Unrestricted internet telephony likely soon

After eight years since its launch, internet telephony may finally arrive in India with legal clarity next month. The Department of Telecom (DoT) is likely to give a go-ahead for unrestricted voice service through this platform, according to sources.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai)) last year had come out with a consultation paper on this and in its recommendations, Trai clarified that internet telephony service be untethered from access network, which means the service can be provided by an operator to subscribers who may be using internet services of another operator. The Telecom Commission — the policy making body of DoT — is meeting on May 1 and is likely to approve Trai recommendations on internet telephony, sources said, adding that the government is keen to push digital inclusion in a big scale. The unrestricted services, however, could be limited to only telecom service providers who can provide internet telephony from the underlying access network.
It will not allow over the top (OTT) players like Skype and Whatsapp to offer such services. Virtual network operators could also get the approval to offer internet telephony as proposed by Trai. Though call rates are already low at present and Reliance Jio already gives voice calls free, there are still voice tariffs in India across all telcos. Internet telephony will bring it further down.

Internet telephony was allowed way back in 2010. But it failed to take off as a maze of laws and misinterpretation of rules and the obsession of the operators to earn revenue through mobile voice telephony hampered its take-off.

Internet telephony has been another key discontent between Reliance Jio and other incumbent operators. Jio has been supporting unrestricted internet telephony whereas incumbents were of the view it should be allowed only by them on their networks.

When contacted Cellular Operators Association of India said any such attempt to provide connectivity through other service provider’s internet connection is equal to any OTT Communication Service and not Internet Telephony Service as envisaged under the current licensing regime.