Info-tech

DoT may soon allow unlimited calls via Internet

Thomas K Thomas New Delhi | Updated on November 12, 2017

DOT

Net telephony will open domestic voice market to broadband players like Reliance Infotel





The Department of Telecom (DoT) is considering opening up the Internet telephony segment and allowing unrestricted calls by consumers using their Internet connections.

According to senior officials in the department, this may be included in the New Telecom Policy expected to be finalised by November.

“We have received representations from the industry and from within the DoT to open up Net telephony. We are seriously looking at how to go about it,” said a top DoT official. The issue was also discussed at a July 13 meeting with Indian Telecom Services officers.

In 2008, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had made a recommendation to allow unrestricted Net telephony to all operators including Internet Service Providers (ISPs), without imposing any additional entry fee or licence charges. However, the DoT had rejected the proposal at that time on grounds that it would disturb the level playing field with incumbent mobile operators that have paid Rs 1,650 crore as entry fee. But now the DoT is having a rethink since it is reviewing the telecom policy in its entirety.

If unrestricted Net telephony is allowed, it will enable players such as the Mukesh Ambani-promoted Reliance Infotel, which recently bought broadband wireless access spectrum, to offer voice services along with data. Reliance Infotel had bought the spectrum on an ISP licence. Under existing rules, only operators with unified access services licence are allowed to offer unrestricted

Net telephony. However, none of the players, including Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular, has launched it in India probably fearing losing their traditional minutes-based voice revenue.

Operators without unified access licence are allowed to offer Net telephony services for international calling and PC-to-PC domestic calls. Removing the restrictions will allow all the broadband players who are rolling out fourth generation (4G) technology based networks to compete in the voice market. It will also provide Internet companies such as Sify, Tulip Telecom and Net4India an opportunity to offer consumers both long-distance and local calls. This could also force the incumbent mobile players to launch the service. If that happens services such as Google Voice and Skype would be available on mobile phones.

Awaiting details

But an Internet industry representative said that the devil could be in the detail. “The DoT may impose conditions which could range from an entry fee or net worth of the company, which will keep out the small ISPs from entering this segment. We have to see the fineprint of the policy whenever it gets finalised,” said an ISP industry executive.

How Net telephony works

Currently, Net telephony is allowed only for computer-to-computer or international calls. Operators with unified access licence are allowed to offer domestic calls also but so far no one has launched it.

If the DoT opens up the Net telephony sector, then all the operators, including ISPs, will be able to offer the service on any device with which one can access the Internet. It may be a PC or a laptop with a headset, a Web-enabled mobile phone such as smart phone or one with GPRS or 3G connectivity. To access the service, subscribers need just buy a Net phone package from a service provider and download a dialler software on the device. With this software, consumers will be able to call other Net phone subscribers, a cellular phone user or a fixed-line telephone user anywhere in the country.

If one does not want to invest in a PC or an Internet-enabled mobile phone, one can also use a normal fixed-line telephone to make calls over the Internet. In this case too, subscribers will have to buy a pre-paid Net telephony card which works just like the long-distance calling cards currently available in the market.



> tkt@thehindu.co.in

Published on July 21, 2011

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