07 Jul

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.

02 Apr

Railtel-Google free railway station wifi using 49Gbps!

Railtel (the telecom arm of Indian railways) is running free wifi hotspots across the country in collaboration with Google.  It’s there since last two years and started with the MoU between Railtel and Google (news here) back in 2015.

Fast forward to 2018 – the free wifi project railway stations seems to be doing quite well with so many users using it. The project covers 361 stations and is expected to reach it’s target of 400 stations soon. The IP network for the service is under the name “Mahataa Information India Private Limited” and originates IP pools from AS134426 – https://bgp.he.net/AS134426#_asinfo. It is a single homed network behind Railtel’s AS24186.

 

 

Google’s free wifi at Indian railway stations is better than most of the country’s paid services

 

I put an RTI to Railtel asking them about MoU details as well as bandwidth consumption for each state. In their reply, Railtel denied the request for MoU under the exemption from disclosure as well as NDAs they have with Google but they did share detailed of state wise bandwidth consumption.

 

 

 

Some interesting points

 

  1. This data is peak bandwidth usage and not average bandwidth.
  2. Highest usage seems to be of Maharashtra which very likely is because of high usage in Mumbai.
  3. Second highest in Uttar Pradesh which isn’t surprising based on the size of the state.
  4. Rajasthan, as well as Punjab, seem quite low against their size.
  5. It seems to be mostly 0 for North East states – Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura & Sikkim. The only traffic is in Assam (450Mbps) and Nagaland (90Mbps).  In Assam there are 5 active stations under the project and Nagaland there’s just one (Dimapur) station. 90Mbps usage for one station is interesting.
  6. Total bandwidth consumption of 49.68Gbps looks like a nice number. Hard to predict the cost of the bandwidth since a significant part of this would be local cached/peered traffic like Google, Facebook, Akamai, Amazon etc. My guess would be that 35% of the 49.68Gbps i.e ~ 17Gbps would be the IP transit expense part of it which would be much cheaper against the long haul network Railtel is maintaining.

 

For anyone interested in raw RTI, I have posted the reply from Railtel here which includes my question & their replies. Document hides my personal details like phone number & address. So far impact seems good but I very much wish to know the cost of offering such service for free and if it is sustainable or not.