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Airtel, Vodafone denying inter-connect, complains calling app company Ringo

Calling app company Ringo has alleged that telecom players Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea and Aircel are not providing it network inter-connection to start Internet telephony to provide 50-60 per cent cheaper calls. "We have obtained unified licence for telecom service in Mumbai and have applied for permit in rest of the country. Telecom operators except BSNL are not providing us inter-connection," Ringo co-founder and CEO Bhavin Turakhia told reporters here.

There was no response to the queries sent to the mobile operators on the allegations levelled. Ringo plans to provide calling service with the help of a mobile application which will work when its customer has 3G, 4G or a wi-fi connection. The application will link each customer of Ringo with a mobile number. The subscriber will then be able to make a call on any mobile or landline number in the country.

Turakhia said Ringo through its subsidiary, VMobi, received unified licence in February and has had multiple discussions with telecom operators. "Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Aircel have said they will provide inter-connection only if we do not start Internet telephony. The service has been allowed by the government in 2008. We have agreed to pay inter-connection usage charge prevailing as per law, but still they are not giving us PoIs to start our service," Turakhia said. Reliance Jio recently had similar issues with Airtel, Vodafone and Idea on the number of PoIs that the Mukesh Ambani-led firm requested for. "Airtel and Vodafone have incorporated some common clause and are asking for Rs 11 lakh bank guarantee for every E1 and there can be around 500-600 E1s at one PoI. This they will provide only after we agree to not start Internet telephony," Turakhia said.

"No telecom operator has signed this kind of agreement and even these two operators have not signed such agreement among themselves." He said further that company has recently approached Jio and is awaiting a response. Ringo has submitted a representation to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and expects this issue to be resolved in 3-4 weeks. "We have put in Rs 7.5 crore for unified licence and we will be paying another Rs 7.5 crore for pan-India permit.

Besides this, we are providing Rs 264 crore as bank guarantee and investing another Rs 65-70 crore in infrastructure. We will provide voice calls for 20-35 paise a minute compared to current levels of 40-150 paise," Turakhia said.

Ringo has made a comeback after putting on hold its mobile application calling service it started in November 2015. The app offered voice calls at nearly 90 per cent cheaper rates than telecom operators. The service used automatic audio-conferencing system to operate the application which led to a hue and cry among mobile operators, with Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal raising the issue in public before the then telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. Ringo kept its service on hold on request of Trai. 

"We will wait for action from the regulator before looking for other options. One objective of Ringo is to make voice calling free. It has already become free in the US," Turakhia said. "Even incumbent telecom operators can start Internet telephony, which will lower cost of service for everyone, but they don't want to." 

The company plans to gradually move towards more value-added service not being offered by anyone and looks at setting up wi-fi hotspots. "We may opt for a virtual network operator licence, but it is a very handicapped licence at present. India is the only country where VNO guidelines say a VNO can partner with one company only for VNO service," Turakhia added. 
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