To nobody's surprise, Indian telcos want to block WhatsApp OTT VoIP
To the surprise of absolutely no one, telcos in India are objecting to plans for WhatsApp to launch VoIP and complaining about it to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). So reports The Hindu Business Line that includes this glorious quote from a representative of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI):
“Allowing the use of VoIP/ Internet telephony at such massive scale without licensing regime would lead to a significant disruption in the existing business of TSPs and can substantially derail their investment capability”
Gee - allowing a new innovative entrant into the market would lead to "significant disruption in the existing business" of the existing telcos.
And the representative further pointed out that this could lead to a "significant loss of revenues" for the government in the form of taxes.
This is the nature of over the top (OTT) applications and services. In providing better services for customers they very often do cause "significant disruption" to existing businesses.
This is the nature of innovation.
This is the value of the "permissionless innovation" that has made the Internet the amazing tool for communication, collaboration and creation that it is today.
The folks at WhatsApp don't need to ask anyone to roll out VoIP, as articles seem to point to them being ready to do soon. (See also this AndroidWorld.nl article in Dutch.)
They just do it.
And, of course, the legacy telcos fight back using every tool in their formidable arsenal, which includes of course legislation and government lobbying such as that shown in this article.
India has not been a very friendly place for VoIP historically - and so we'll have to see what happens here - but while they can attempt to throw up as many roadblocks as they can, in the end my bet would be on the OTT services and applications to win.
They provide the services the customers want, and can probably do so at a much more reasonable cost, and in the user experience that the customers want.
A classic example of "disruptive telephony".