DoT Amends License Conditions to Allow VoWi-Fi Calling in India

Owing to this new permission by DoT, soon users with poor cellular connectivity will be able to use Wi-Fi network to make calls. On Wednesday, the Department of Telecommunications made some amendments to license regulations, now allowing the carriers to use a single phone number for calling as well as internet telephony. This move will enable the telecom operators to route phone calls over Wi-Fi whenever the cellular network is not present. The users will be able to make calls over the Wi-Fi connection through their nearest hotspot, or public Wi-Fi network.

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In its notice, the department said: “The licensees should comply with all the interception and monitoring-related requirements as specified in the licence as amended from time to time for providing internet telephony.” They further added “The subscribers may be informed about the limitation of providing access to emergency services to internet telephony subscribers in unambiguous terms. The licensees must inform the quality of service parameter supported by them for internet telephony so that the subscribers can take an informed decision.”

According to an ET report, to promote better services, DoT has also allowed third-party providers to jump in the bandwagon, provided that they are able to procure the license. Also, the department has allowed the carriers to use each other data networks, the technicalities and functioning of which will be subject to all regulations set by the DoT. The telecom department has asked the carriers to adhere to the set guidelines in this matter.

Rajan Matthews, Director General of Cellular Operators Association of India, a body representing the biggest telcos of the country like Idea Cellular, Vodafone India, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio said “The impact of this would be different for different consumers and operators, and consumers and operators would need to assess the impact of this individually.”

Matthews further illustrated by saying “For instance, if a customer has a voice plan, such a service is likely to benefit as it may give the customer a lower costing plan, but for a person who is already using data plan where the voice is free, such an option may not matter as much.”

However, the COAI wasn’t all in on the decision made by the DoT. The association is of the view that third parties should not be allowed to offer internet telephony especially the ones who do not have their own network. It said, “It should only be allowed under access service licence wherein the licensee has its own network/internet service.”

On the other hand, some industry experts are of the thought that this move might free up spectrum which will be used for regular calls and data services. The move comes after the highest decision-making body in the industry, Telecom Commission supported the Trai’s proposal of setting up internet telephony to provide an alternative way for the users to make calls. It was the watchdog’s observation that this would further reduce the problems of poor connectivity and calls drops.

Reportedly, carriers like Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular are already on the task of testing services like ‘Voice over Wi-Fi’. Chances are that the carriers are awaiting regulatory notices from the government, once the process is completed it is speculated that the feature will be rolled out to the public very soon.

A senior official said, “Any VoLTE phone would automatically support Voice over Wi-Fi calling service, but a non-VoLTE device would require an app with a suitable dialer to make a call using Wi-Fi data.”

Out of all the telcos Reliance Jio has been successfully known to conduct tests for ‘Voice over Wi-Fi’. The issue of routing international voice calls over the internet also came up during the amendment, for which DoT had sought clarifications from Trai. ??The department specifically earmarked that internet telephony calls from overseas be handed over at the international gateway of licensed ILDOs. Additionally, international termination charges will be paid to the terminating access service provider.

It is only a matter of few weeks, after which DoT will clarify the regulations to the carriers. Given that a handful of operators are already in the testing process of the new technology, it shouldn’t be long before we get to see voice over Wi-Fi in VoLTE phones.

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Arpit spends his day closely following the telecom and tech industry. A music connoisseur and a night owl, he also takes a deep interest in the Indian technology start-up scene and spends rest of his time spilling poetry and stories on paper.

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