India should not delay adopting VoIP and Internet Telephony recommendation of TRAI in consumer interest


VoIP as anyone who would search about it on the internet would know it by its full name Voice over Internet Protocol. The use of VoIP is made to share voice communication in the form of packet networks that would come to use for carrying data.  It may not be make any sense to the layman but those of us who know how the telecommunication industry functions would have already understood what I mean by telling the people at large about VoIP in India.

Google Talk and Skype are two big players based on the VoIP technology that have changed the face of Internet Telephony. Ideas for establishing integrated networks where packet networks would both carry voice and data simultaneously are nothing new but the recent expansion that took place in VoIP coupled with higher bandwidth available in the network. Increase in the usage of this service is due to “network effect” and as new users enter the network it also drives the growth in new subscriptions. A model like this can also drive down costs for the businesses and the benefit of low cost trickles down to consumers.

It needs no over emphasizing to tell anyone how telecommunication has fared in India as a whole. Being leaders in the industry, reforms and new technology adoptions must take place continuously so as to make the industry competitive and in the benefit of consumers in the long run. However as ours is democracy that needs a crisis situation every time to start adopting fresh approach, this time also the case is no different. When Internet Telephony has gained ground in many other countries why has it not been adopted in India till now.

Broadband users in India have already started to benefit from it but it is still not a substantially used service. These users make unlimited calls nationally whereas are asked to pay fraction of a cost to make international calls.  People who have used Over-The-Top (OTT) services from service providers like Vonage or Skype in US have also pointed out at a reduction in their monthly bills by over 50%. The trend of using VoIP as Closed Group Service by companies in India have also picked up leaving only the regular consumer to which its services haven’t reached yet. The reason behind this is according to many is the lack of policy support for VoIP.

Rules and regulations governing VoIP has been lacking and far confusing till now. In the past since 1999, government has sometimes adopted a stricter outlook whereas in other instances it has remained supportive of the service. However government has never allowed the service to be availed unconditionally and thus it remains under availed. Chances have emerged once again now where the service may pick up once more if the potential in recent evolution of the service is tapped.

Policy if framed suitably for the service can further strengthen its growth. Even interconnection of internet through public mobile service providers was also restricted till 2006. As a result PC-to-PC VoIP calls, reception of VoIP calls on landline or mobile phones from abroad was prohibited. Even lobbying from National Long Distance (NLD) operators in India have also got NLD VoIP calls restricted. These restrictions were however scrapped for the Unified Access Service providers (UAS) which didn’t serve much as the UAS providers kept thinking that these VoIP offerings may undermine their already well paying voice services. Lobbying of mobile and NLD service providers is so strong that even after TRAI recommending for scrapping of the restrictions in 2008, it is still in place preventing Internet Service Providers (ISP) to offer their VoIP services.

TRAI has released its list of recommendations for grant of Unified License on 12th April, 2012 and is waiting for the Telecom Ministry and Commission’s nod. Where one of the recommendations states that license holder must be allowed to offer unrestricted internet telephony and VoIP service. The fees for converting the ISP license to Unified license is astronomically high though from 30 lakh to 15 crore for an all-India license but its sure to bring a change in the VoIP game for sure.

Soon internet service providers with spectrum for providing broadband services will migrate to unified license. It’s not far away in time when disagreements on interconnection and termination charges between mobile operators and ISPs providing unrestricted internet telephony will start appearing on the Indian scene also.

Source: Economic Times

Photo: FCC

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2 thoughts on “India should not delay adopting VoIP and Internet Telephony recommendation of TRAI in consumer interest

  1. Bharani Kumar said on Twitter about the story, “In india voip will not be a success. We leaped wired telephony to wireless!”. That’s his stand, you can also share your opinion in the comments section.

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