ISP Column

Indian telecom voice market and updates

Suddenly the voice market in India is becoming very interesting. Earlier it was the case of Jio (and competitors) launching unlimited voice plans and now it’s the case of Govt. of India permitting IP telephony.
IP Telephony i.e networks where telephony happens over IP (not to be confused with IP to IP calls but) where IP to PSTN interconnects happen. Till a few months ago IP telephony (or IP-PSTN) interconnection was allowed only under certain conditions like doing it inside a building only for purpose of call centres (with OSP license) or running SIP trunks over private networks. Things like termination of calls originated from the apps was not allowed (where IP-PSTN was happening within India) as well as DID or Direct Inward Dialing numbers were not allowed. There were even cases where apps/businesses had to shut down due to confusing regulation. Here’s a nice article from Medianama about it. But all those were things of past.
In May Wifi calling or calls via Wifi where wifi is used loosely and it’s essentially called via any sort of Internet connections were permitted (news here). Later after TRAI’s clarification it now has been formally allowed. While it may not look as attractive as it should have been in the age of WhatsApp calling (IP to IP, not PSTN mess involved!), it still is quite interesting and going to bring some major change.
Here some of the upcoming things we all can expect to see in the next few months:

  1. All key operators will launch native wifi call offload for flagship phones (Google Pixel, iPhone, Samsung Galaxy’s etc). This will offload a hell lot of voice traffic from the cell towards home wifi. Various fixed wired ISPs would now be carrying a significant chunk of voice traffic.
  2. All key operators will launch an app for making phone calls and it would not only be for their users but also for other users. So while at this point one has to have a SIM card from the provider, next it would be sim card as well as “virtual connection” in form of a sort of KYC followed by an app essentially making use of SIP for call routing.
  3. SIP trunks over IP networks will become common and that would be huge. In present times if someone needed 5-10 connections for official use with call haunting etc, it was either POTS analogue phones or PRIs (yuck!) or SIP trunks running over the private network. Going forward now it would be SIP trunks offered over the regular internet all would be facilitated via closed systems (apps and portals) as well as open systems based on SIP. This would help significantly to businesses which have direct customer interaction.
  4. Market of DIDs or 10 digit virtual phone numbers will become very common. Telcos would be offering it directly and various platforms like Microsoft’s Skype, Google Voice, Vonage etc would also join in and resell those.

An interesting case of above is BSNL’s recent announcement of their platform “Wings”. Though based on their usual track record of totally screwing up, I would keep my expectations low, but still offering seems interesting and gives an idea of the updated regulatory framework.

5 replies on “Indian telecom voice market and updates”

  1. I think with operators like MTNL, and BSNL, phone (PSTN) is far more reliable (rely on being available in emergency situation) than internet, I happen to have an MTNL phone where phone service is provided over SIP, and it goes down every few hours :-/. Although if it becomes more reliable in future, then planning to use some SIP application on router to forward it to another SIP number. 🙂

    1. Hi Ashish
      > MTNL unreliability
      That has nothing do with technology but their implementation.
      Let’s see how you find IP telephony once telcos launch their apps (plus wifi offload for native offloading).

      1. Exactly, thus my shortlisting to BSNL, and MTNL, whom I have blind faith on, when I want to point how not to implement something. 🙂
        And, recently after commenting on your site, I found something disastrously interesting with MTNL’s implementation 🙁

  2. VoIP will be more interesting, carriers are now shifting to VoLTE with all 4 carriers have some sort of VoLTE deployment and broadband networks will also add-on IP Calling like APSFL.
    IP Networks are more reliable as the routes are dynamic and virtually unlimited bandwidth. Much of the fiber being laid is not being used at the fullest potential, like I read Jio is using 288 and 96 fiber strands to interconnect cities. I am not sure of exact fibre usage of BBNL but at the very least they will be using 24 strand fibers. Connection broken between Bengaluru-Chennai, no problem reroute BLR-HYD-Chennai or BLR-MUM-Singapore-Chennai, with latency of 100 ms at worst.
    I don’t understand the need of special apps ?
    VoWifi is built in to phones, atleast some of them. Apple for example is white-listing both VoLTE and VoWifi, so it enables only after specific request and conformity to standards from carriers. Android is more open, but anything running VoLTE is capable of running VoWifi. Carrier apps are lousy and security threats.
    When we reach late-majority phase of adopting VoLTE ideally with ipv6 all calls are virtually free, but the carriers should continue to provide better QoS for VoIP.
    I predict International calls also will be free on IP networks, provided regulatory authorities are fine with security threats.

    1. Hi Prudhvee. I think there would be still many Android devices which won’t offer Wifi offload out of the box and for them apps might be useful. Plus, it also offers operators to sell voice over someone else’s network. So while an Android/iPhone user might have native wifi offload support, they still cannot use Vodafone over Airtel network or Jio over Vodafone networks. Having app support will be useful for those cases.

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