New Delhi: With the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, or Trai, recommending that Internet telephony services be permitted, industry experts predicted this will increase broadband penetration as more consumers sign up for cheap phone services offered over the Internet.
Internet telephony, also known as Voip, or voice over Internet protocol, allows users to make and receive calls on a computer connected to the Internet, to a fixed-line or mobile phone or, another computer device.
Larger play: Trai chairman Nripendra Mishra. In its recommendations to DoT, the telecom regulator said all Internet service providers should be permitted to provide unrestricted Internet telephony services. (Photograph: Ramesh Pathania / Mint)
Trai said in its recommendations that, globally, telecom was being shaped by steep growth of broadband delivered by Internet service providers (ISPs) and mobile phone service firms. “ISPs are not permitted to provide unrestricted Internet telephony though they have IP (Internet protocol)-based Infrastructure. Such regulatory restrictions discourage technological advancements and result is grey market activities to provide these services to common masses,” the regulator said in a statement.
In its recommendations to the department of telecommunications (DoT), Trai said all ISPs be permitted to provide unrestricted Internet telephony services. For this purpose, Trai said, all national long distance, or NLD, phone service providers be permitted to connect between ISPs and phone networks.
DoT has to accept the regulator’s recommendations for it to become law. Until now, computer-to-computer Internet telephony has been allowed in India and computer-to-phone for overseas calls.
Trai suggested that Telecom Engineering Centre, a technical organization within DoT, identify a distinct numbering system for Internet telephony subscribers just the way numbers are allocated for mobile phone and fixed line phone customers.
Emergency number dialling and quality of service has not been mandated, but all ISPs interested in providing Internet telephony services are required to install lawful interception equipment as a preventive security measure.
Reactions of lobby groups were varied. The Internet Service Provider Association of India, or Ispai, a trade body representing the Internet service providers in the country, said it welcomed the Trai recommendations. “We...hope DoT will also take the same stance to fuel the information technology revolution in India,” said Ispai president Rajesh Chharia. “It will fuel the broadband penetration as the consumers will now have an application (Internet telephony) to use.” India had some 4.38 million broadband customers as of June.
An Internet firm predicted the Trai recommendations, when implemented, would see a large penetration of Internet telephony devices. “Now, a telephone device combined with another terminal equipment that allows Internet connection (for voice calls) is (costs) Rs1,000 and this can come down to Rs500,” said Naresh Ajwani, president, consumer infrastructure and operations, Sify Technologies Ltd.
But, the Cellular Operators Association of India, a powerful lobby group representing mobile phone service firms, was critical of the latest recommendations, which it said allowed ISPs unrestricted Internet telephony at no additional cost. “As recently as February, access licences have been issued by DoT upon payment of Rs1,650 crore. Hence, in order to maintain the level playing field, it is imperative that ISPs should be required to migrate to (Unified Access Service) licence and should be subject to the same entry fee, licence fee revenue share and other terms” that apply on phone firms, the industry body said in a statement.
Prices of long-distance calls within the country “will decline slightly, may be about 15% but not beyond that. However, the biggest challenge will be the low PC penetration in the country”, said Sourabh Kaushal, tech analyst at consultant Frost and Sullivan.