June 21, 2018 5:03:37 am
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has issued amendments to the unified access service licence allowing telecom service providers to offer full-fledged internet telephony, or voice over internet protocol (VoIP) service, even from apps developed by these operators. However, the Centre has also clarified that the service must be untethered from the underlying network, a move that a section of the telecom industry has opposed.
The new amendments to the licence provisions only allow those entities holding the access service provider licence to provide full-fledged internet telephony and not the over-the-top players like WhatsApp, Skype, Google Duo, which allow only app to app calling. The new rule thus allow app from licenced telecom operators to make calls using data or WiFi network of other service providers as well. The calls made from these apps will be required to pay termination charges as applicable on normal phone calls. Termination charge is payable to the local operator on whose network the call terminates.
“With reference to the internet telephony services envisaged in the licenses it is clarified that the said service is untethered from the underlying access network. Hence internet telephony service can be provided by access service provider to the customers using internet service of the other service providers,” the DoT said in a notification. This essentially means that calling app of a certain telecom operator will operate even if the device is accessing the internet using another operator.
These norms are in line with the recommendations made by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), which explained that making the service untethered from the underlying network will increase the call success rate particularly in indoor poor coverage areas where public internet may be available but signal of a particular telecom service provider is not available. This essentially means that a subscriber using the service of network ‘A’ should be able to make calls from the app even if the user is accessing the internet through network ‘B’ as long as the call is being made from the same mobile number.
“DoT has accepted Trai recommendations on Internet Telephony and has provided clarification that the internet telephony service is untethered from the underlying access network. COAI (Cellular Operators Association of India) had made representations to DoT on Trai recommendations that internet telephony service should not be untethered and should only be allowed under access service licence wherein the licensee has its own network/internet service. The impact of this would be different for different consumers and operators, and consumers and operators would need to assess the impact of this individually,” said Rajan Mathews, director general, COAI.
Further, the DoT has also asked the operators providing internet telephony service to clearly described the parameter supported by them to define their quality of service so that their “subscribers can take an informed decision”.
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