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View from India: TRAI has announced ‘light-touch regulatory framework’ for CSPs

Image credit: DT

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), a statutory body initiated by the Government of India, has released its recommendations on cloud services this week.

As per the recommendations, the Department of Telecom (DoT) may initiate the first industry-led body with all cloud service providers (CSPs) as its members. This recommendation is part of the ‘light-touch regulatory framework’.  

The industry body would lay down broad principles and procedures to aid its functioning. The scope of CSPs may be initially limited to providers offering Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service in India, or to customers in India, the regulator said. 

The regulator mooted that the first industry body could be set up by DoT as a non-profit body in a three-step process. This includes the enrolment of CSPs operating in India; formation of an ad hoc body to frame broad rules, organisational structure and election procedure; and election of office bearers to take over its functioning as a regular industry body. 

The body may review its experience and further deliberate upon the need to form multiple bodies for different purposes, including requirements of different market segments. DoT may require a review after two years or such time as it considers appropriate. 

It is also recommended to create a Cloud Service Advisory Group to function as an oversight body to periodically review the progress of cloud services, and suggest to the government any actions required. This advisory group may consist of representatives of state IT departments, MSME associations, consumer advocacy groups, industry experts and representatives of law enforcement agencies.

All these recommendations reinforce the growth of cloud-computing services in the last decade. The impact is transformative in nature; it has changed the way governments, enterprises and consumers store and process data, as well as manage resources. India’s cloud-computing market is poised for growth; it is increasingly being integrated into businesses as well as retail segments. Complementing the ecosystem are futuristic technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, advanced analytics and immersive media, which aid in the seamless adoption of Software as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service offerings.

Here are some emerging trends to look out for: Cloud will be an integral part of the new and existing technologies. New business models like the consumption-based model and the Everything as a Service model may help in the future adoption of cloud.  

Like cloud technology, over-the-top (OTT) streaming platforms are gaining momentum. OTT, which has had a niche status in India, has become a mainstream option during the pandemic. Entertainment options have seen a change due to Covid; going out to a movie seems a bit distant now. With individuals being confined to their homes, they have begun to browse for entertainment, which was not the case before. Consequently, high-value premium content across services has now found wider acceptance than earlier times. Along with revenue-sharing models, new business models are being unlocked in the OTT communication services. There will be a rise of content creators as OTT players distribute streaming media over the internet; this will be across genres and languages as well. 

It is, therefore, understandable that TRAI this week stated that OTT communication services don’t need a regulatory framework as of now. 

In fact, the 2019 KPMG report ‘Unravelling the digital video consumer’ had projected the rise of home entertainment as those with direct-to-home cable connections are proliferating. India’s online video market is potentially one of the most exciting in the world. The report has estimated that India will have more than 500 million online video subscribers by FY 2023. In India, internet video traffic is projected to reach 13.5 Exabytes (EB) per month by 2022, up from 1.5EB per month in 2017; with video contributing 77 per cent of all internet traffic by 2022. The largest gains in this rising consumption is the increase in options available to the viewer, the depth of interactivity available on engagement with video, and many viewers spilling over the line to become creators. 

As India witnesses a change in the definition of mass general entertainment, movies and sport are likely to be ‘driver content’ and digital original series would likely be an important tool in defining this transition in culture. 

Forthcoming opportunities for India unfold in the form of technology stack in order to efficiently deliver content to different audience types in different languages and genres. There will be an evolution in the business of ‘Big Data’, resulting in more qualitative viewing sessions and predictive viewer behaviour. This will throw light on consumer purchase patterns across products and services. 

Collaboration would be an important theme, including cross-border, and this would have different shapes and forms that we haven’t seen in the traditional media business. Another trend to watch out for is the growing importance of interactive video. It will get a new meaning as viewers not only ‘watch the video’ but will also be able to ‘feel the video.’

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