Why TRAI’s Internet Telephony Recommendation Good For India

Sector regulator TRAI on Tuesday cleared the path for internet telephony, that enables one to make calls to any mobile or landline using internet, just like calls on WhatsApp of Skype. Though the current telecom license has permitted operators to provide internet telephony, none of the service providers ever provided that.

Now that TRAI has given its nod, and sent its recommendations to DoT, its a matter of few days when the telcos would roll out the services.

What Is Internet Telephony?

Internet telephony essentially says one can make voice calls – to any mobile or landline – using the available internet network, be it of your office, home or even public WiFi. And this can happen even if there is no telephone signal on your phone or if the telecom network is poor in that area.

“As per authority’s understanding of present access service license, Internet Telephony service is un-tethered from the underlying access network. In other words, internet telephony service can be provided by access service provider to its subscriber who may be using internet of other access service providers,” TRAI said in its recommendation.

The recommendation says internet telephony is not connected to a telco’s own telecom network and can be provided independently. Means, if you are an Airtel customer, you can use Jio’s data network or BSNL’s public WiFi to make a voice calls. Your calling number would remain the same and the receiver can see your mobile number. However, you may have to use an app to make an internet call.

This recommendations have been sent to DoT to take a final call and the regulator expected if the telecom ministry has a different opinion or view on the same, the same can be integrated to the existing access license by making the required amendments.

Why It Is Good

Now the road is clear for India to make internet calls using existing smartphone and existing service provider. And this is a great step for multiple reasons.

One, networks in India are patchy and call quality is agreeably bad with too many call drops and bad connections. In contrast voice calls over IP network are better compared to traditional PSTN or phone networks. Usimg internet telephony would offer a better user experience.

Second, India has traditionally been a spectrum-scarce nation with numbers of operators vying for the limited natural resource. On top of that, the country has seen over a billion mobile subscribers. According to the telcos, these factors have put a lot of load on the network and its about time some load is shifted to somewhere else! And with TRAI’s latest recommendations WiFi offloading would see a lot of traction and the regular cellular networks would be little less choked.

Third, call rates could go further down as users now will have multiple choices to make calls. They can use multiple apps – like WhatsApp or the Jio calling app – to make calls and they do not have to use their own service provider’s data network. They can use their office WiFi or a public WiFi to make calls.

Fourth, this move would encourage VNO (virtual network operators) who bulk data or talk-time from telcos, say Airtel, to offer customized solutions to their customers. This would open up multiple service offerings for customers.

And The Challenges

While this is a good move, there are few challenges before internet telephony takes shape. The issues that TRAI admits include allocation of numbering resources, interconnection, IUC, quality of service and access to emergency services.

Besides, the incumbent telcos would not be a happier lot with this development as it is expected to further dent their revenues. Voice calls still make for around 75% of the telcos’ revenues and internet telephony, for sure, put a lot of pressure on the telcos that are already heavily burdened with lot of debt and decreasing bottomline since entry of Reliance Jio.

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