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The telecom regulator, reportedly, plans to study the impact of mobile apps like WhatsApp and Viber since, according to telcos, these apps are gobbling up their bandwidth and, in the case of WhatsApp, will soon be eating into their voice revenues as well. Given that, even globally, telcos have been waging an unsuccessful battle for revenue sharing with Google for years, it seems unlikely they will get a WhatsApp to share revenues with them. For years, Google and others have argued that the telcos get extra revenues each time someone does a search through her mobile.
Telcos in India have to accept that more data usage is the norm; till now, data meant using various messenger services but it could soon mean voice calls on WhatsApp. Which means telcos have to resign themselves to being mere owners of bandwidth or come up with rival apps of their own. Asking for regulation of WhatsApp or other such services by arguing they are eating into their revenues is a waste of time—for one, it is not possible to regulate them; two, it is simply resisting the march of technology. If telcos were to be governed very strictly by their licence conditions, SMS may not even have been allowed, and the pager industry would still be a vibrant one. In any case, since telcos have all bid aggressively for ‘data’ spectrum this time around, presumably this suggests they have got the message. To the extent telcos are able to battle, it should be to lower spectrum usage charges, to ensure two sets of user charges are not levied for different types of spectrum since, at the end of the day, they all do the same work.