UN­RE­STRICTED IN­TER­NET TELE­PHONY LIKELY SOON

Financial Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - AN­JANA DAS

AF­TER eight years since its launch, in­ter­net tele­phony may fi­nally ar­rive in In­dia with le­gal clar­ity next month. The De­part­ment of Tele­com (DoT) is likely to give a go-ahead for un­re­stricted voice ser­vice through this plat­form, ac­cord­ing to sources.

The Tele­com Reg­u­la­tory Au­thor­ity of In­dia (Trai)) last year had come out with a con­sul­ta­tion pa­per on this and in its rec­om­men­da­tions, Trai clar­i­fied that in­ter­net tele­phony ser­vice be un­teth­ered from ac­cess net­work, which means the ser­vice can be pro­vided by an op­er­a­tor to sub­scribers who may be us­ing in­ter­net ser­vices of an­other op­er­a­tor. The Tele­com Com­mis­sion — the pol­icy mak­ing body of DoT — is meet­ing on May 1 and is likely to ap­prove Trai rec­om­men­da­tions on in­ter­net tele­phony, sources said, adding that the gov­ern­ment is keen to push dig­i­tal in­clu­sion in a big scale. The un­re­stricted ser­vices, how­ever, could be lim­ited to only tele­com ser­vice providers who can pro­vide in­ter­net tele­phony from the un­der­ly­ing ac­cess net­work.

It will not al­low over the top (OTT) play­ers like Skype and What­sapp to of­fer such ser­vices. Vir­tual net­work op­er­a­tors could also get the ap­proval to of­fer in­ter­net tele­phony as pro­posed by Trai. Though call rates are al­ready low at present and Reliance Jio al­ready gives voice calls free, there are still voice tar­iffs in In­dia across all tel­cos. In­ter­net tele­phony will bring it fur­ther down.

In­ter­net tele­phony was al­lowed way back in 2010. But it failed to take off as a maze of laws and mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion of rules and the ob­ses­sion of the op­er­a­tors to earn rev­enue through mo­bile voice tele­phony ham­pered its take-off.

In­ter­net tele­phony has been an­other key dis­con­tent be­tween Reliance Jio and other in­cum­bent op­er­a­tors. Jio has been sup­port­ing un­re­stricted in­ter­net tele­phony whereas in­cum­bents were of the view it should be al­lowed only by them on their net­works.

When con­tacted Cel­lu­lar Op­er­a­tors As­so­ci­a­tion of In­dia said any such at­tempt to pro­vide con­nec­tiv­ity through other ser­vice provider’s in­ter­net con­nec­tion is equal to any OTT Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Ser­vice and not In­ter­net Tele­phony Ser­vice as en­vis­aged un­der the cur­rent li­cens­ing regime.

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