Telecom regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) plans to finalise recommendations on the Internet telephony framework by February -- a move that may lead to cheaper phone calls and pave way for making calls from mobile applications like Whatsapp and Skype.
"Provision of Internet telephony has been in telecom licence, but it has not expanded in country. Today, we discussed issues that are holding on to its expansion," Trai Chairman RS Sharma told reporters here on the sidelines of Open House Discussion on Internet telephony.
"We expect to finalise the recommendations on this paper by February," he added.
Trai started consultation on the subject in June. At present, Internet service providers (ISPs) can provide Internet telephony from PC to PC. With the advancement in technology, mobile phones are facilitating voice calling through apps like Whatsapp and Skype.
Trai said Internet telephony has now become similar to conventional telephony and these providers compete directly with the existing technology used for making phone calls via landlines or mobile phones.
The consultation followed a dispute between private telecom operators and state-run BSNL, which announced the launch of a new service that enables its customers to make local and STD calls from their landline phones in India by using a mobile application when they are abroad.
Voice over IP (VoIP) uses network resources much more efficiently than conventional telephone service, reducing the costs of providing a call (albeit with the loss of some call quality and service features, creating opportunities for regulatory arbitrage that enable Telecom Service Providers and consumers to reduce or avoid call charges, Trai said.
Cellular industry body COAI has alleged that BSNL's new service for making calls is in violation of licence norms.
In the paper, Trai has said that Internet telephony which provides low-cost calling service may be the future but still, some existing operators may be reluctant to introduce VoIP because they already offer voice services over the PSTN (landline)/PLMN (mobile network).
Perhaps understandably, they do not wish to cannibalise their higher margin services offerings, it said.