Speak while you Surf



If you thought talking over the Internet–telephony over Internet protocol
(IP)–was legal in India, you were wrong. Enterprises were allowed to use
managed voice over IP (VoIP) networks within closed user groups. Besides, there
has been no restriction on licensed voice service providers using IP as an
underlying technology to offer their services. So what do the recently announced
Department of Telecommunications guidelines for setting up Internet telephony
services imply? In simple words, it means that internet service providers (ISPs)
can now offer voice services over the public Internet network, something, which
was illegal earlier.

The
new guidelines obviously have positive repercussions on both the ISP business
and enterprises. ISPs would benefit from the fact that the entire value
proposition of the services they offer would change with the legalization of
Internet telephony. They can look forward to new revenue generating streams.
Also, cheap domestic and international voice would result in users spending more
time on the Internet thereby consuming more bandwidth. Besides, services like
VPN can be made efficient and cost-effective by voice enabling them. "ISPs
now have permission to offer one more application and service to their
subscribers, targeting retail and enterprises. If one were to look at Internet
telephony from the perspective of one more application, then the benefits of it
begin to make sense," says Vijay Yadav, country manager, CommWorks.

What’s
in Store?
The
new guidelines allow the ISP licensees to offer Internet telephony
services. According to these, Internet telephony means an application
service, which the customers of ISPs can avail from their PCs that are
capable of processing voice signals or other IP-based Customer Premises
Equipment (CPE) as mentioned below:
  • PC to PC (both within as
    well as outside India)
  • PC to telephone (PC in
    India to telephone outside India)
  • IP-based H.323/SIP
    terminals in India to similar terminals both in India and abroad,
    employing IP addressing scheme of ‘IANA’
  • The following do not fall under Internet
    telephony service
  • Voice communication from
    anywhere to anywhere by means of dialing a telephone number (PSTN/ISDN/PLMN)as
    defined in the National Numbering Plan
  • Originating voice
    communication service from a telephone in India
  • Terminating voice
    communication to a telephone within India
  • Establishing connection
    to any public switched network in India
  • Dial-up lines with
    outward dialing facility from nodes
  • Interconnectivity
    between ISPs who are permitted to offer Internet telephony services
    and the ISPs who are not permitted to offer Internet telephony
    Services

The new regulation is not likely to create much impact on the existing voice
market in the country especially in relation to the business of existing fixed
service providers. Most basic service providers as well as international long
distance licensees, who also hold ISP licenses, are likely to use the public
network to offer cheaper voice alternative and also bundle the service with
existing public switched telephone network (PSTN) voice. How much impact this
could create is not known given the country’s abysmally low PC penetration.
"I think PC penetration is an important factor for otherwise, Internet
telephony would not have an impact on the consumer market," says Ajit
Thatte, vice-president, marketing, Tata Telecom. Also, it is a fact that world
over wherever Internet telephony has been allowed, it has created a new market
for itself. People who are most likely to use Internet telephony would be those
who have little regard for quality or those who are going to be first time users
of international voice services.

For enterprises, there would not be much change. The ones who could afford to
invest in their own networks, have been allowed VoIP over closed user groups all
along. Even prior to the announcement of this policy, they could set up a single
network to offer voice and data services, as long as the network and its
services were restricted to the closed user group of that enterprise. However,
Yadav points out, small enterprises who could not afford to set up their own
networks, can now avail this service over a service provider’s IP network.
Manish Sablok, national marketing manager, Tata Telecom, explains. "Now
that the government has allowed Internet telephony, enterprises would be more
receptive to the technology. A lot of CIOs believe that Internet telephony is
not a mature technology yet. Opening up Internet telephony would give us an
opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of IP."

RAVI SHEKHAR PANDEY in New Delhi

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