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Std Tariffs May Drop As Trai Allows Internet Telephony

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atlast we can also use internet along with the telcos for voice calls

New Delhi, Aug 18

Press Trust of India

NEW DELHI: Telecom regulator TRAI today allowed ISPs to offer unrestricted internet telephony services, a move that will further boost competition in the domestic long distance segment and lower STD tariffs.

"It is envisaged that customers will ultimately benefit from cost effective and innovative internet telephony service. These recommendations will put Indian telecom sector in tune with global trends. The grey market tendencies shall be curtailed," TRAI said in a statement.

As per the TRAI recommendations, the STD service providers would be connected to ISPs through public internet for the purpose and the two service providers would have mutual agreement for the same.

The move will permit calls from personal computers to fixed line and mobile phones. 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 Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC), a technical arm of Department of Telecom, will work out the number plan for the ISPs to enable them to offer telephone services.

"Telephone numbers from identified blocks shall be allocated to ISPs, Unified Access Service Providers, Basic Service Providers and Cellular Mobile Service Providers for internet telephony," TRAI said.

With a view to make internet telephony secure, TRAI said, all ISPs interested to provide unrestricted internet telephony would install "Lawful Interception" equipments.

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Thats great news... and one that may change the telephony scenario hugely in the near future...

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Definitely this move will bring down the long distance call rates.it was there for international calls but unfortunately not for domestic long distance calls.some times it was cheaper to make an isd call than making an std call.Let's hope it starts soon.

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Waited for a long time & now finalllllllyyyyyyyyyyy..................

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ISPs, security companies up to the challenge

19 Aug, 2008, 0041 hrs IST - Economic Times

Interception and filtering of calls routed via the internet will be a major requirement by the security agencies once internet telephony kicks off. Thankfully, ISPs and other players in the industry state that they already have facilities and will be making more investments to ensure security. Unfiltered Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls have become a hassle for the security agencies as militants are increasingly using VoIP. That’s because communication through the mobile phone has become risky for them. It’s imperative to note that the alleged mastermind of the recent Ahmedabad blasts was caught last week via his mobile SIM card.

Tapping VoIP calls is difficult as they operate on a peer-to-peer network. “We will install lawful interception devices and software to intercept calls. Once security clearance is given by the home ministry, we will be ready to launch the service in 31 days. Consumers can expect a host of services including bulk minutes and subscription- based unlimited calling services from us,” says Net4 CEO Jasjit Sawhney. A Sify official added that it will make necessary investments to ensure security.

Trai has also said that the government may not allocate number resources (like a unique mobile number) to ISPs willing to provide IP telephony services until security clearance for lawful interception (LI) equipment is obtained.

Tapping a VoIP call is often difficult because many of the non-licenced VoIP providers based in the US on which the Indian government has no control. But major licenced ISP players state they have already built in security software. “We already have lawful interception built into our systems. These are software imported from the US which can help monitor conversations. We will be providing the facility to any security agency which wants to monitor a number or a call,” said Aditya Ahluwalia, CEO, World Phone, an international VoIP calling company.

Meanwhile, use of the complex encryption techniques by anybody can `surprisingly’ pose a challenge to lawful interception and monitoring.

The existing ISP license conditions prevent even ISPs from using high encryption. If an organisation or an ISP wants to use encryption beyond 40 bits, (only in symmetric key algorithms), it has to take a written permission from DoT. One also needs to deposit the decryption key with DoT before encrypting a voice chat.

Legally, if a security agency wants to listen to a call, ISPs have to provide a password through which they can connect to a softswitch and listen to a call. But there are open voice chat rooms on the web which offer free high encryption. Some feel that deployment of LI equipment may be a deterrent. “As the investment required for the same is huge, this may be a deterrent for medium and small ISPs interested in entering the unrestricted telephony market,” said Sanjay Vig, CEO, Orange Business Services, India.

Keeping apart security concerns, IP telephony can prove to be a big boon for broadband penetration and lowering of call rates. Consumers will be able to call domestically (say from Delhi to Mumbai) via the internet, once the service kicks in. An IP phone is like a fixed line phone connected to the internet. Cisco, Zyxel, Nortel, Linksys are major providers of VoIP phones. The Chinese versions of VoIP phones start from Rs 800. The branded ones start from Rs 2,000 and go up to Rs 15,000 for enterprise use. VoIP is cheaper than mobile telephony as consumers can simply dial from a soft keypad available for free from the internet. Plug in a microphone-cum-headset into a PC or laptop, and you are ready to call via VoIP.

Nevertheless, before VoIP players start offering domestic IP telephony, government should ensure that they deploy LI mechanisms to prevent misuse of the service.

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Cellular operators oppose TRAI's recommendations

18 Aug, 2008, 2033 hrs IST, PTI

NEW DELHI: Cellular operators on Monday fiercely opposed telecom regulator TRAI's recommendation to allow internet service providers to offer unrestricted internet telephony services, saying it would be against the basic principle of level-playing field.

The GSM operators lobby COAI Director General T V Ramachandran demanded that there should be level playing field and that telecom regulator TRAI's recommendations are against the very basic principle of level-playing field since they allow unrestricted internet telephony to ISPs at no additional cost.

The existing UASL/BSO/CMTS operators have obtained access licence after paying a huge entry fee which is as high as Rs 1,650 crore for all India.

In February, access licences have been issued by the Department of Telecom upon payment of Rs 1,650 crore. Many of the new applicants are still awaiting allotment of spectrum to start the service. Against this backdrop, it is very unfair to allow unfettered access to ISPs.

COAI has also claimed that ISPs should be required to migrate to UASL license.

However, welcoming TRAI's suggestion Internet Service Providers Association of India President Rajesh Chharia said the telecom operators should not treat ISPs as competition.

"We acts as resellers of the services...the move is likely to lower the tariffs by 50 per cent which will encourage more people to use the service."

IT industry body NASSCOM also welcomed the move and said that the step is likely to benefit the country's BPO sector.

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Another round of long drawn court battles may be seen. Hope the telcos do not battle it out with the ISPs and allow the customers interests to be safeguarded.

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This is all very good but this is like living a bad dream again and again.

Guys, this is just a recommendation from TRAI and not an order. It is up to the DoT to accept it or reject it. In India, the telecom regulator still does not have the power to take policy decisions.

TRAI recommended the same in 2005 and 2006 but to no avail. The all powerful telephone companies have always managed to overturn TRAI's recommendations through bribery to DoT and the Communications ministry.

Although I want this to be implemented this time, I am still very skeptical in view of DoT's past record.

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You can soon pick your best STD plan

20 Aug, 2008, 0104 hrs IST, ET

NEW DELHI: You’ll soon get to choose the cheapest STD and ISD tariffs, irrespective of your service provider. After recommending that internet telephony be opened up, telecom regulator TRAI this week will mandate that telcos offer their subscribers the freedom to choose a carrier of their choice for making long-distance calls, whether domestic (STD) or international (ISD).

This will start a new era of competition in long-distance calls, provided the government acts promptly to amend licence conditions to enable telcos comply with the TRAI directive.

What TRAI has in mind is not quite implementation of the carrier access code (CAC) project mooted several years ago. In the face of resistance by telcos to CAC and the willingness of the Department of Telecom (DoT) to play along with them, TRAI has come up with a variation. This is how it will work. Suppose, you are a Bharti subscriber and you find out BSNL is offering the cheapest long-distance tariffs.

You then buy a pre-paid long-distance package from BSNL for a specific duration. You punch in a set of numbers specified in the package to get on to the BSNL network, and then proceed to make the long-distance call you wanted to, and talk for as long as your pre-paid package permits.

The regulator will also mandate that all telcos offer their customers the facility to purchase pre-paid long-distance packages or virtual calling cards on the internet. Globally, long-distance tariffs have fallen between 20% and 53% after customers were allowed to choose their operator. Even players like PowerGrid, RailTel and Gail, who have long-distance backbones, can offer this facility along with telcos that provide customer access.

The TRAI directive is bound to hit the bottomlines of major operators. Telecom stocks were already down on Tuesday following TRAI’s recommendations on net telephony.

Net telephony may hit telcos’ bottomlines

Because, if the DoT accepts TRAI’s proposals on net telephony, it will adversely impact the business models of all telcos. In Tuesday’s trading, Idea Cellular was down 5.05%, Reliance Communications fell 3.06% while Bharti Airtel and Tata Teleservices slid 2.1% and 1.8%, respectively.

ET has learnt that TRAI has decided on this move as the DoT has failed to implement the much-delayed CAC. The implementation of CAC would have allowed subscribers to choose the long-distance operator of their choice to make STD/ISD calls without having to purchase any pre-paid package.

Telcos have always opposed CAC on the grounds that each player will have to shell out about Rs 5,000 crore for network upgradation before they can offer this facility.

“Allowing consumers the freedom to choose their long-distance service provider over pre-paid packages is our answer to DoT’s failure to implement CAC. TRAI will no longer push for the implementation of CAC and the issue will be buried. Under the new system, telcos can no longer complain about network upgradation costs and stop its implementation. All telcos have intelligent networks in place to handle this service,” a top TRAI source told ET.

“This will be a directive to telcos. We will ask the DoT to make the requisite changes in the licence conditions of telcos so that they can offer this facility,” the TRAI source added.

TRAI officials also say that in addition to increasing competition among service providers, offering customers the freedom to choose their long-distance operator will also open up revenue streams for other long-distance licence holders. For instance, players such as PowerGrid, RailTel, Gail, Sify, AT&T, British Telecom and Tulip Telecom, among others, who have fibre networks in India can now directly compete to carry calls of operators. This implies, Bharti, Vodafone or Idea customer can now specifically buy a package from Gail or PowerGrid to carry his STD calls if these companies offer cheaper tariff rates.

TRAI sources also added that all long-distance carriers would have to enter into mutual agreements. “In case operators do not agree on interconnect agreements, we will step in and facilitate timelines and also stipulate penalties for delay in signing contracts and implementation,” they added.

This facility will, however, not be extended to local calls. Several NLD operators have pointed out that due to large volumes of local calls, customers prefer to work with incumbent operator. Besides, globally extending this facility for local calls have not yielded customer preferences and they have continued to use the incumbent operator.

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Low cost Internet phone revolution beckons for India

23 Aug, 2008, 0210 hrs IST, ET

NEW DELHI: Battle lines are being drawn after telecoms regulator called for full-blown telephone services via the Internet, paving the way for another fall in already cheap call rates.

Internet service providers (ISPs) are delighted at the prospect of a new revenue stream but fixed line and mobile players are objecting that they paid high market entry fees, whereas ISPs will not have to stump up any money.

Under the plan proposed this week by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, people could call from their personal computers with Internet connections to a landline or a mobile phone and vice versa.

The move could ring in another big drop in calling prices in the world's fastest-growing phone market, where consumers already enjoy some of the lowest telephone costs, the regulator said.

The proposal is aimed at putting telecom sector "in tune with global trends" in which such "Internet-based services are very popular" and boosting paltry broadband penetration, the regulator added.

The government is keen to boost broadband use, especially in poverty-hit rural areas, where the Internet is seen as key to development.

But Cellular Operators Association of India chief TV Ramachandran said the regulator's proposal was not fair to existing telephone companies.

"There should be a level playing field ... it's unfair to allow unrestricted Internet telephony to ISPs at no additional cost," he said.

The telecommunications department just recently issued pan-India licences to several telecom players, charging each an entry fee of Rs 1650 crore ($37.7 million).

Country's largest phone company, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, said the entry of ISPs would hurt revenues.

Under the regulator's plan, international call rates via the Internet could drop to one-two rupees (two-five cents) a minute from the average seven, while national long-distance rates could fall to less than half a rupee.

Local calls could be virtually free.

But experts say it would take a long time for broadband subscribers to pose a threat to fixed-line and mobile licence holders, given India's low Internet penetration.

India has just 4.38 million broadband subscribers, while there are 287 million mobile users and 38.9 million landline subscribers.

Internet telephony could become "the killer application" to boost broadband penetration, which has "lagged far behind the very successful mobile telephony," said Internet Service Providers Association of India head Rajesh Chharia.

Analysts are betting the government will go ahead with the idea.

"The government has been pushing reforms in telecoms, I think they'll give it the green light," said an expert at an international consultancy, who did not wish to be named.

The regulator said telecom companies have no reason to fear. ISPs rely on lines leased from telecom companies to carry their signals so they have to sign deals with existing licence holders.

The regulator calls it a win-win situation as 85 percent of an ISP's revenue is earmarked for resources mainly from telecom licence holders.

"In other words, an increase in the ISPs' business will also result in a boom for existing telcos. Given this scenario, the government would do well to accept (the regulator's) recommendations," said a newspaper editorial.

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We can't wait further more on VoIP.

Being numero one in IT industry, totally it doesn't make sense in not opening up the VoIP till date.

Ideally we should shown the world on the fruits of VoIP but its better late than never.

DoT should act fast since the recommendations given out by TRAI is straightforward without any complications.

DoT can open up new category of license called UWASL(Universal Wired Access Service License) which would be cheap and without spectrum and they can be allowed to provide Triple Play Service on wires(copper or OFC).

Cable operators and ISPs can be migrated to this category so that they too can provide Triple Play Services.

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