Mumbai: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has removed all restrictions on internet telephony in order to make optimum use of technological advancements in the telecom sector.
The move that will permit calls from personal computers to fixed line and mobile phones will further encourage competition in the domestic long distance segment and lower STD tariffs.
Currently, a voice call can travel between two computers but not from a mobile or a fixed phone. This is expected to open huge channels of revenues for Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
''The rapid technological developments and better quality of voice communications are shaping the future of telecom. The enormous increase in data traffic in international scenario, increasing acceptability of IP networks, adoptability of NGN by many countries, and global liberal regulatory regime for internet telephony require a fresh review of existing licensing conditions in India,'' TRAI said in `Issues Related to Internet Telephony'.
The present licensing framework has envisaged different types of access service providers (UASL, BSOs, CMSPs), National Long Distance service providers (NLDs), International Long Distance service providers (ILDs) and Internet Service Providers (ISPs). While access service providers are permitted to provide various services and applications to their subscribers under Universal Access Services Licence (UASL), the role of other licensees like NLD and ILD is limited to providing long distance services and ISPs are permitted to provide access to internet.
''It was expected that access service providers will provide highly popular services like internet telephony and boost broadband penetration but it has not come on the ground. As such our subscribers are denied advanced value added services in contrast to global scenario where such internet based services are popular,'' TRAI said.
ISPs are not permitted to provide unrestricted internet telephony though they have IP-based infrastructure. Such regulatory restrictions discourage technological advancements and result is grey market activities to provide these services to common masses, the regulator pointed out.
''The present regulatory framework denies fruits of technological advancements to reach to common masses. Level playing field issues were being advocated against permitting these services under various licences. Globally telecommunications are being shaped by steep growth of broadband and wireless subscribers. The regulatory environment should be dynamic, enabling, efficient and one that encourages competition. Hence regulatory framework for internet telephony has to be considered in view of convergence and other similar developments taking place across the globe.
TRAI said it its suo-motu consultation process has considered a ''regulatory framework which is technologically neutral, enables developments, innovations and growth of the telecom sector for benefit of common masses while ensuring that business models of access telecom service providers are not adversely impacted.''
While emphasising on delivering innovative and cost effective services to end-users, TRAI said it has given due importance for a level playing filed among various service providers, interconnection mechanism, interconnect usage charges (IUC), numbering, lawful interception, emergency number dialing, interoperability, quality of service etc.
Overall licensing framework has been protected while permitting unrestricted internet telephony to ISPs.
The salient features of the recommendations are:
- ISPs have been permitted to provide unrestricted internet telephony (termination of internet telephony calls on PSTN/PLMN and vice-versa).
- National Long Distance (NLD) operators shall be permitted to connect to ISPs through public internet (internet cloud) for unrestricted Internet telephony.
- ISPs and NLD shall have mutual agreement for unrestricted internet telephony.
- NLD shall make suitable commercial and technical arrangements with access providers (PSTN/PLMN) for unrestricted internet telephony.
- No change in existing IUC regime.
- TEC shall identify distinct number resources for internet telephony subscribers.
- Telephone numbers from identified blocks shall be allocated to ISPs, UASPs, BSOs & CMSPs for Internet telephony.
- Emergency number dialing is not mandated to ISPs.
- All ISPs interested to provide unrestricted Internet telephony shall install lawful interception equipment.
- Quality of service (QoS) for unrestricted telephony has not been mandated.
These recommendations are a step forward towards developing supportive regulatory environment, encouraging technological advancements, enabling convergence, making unrestricted internet telephony available and boosting of broadband penetration. These enabling recommendations will put Indian telecom sector in tune with global trends. The grey market tendencies shall be curtailed.
It is envisaged that the customers will ultimately benefit from cost effective and innovative Internet Telephony service. The business model of ISPs will improve without impacting access providers due to increase in the telephony call volumes.
Detailed recommendations are available on TRAI's website www.trai.gov.in.
Industry body Nascom has welcomed the regulator's decision.
"This is a welcome step particularly for the Indian IT-BPO industry," it said in a statement.
It said, "Voice transmission over internet was permitted 'from PC to PC' and 'from PC to a phone' internationally. As a direct implication, this move will now allow voice transmission over internet for a 'PC to phone in India', which will benefit the BPO industry to a large extent."
(See: Issues related to Internet Telephony)