Instant messaging should be regulated: Airtel

Instant messaging should be regulated: Airtel

Summary: With users increasingly turning to OTT messaging applications, India's largest telco is calling for a level playing field to "benefit everybody concerned" by having them be subject to rules and jurisdictions just like carriers.


Instant messaging applications should be subject to some form of regulation and jurisdictions, similar to how telcos are regulated, according to India's biggest mobile carrier Bharti Airtel.

"I think we need a framework by which these companies are subjected to similar jurisdiction... because that will benefit everybody concerned," Bharti Airtel Joint MD and CEO (India operations) Gopal Vittal said, according to PTI.

Vittal pointed out many messaging apps currently operated outside of laws and jurisdictions, which should prompt a debate over a framework overseeing them.

His comments are in line with those of SingTel CEO Chua Sock Koong, who had urged regulators to allow telcos to charge OTT players for riding on their networks in order to get back their return on investment.

Carriers have been facing eroding profit margins as consumers increasingly reduce their usage of traditional voice calls and SMS in favor of free Internet-based services offered by over-the-top players.

Last week, messaging platform WhatsApp announced it would start offering voice services by Q2, putting it in the same space as Viber and Skype. Other chat apps such as WeChat, KakaoTalk and Line have also been rapidly growing their customer base, particularly in Asia, forcing some telcos to come up with their own versions.

Topics: Telcos, Networking, Social Enterprise


Loves caption contests, leisurely strolls along supermarket aisles and watching How It's Made. Ryan has covered finance, politics, tech and sports for TV, radio and print. He is also co-author of best seller "Profit from the Panic". Ryan is an editor at ZDNet's Asia/Singapore office.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • this is about greed

    Gopal Vittal is just getting greedy. Instant messaging is based on mobile internet (which we have to pay for anyways). No user is going to pay what they pay for sms to use an instant messaging app. The future of mobile's is in internet plans, if Airtel cannot accept that their relevance in a rapidly changing technological world will simply cease to exist
  • Airtel is being Greedy! Pure jealousy and no logic!

    Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal says "because that will benefit everybody concerned". What he means is: "because that will benefit ME".

    Airtel wants to tempt the government regulators to interfere with the IM services from Facebook, Skype, WhatsApp, etc. because these services are eating into their revenues. The control freak that the government agencies are, are easy to tempt. In its shortsightedness, Airtel doesn't realise that in the long term, this will only come back to haunt itself.
  • Regulation, but not in a blanket sense

    I agree that Instant Messenger services need to be included in telecommunications regulation when they are connected to voice services. For example, Skype should be subject to the same telco rules for all connections involving their service and their interaction with traditional voice service. If it connects to a traditional phone, including cell phone voice service, it should be included.

    On the contrary, Skype to Skype or other generic IM, text, voice, or other absolutely does not need to be regulated.

    General, blanket regulation is a tool to keep competition at bay, not a tool to help protect the end user. If we approach all regulation as a matter of fact and state up front that we care not and will not protect the business and that all protection must be end user focused, we'd see them all banding together to de-regulate. It's always about the money when money is involved. It's about control when money isn't key but the technology is proprietary.

    Frequently, I wonder if we should drop an optimal fiber grid across the entire US as a government install, but localized maintenance thing, similar, but inverse as to how roads in subdivisions are built and funded by the developers then donated to the state or county, where maintenance then becomes responsibility of the new owners.