The government is unlikely to table the telecom bill in the Winter Session of Parliament as it plans to a have wider consultation on regulating OTT apps.
It is also waiting for the recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on over-the-top (OTT) communication services as telcos have demanded the same rules for the same kind of services such as WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal.
“The bill will be relevant for the coming decade, so it will need a very careful approach and meaningful discussions. That will take some time. Also, the government intends to have inter-ministerial discussions on some of the issues for greater clarity," officials said.
The draft bill of 2022 had proposed to include OTT apps such as WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram within the definition of telecommunication services.
As per the initial draft, the providers of such telecommunication services will be covered under the licensing regime and will be subjected to similar rules as other telecom operators.
However, the latest draft is likely to remove OTT apps from the definition of telecommunications services.
The Ministry of Electronics and IT (Meity) had objected to the Department of Telecommunications's (DoT) move to bring OTTs under its purview.
Meity is the nodal ministry when it comes to OTTs and other internet firms. The government plans to incorporate regulatory provisions around OTTs in the upcoming Digital India Act.
The telcos said the government’s earlier decision to include and define OTTs in the telecom bill was a prudent and forward-looking approach and deviating from the same may be a retrograde step for the telecom sector.
However, the OTT players have said they are already governed by the IT Act and any move to further regulate them would stifle innovation.