Clashes Over Regulation of IP Voice in India Escalate

The Cellular Operators Association of India wants BSNL to stop offering a calling service that allows international travelers to link their mobiles and domestic fixed line voice accounts, allowing them to make calls cheaper than would otherwise be the case if they called using billing based on their roaming-connected mobile phones.

COAI earlier had raised concerns about the Ringo service that appears to work using “dial-around” principles, and offering domestic calling rates that Credit Suisse analysts say are 69 percent cheaper than voice calls on the mobile network and even 24 percent cheaper than voice over IP services in India.

Such disputes seem to be an inevitable development whenever IP-based calling starts to compete directly with older forms of telephony that do not offer such flexibility. COAI argues such dial-around programs are unlawful under existing rules on public network calling.

Similar issues have been raised in other markets as well where IP-enabled virtual numbers and virtual devices can be used in a variety of ways related to messaging, notifications, call or message origination and termination.

Such features always are a challenge to regulatory regimes that essentially rely on  “if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck” principles.

The problem is simply a clash between what is possible using Internet Protocol and what is possible using legacy technology and regulatory frameworks.

In India, VoIP origination and PSTN device termination have not, in the past, been lawful.
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