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Soon, You May Have to Pay for WhatsApp

TRAI is mulling a regulation that will charge a fee from Over-the-Top (OTT) app provider companies.
Samyak Lalit | August 6, 2014 (Last update: September 13, 2019)

Samyak Lalit is an Indian author and disability rights activist. He is the principal author and founder of projects like TechWelkin, WeCapable, Viklangta, Kavita Kosh among many others.

You, as a user may not have to pay for using WhatsApp but someone eventually may have to! Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is formulating a regulation that will force providers of free messaging apps like WhatsApp, Viber and WeChat etc. to cough up and share their revenue with the mobile services companies in India. Let’s see why these companies want a world with paid WhatsApp.

These companies are shedding tears because they are “pained” and for the need of a remedy they have knocked the door of TRAI.

So, what do they want? … Well, it is simple, “how to squeeze more money out of customers’ pocket!” They want you to make payment for WhatsApps.

WhatsApp is the most popular among free messaging apps. Recently, WhatsApp was bought by Facebook for a whopping $19 billion but it is still available free of charge for users. What Skype had done to international phone calls, WhatsApp has done the same thing to SMS. And that’s exactly where these greedy Indian mobile companies are feeling the pinch. SMS was their hen that laid golden eggs. But gone are the days of over-priced “SMS-packs”… with the arrival and popularity of free of cost chatting apps, these companies are incurring “losses”.

TRAI is mulling a regulation that will charge a fee from Over-the-Top (OTT) app provider companies.

TRAI is mulling a regulation that will charge a fee from Over-the-Top (OTT) app provider companies.

I feel that TRAI and the government are very wrong in trying to bring out such a regulation under the pressure of corporate houses. Mobile phone users already pay these companies for the internet connectivity. Now what we do with our internet connection should not be any of their business.

ALSO READ: Some very clever quotes for your WhatsApp status

But apparently sense logic has abandoned Indian cellular service providers like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular. These companies are claiming a loss of about Rs. 5000 crores (which is expected to cross Rs. 15,000 crores in next couple of years)… seriously, mobile providers are “deeply hurt” by the loss of SMS income. Therefore, now they want to fleece customers through a TRAI regulation. I am pained to see that TRAI is crumbling under pressure for such unfair demands.

According to Business Today, a senior official with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) said that the OTT players would anyway have to follow the law of the land.

“We may be asking them to put their servers in India as they get connected to any telecom network in India without getting themselves registered that is something which is also a security concern for us,” the official added.

If government forces free app providers like Facebook to pay for connectivity, these providers may have to levy a fee onto the end users of apps. Otherwise users may have to put up with irritating advertisements.

WhatsApp is not generating any revenue for Facebook. So, if FB will be forced to pay hefty amount to mobile companies, I am sure FB will somehow get this money back from the customers. After all, FB is not out there for charity work.

Indian mobile providers should see the the logic and focus on getting wider reach in order to make up for losses (if any) due to reduction in SMS usage. Cyber world is a free world. We already pay to get into it and it must be our prerogative as to what we do when we are inside. If TRAI regulation makes such apps paid, someone must go and file a case in Supreme Court against mobile service providers.

Let Internet (read WhatsApp) be free. Puhleeeze!…

Update on 21 August 2014

Good news fellas!!! TRAI has rejected the proposal! It has refused to charge payment for the use of facilities like WhatsApp. A TRAI official told the site, “One-third of the incremental revenue of the telecom industry is coming from data services itself. As far as the voice services are concerned, there is an upswing in the realisation rates. There is no proposal for a consultation paper (on regulating companies offering free messaging and calling services).”


5 responses to “Soon, You May Have to Pay for WhatsApp”

  1. Naga says:

    Hi Lalit – I’ve a basic question to ask you. How does Whatsapp work? Looks like Whatsapp is using only the internet to send our SMS but then why does it require our phone numbers to be added then?

    Is it that Whatsapp wants to completely eliminate the traditional SMS system and make folks rely on theirs only?

    Please correct my understanding, if it is wrong


    • Lalit Kumar says:

      Hi Naga, in a broad way you are right about WhatsApp. But it is quite a bit different from traditional SMS. For example, WhatsApp can very easily send multimedia also. WhatsApp has heavily affected SMS business, but it was bound to happen. Even WhatsApp may disappear as more powerful applications will appear on the horizon when Internet penetration and bandwidth will increase.

      WhatsApp uses phone number as an identity (like a user name). All phone numbers are unique, so it is easy to use them as identity. Instead of asking users to select and then remember a username, WhatsApp simply detects and use phone number to uniquely identify a person (and a SIM card)

  2. Sharad Singh Sankhla says:

    TechwinWelkin always works in the public interest. Interest of people in SMS service go down due heavy charges.
    Soon people may keep distance from Facebook and Whatsapp.

  3. Jason says:

    Greedy mobile operators, it is not that all completely stopped using SMS. Many ppl still do and the cost of the sms pack increases on random basis. That’s why many switch to Messaging apps.

  4. Bal Krishnan says:

    Be prepared for taxes to be levied on walking; your walking causes loss to transport sector.

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