Internet users may soon get to call landlines or mobile phones from their computers.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Monday recommended allowing Internet telephony on conventional phone networks, a move that would add to technological convergence, stoke competition and, possibly, make call rates drop further.
Under existing norms, a voice call can travel between two computers but not from a computer to a mobile or a fixed phone. The regulator wants the restriction to go.
Internet Service Providers stand to gain, as would business process outsourcing companies and offshore back offices, if the government accepts the recommendation.
“This is a welcome step particularly for the Indian IT-BPO industry,” said the National Association of Software and Service Companies, or NASSCOM.
The move comes at a time when the outsourcing industry is battling to keep costs under check in the face weakening demand and dwindling orders from its most important client country – the United States.
“There seems to be a complete market failure as our subscribers are denied advanced value added services, in contrast to world scenario where such Internet-based services are very popular,” the telecom regulator said in a statement. “Customers will ultimately benefit from cost effective and innovative Internet Telephony service.”
The TRAI has recommended that STD service providers would be connected to Internet service providers through a public Internet network. Both the service providers would ink an agreement for connecting the calls, details of which have to be mutually sorted out, it said.
India is one of the fastest growing telecom markets with a subscriber base of 32.6 crore but has a low Internet penetration with only 1.1 crore connections.
Telecom operators said the move offers unfair advantage to Internet service providers.
The “recommendations are against the very basic principle of level playing field since they allow unrestricted Internet telephony to ISPs at no additional cost,” the Cellular Operators Association of India said.
Telecom operators had to pay a licence fee of Rs 1,650 crore for a national rollout of services. “Against this backdrop, it is very unfair to allow unfettered access to ISPs,” the association said.