A telecom industry alliance, encompassing India's leading telecommunication firms, has accused global tech giants, including Microsoft and Amazon, of potentially bypassing the legal telecom channels by using platforms like WhatsApp to send business messages. This alleged practice is believed to result in an estimated annual revenue loss of approximately Rs 3,000 crore for both the government and telecom service providers, as per a report by the Economic Times.
In a letter sent by the Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI) to Neeraj Mittal, the telecom secretary of India, it said that the big corporations are changing the legal telecom route by messaging domestic customers through WhatsApp and Telegram. This is a violation of licensing and security norms and is resulting in a loss of revenue for the exchequer. Forex earnings are also taking a hit because of this change in messaging route.
Telecom companies have highlighted this usage of unlicensed routes for sending international messages to Indian consumers in a discussion paper on defining international telecom traffic. In contrast to the cost of Rs 0.13 per domestic enterprise message, international messages are priced at approximately Rs 4-4.5 per message. Telcos claim that technology companies are exploiting these unregulated routes to circumvent international messaging fees.
The letter also called upon the government to categorize WhatsApp and Telegram as unauthorized platforms for enterprise communication, specifically for activities like generating time-limited one-time authentication codes required for device access or transaction verification.
This is not the initial instance in which major corporations have sought to alter their messaging routes. Numerous entities have been engaged in this practice for some time, transitioning from SMS to Over-The-Top (OTT) channels.
The COAI has criticized this increase as it may pose security and revenue concerns. Besides, this trend may lead to compliance threats through unregulated routes.