New Delhi: A day after the country’s telecom regulator recommended expanding the reach and use of Internet-based phone services, a senior official at the department of telecommunications, or DoT, said the telecom policymaking arm of the government may not accept some of the proposals on grounds of quality of service and security issues.
Current telecom rules allow calls between computer to computer to be made over the Internet within India and computer to phone internationally. Calls from a computer, connected to the Internet through a broadband or high data speed connection, to a phone or vice versa are not yet legal though the technology has been around for years and there are several websites and Internet firms, owned and run overseas, that offer the service.
Taking charge: Siddhartha Behura, secretary, department of telecom, says the technical aspects of Trai’s recommendations will be discussed. (Photograph: Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint)
Recommendations by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, or Trai, would open the technology to connect the some 330 million mobile and fixed-line phone users to computers or usher in new Internet calling devices.
Under telecom legislation, Trai suggestions have to be accepted by DoT for them to become law.
Most of the regulator’s recommendations in the past have been accepted by the government but, in recent weeks, differences have emerged between the two over how DoT will farm out licences for so-called third generation phone services and number portability, a scheme that will allow phone customers to switch service providers but retain the same number.
A DoT official, who is directly involved in regulatory decisions, was of the view that quality of service of calls made on the Internet was of primary concern for the department.
“DoT’s mandate is to provide quality telephone service to consumers. At the present situation, the quality of service for voice calls through internet is not as good as in developed countries. This is mainly due to the bandwidth availability. DoT may cite this reason and ask for modifications in the recommendations,” the official said, seeking anonymity as he is not authorized to speak to the media.
While, in light of a review by the Union home ministry of the rules for encryption used on smart phones such as the BlackBerry, which enable email and Internet access, the latest Trai recommendations could run into a hurdle.
“Trai has mandated provision of interception of (Internet) calls by Internet service providers (ISPs) and this could take care of the security issue,” said Saurabh Kaushal, a technology analyst with consultant Frost and Sullivan.
DoT secretary Siddhartha Behura said he was yet to read all the Trai recommendations and that the technical aspects would be discussed internally before being discussed at the telecom commission, the apex body at DoT.
“On the face of it, they (Trai) have done a good job, but we will have to see who will benefit from it,” said Behura. “Overall the decision will be taken to allow level playing field for all those involved.”
The Cellular Operators Association of India, a lobby group of mobile phone service firms, on Monday said it was opposed to the Trai recommendation of allowing ISPs to offer calls without paying a licence fee.
Phone service firms have to pay Rs1,650 crore as a licence fee to be able to offer mobile or fixed-line phone services in India.