Senior Writer: Paras Kela
Voice over IP is disrupting the communication dynamics of the world. But at the same time, there’s also a lot of confusion going around it, especially in India.
Most businesses are of the perception that they cannot use VoIP in India, while others are simply curious about whether or not they can incorporate cloud based telecom services and Over-the-top services in their businesses.
However, today, we’ll address all of it.
The main advantage of VoIP is that using this technology, different computer users, along with business owners, can make official business-related phone calls through their desktop computers. Enabling integration between communication and commerce, internet telephony, or sometimes called cloud telephony has paved the way for a more flexible mode of operations in all cases when it comes to business. Software programs are in close integration with telephones. Traveling regularly is the natural lifestyle of corporate employees. With an increase in mobility, business should also be mobile. Otherwise, things have a chance to get doomed due to a lack of synchronization. Moreover, this entire setup is much cheaper than bulky systems where voice calls come into play over a long distance. Ease in operation is of great demand when it comes to business. The more a system is easy to use, the more popularity it gains.
The evolution of voice communication in India
To get into the core of VoIP, it is important to know what existed before it came. Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) has been serving India as the soul technology when it comes to voice communication. But how did it get replaced? It has to be kept in mind that VoIP has not completely replaced PSTN. But VoIP undoubtedly acts as a partial and efficient substitute for PSTN in a large chunk of the nation. But slowly, there has been a gradual surge in the increase of internet penetration as well as broadband speed. As a result of the gradual increase in the graph of internet interference in communication, voice communication has also become efficiently possible over the internet.
The following points will help in busting various myths that prevail in India with respect to the use of VOIP-
- Interconnection between PSTN/PLMN and VOIP is possible only for the holders of Basic Service License, Cellular Mobile Telecom Service (CMTS) license, Unified Access Service License (UASL) and Unified License (access service). If the TSPs or ISPs have the required licenses, separate licenses or registrations will not be mandatory for the cloud service providers.
- According to the terms and conditions, OSPs, that is, the companies in the telebanking, tele-trading, eCommerce, or banking sector, can only use the services that an authorized provider offers.
- VOIP to VOIP calls are allowed in India.
- Calls made from India to international centres are legal.
Busting the myths regarding VoIP
VoIP calling apps such as WhatsApp, Skype, and many more have already become a popular alternative to traditional PSTN-based voice technologies. And there’s no denying the fact that VoIP has obvious advantages over PSTN calls, and that makes it ideal for business calls. For starters, VoIP is highly cost-effective.
But what’s the myth then?
There’s this perception that using the interconnectivity of VoIP and PSTN/PLMN is illegal in India.
India’s telecom regulator (TRAI) Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, makes sure that –
- No loss of revenue occurs when the exploitation of national resources takes place.
- The licensed service providers do not lose their share of the revenue.
Therefore, TRAI has clearly mentioned in its October 2017 recommendation –
The telecom service providers in India who have the following licenses are permitted to interconnect VoIP and PSTN/PLMN –
- Basic Service License
- Unified Access Service License (UASL)
- Cellular Mobile Telecom Service (CMTS) license
- Unified License (access service)
Now, most cloud telephony providers provide –
- Making/receiving VoIP calls
- VoIP to PSTN/PLMN interconnection
To do so, they’ll have to obtain numbers from and use the network of their partners – licensed internet service providers and telecommunication service providers.
So, these ISPs/TSPs need to obtain the licenses while cloud service providers do not need any separate license.
In case the TSPs/ISPs do not provide Indian numbers, they too wouldn’t have to obtain these licenses.
An amendment to CMTS and UAS License makes it mandatory for telecom service providers to use mobile numbering series for internet telephony. They’re now allowed to allocate the same numbers for both cellular mobile service and internet telephony service.
Can OSPs in India use VoIP or cloud telephony?
Businesses functioning in the sectors of telebanking, telemedicine, tele-trading, or eCommerce are registered as Other Service Providers and need to comply with the OSP terms and conditions.
As per the T&C, an OSP can leverage services provided only by an authorized telecom service provider.
Here, Telecom Service Providers are those who are authorized (by a license) by the Government of India to provide telecom resources.
Telecom resources, as defined in the OSP T&C, are – Indian telecom facilities such as PSTN, PLMN, ISDN, and telecom bandwidth. They are national resources owned by the Government of India. It is the Department of Telecommunications through which the other providers receive the licenses.
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How can we classify CallHippo?
Some service providers do not provide telecom resources and thus do not classify as Telecom Service Providers.
CallHippo, for example.
What it essentially does is – it offers a cloud technology that serves as a virtual PBX to route calls. Though used on the top of an existing telecommunications infrastructure, it still is a different technology.
CallHippo can, therefore, loosely fit into the category of OTT or Over The Top services.
Note that CallHippo doesn’t provide this service in India.
TRAI’s Consultation Paper, 2018 mentions that,
“OTT players may, without a license, provide the same services as provided by TSPs. They do not require permission from any regulatory body or from TSPs. There is no requirement of interconnection or for any commercial agreements between OTT providers and TSPs.”
This is because TRAI regulates only those TSPs who provide facilities such as PSTN, PLMN, or ISDN. It can consult whether or not to implement regulations on OTT services. However, no law regulates the use of these services.
So, finally, the OSPs need to ensure two things –
- They obtain the telecom resources from an authorized Telecom Service Provider.
- The internet connection they use is availed from an authorized Internet Service Provider.
Wrapping up – More than regulation, it’s our lack of right information that stops us from taking the leap. Now that you’re clear about the rules regarding VoIP usage in India and the factors that you need to keep in mind, it’s time to take the next step.