Your wait for 3G services may get longer.
Worried over security issues, the government has asked telecom operators to launch third-generation (3G) services only after installing equipment for lawful interception of features of 3G services such as video calls and multimedia messages.
As an immediate fallout, Reliance Communications (RCom) and Tata Teleservices which have launched the services are put a freeze on video calls. These two are the only ones that had started the services, in addition to state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) that have been offering 3G services for more than a year now.
Official sources said at a meeting chaired by the member (technology) of the department of telecommunications (DoT), the government made it clear to the operators on Monday that the security agencies should be provided interception facilities. Home ministry officials were also present at the meeting in addition to executives of Tata Teleservices, RCom and Bharti Airtel.
Video phone calls and video conferencing are critical services in 3G offerings that offer high-speed broadband communication over mobile networks.
Operators pointed out that vendors do not provide facility to monitor video calls anywhere in the world. Home ministry officials said they would discuss the matter internally.
Though the government wanted an immediate suspension of 3G services, home ministry officials agreed to give time to the operators.
Earlier, in a notice dated December 14, the DoT had asked RCoM and Tata to stop services immediately. “It is further directed that 3G service should not be launched commercially till successful demonstration of lawful interception monitoring (LIM) capabilities and approval of the same by DoT. If the 3G services have been launched by M/s RCL (RCom), in any of the service area, these should be stopped immediately and compliance should be reported to DoT today, ie, on 14.12.2010 by 17.00 hours.”
Officials of both Tata Teleservices and RCOM declined to comment.
Most of the features the security agencies could not tap were related to video calls. For example, the companies failed to demonstrate online delivery of video-call intercepts.
“A conference call is not distinctly labelled. On the contrary, it is displayed as two different outgoing calls,” said the DoT notice. The companies also failed to display MMS interceptions. Similarly, Yahoo Messenger (on the internet) and chatting could not be intercepted.