
Government officials said they did not want the matter to escalate to the level it did with RIM, now BlackBerry — there was a very public battle between the government and RIM for several years over providing real-time data to security agencies and installing servers in India.
While the battle between telcos and OTT players has escalated over the past few months, telcos have been demanding a level playing field in terms of the licence fees they pay and what the OTTs pay; they have also been demanding that the government ask OTTs to provide real-time monitoring in the manner they are obliged to do.