Tech start-ups can seek DoT nod directly for beta testing services: TRAI

Soon tech start-ups can start testing their services and products on a telecom network without getting into a bilateral deal with a specific operator. The telecom regulator has suggested that a start-up with interesting products and services that will benefit users at large can seek direct permission from the Department of Telecom for conducting trials. This is part of the TRAI’s recommendation on framework for setting a Regulatory Sandbox (RS) for digital services.

While the TRAI anticipates that most RS applicants will be able to collaborate with telecom service providers, it also envisages scenarios where an applicant, despite possessing a strategically significant innovation for testing, may not be able to tie-up with an operator. “To facilitate the entry of such start-ups and innovators, the Authority has incorporated a provision encouraging these entities to establish Regulatory Sandboxes by directly approaching the approving authority. In cases where DoT deems an innovation to have widespread impact on society, economy and technology, they can intervene and ask the TSPs to provide the RS testing facility to such deserving innovations,” TRAI has said.

However, this might result into a situation where a large number of entities may opt to approach DoT directly. To discourage this, applicants are obligated to furnish sufficient justifications for applying directly, along with documents indicating their efforts to establish ties with a telco.

During the consultation process held earlier, some of the telecom operators had said there should not be any mandate on licensed service providers to partner any entity for testing any product/service under RS.

At the same time, they wanted that entities seeking participation in the RS for testing products should be obligated to enter into an agreement with a telecom operator. Only after forming this agreement, they should be allowed to jointly apply for the RS, some of the operators had said.

But the stakeholders representing the consumers were of the opinion that RS should not remain limited to telecom operators. “A range of other entities (not limited to TSPs) might be interested in working on innovations in these areas. The sandbox must provide opportunities to such entities as independent users of RS and must not be forced to tie up with TSPs,’ one of the stakeholders said.

Another stakeholder argued against putting additional obligations for applicants to justify direct application for RS testing and proving efforts to collaborate with an existing telecom operator might not be conducive for newer or unlicensed businesses to flourish. 

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