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Trai may pull up Airtel, Voda, Idea in ISD calling case

“Show-cause notice is ready in the matter (violation of International Calling Card Services Regulations) for Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular. They will be given about a week’s time to reply and then further action will be taken,” an official source said. When contacted, spokespersons of Airtel, Vodafone and Idea declined to comment on the matter. There was no reply to queries sent to TRAI. Trai has received complaints from interested ILD (International Long Distance) companies that these operators are not signing agreements, thereby violating regulation.

The regulation, issued in August 2014, was aimed at lowering ISD rates by allowing ILD operators to directly offer their service to consumers. A user of a calling card is required to dial a certain prefix code on his/her phone to make calls using network ILD operators. Since companies having only ILD cannot have direct access to customers, they are required to go through telecom service providers, mainly mobile operators.

Trai observed that ILD operators that in many cases ILD operator gets only 10 per cent share out of total ISD rate paid by consumers and 90 per cent is kept by access services. It also reduced charges that were paid by ILD operators to main telecom operators from their ISD call charges to 40 paisa per minute for wireless services and Rs 1.20 per minute for wireline services. The calling cards have not been launched till date mainly because of some access service providers not signing interconnect agreement.

Access service providers are companies like Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, BSNL, MNTL, Reliance Communication whose services are directly available for customers. Under the rule, an ILD operator interested in providing services through ‘Calling Card’ shall request, in writing, to all access service providers to enter into interconnection agreements so that its customer can access services of ILD operator by dialling some special numbers irrespective of their mobile network. As per the regulation, access service providers shall, within thirty days from the date of receipt of request enter into interconnection agreement with the ILD operator so that they can issue calling cards directly to consumers.

The regulation issued in August 2014 bars the access service providers from denying their consumers the ILD voice services offered through calling card either directly or indirectly. Meanwhile,  sectoral regulator is likely to come up with a consultation paper on over-the-top (OTT) players like Skype, Viber and Line by the end of this month seeking comments on issues such as bringing them under a licencing regime, revenue sharing and net-neutrality.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has been working on the consultation paper for quite some time but new issues keep on emerging regarding the OTT players. OTT players facilitate their users to make calls or send voice and video messages through Internet for free.

Issues like voice over internet (VoIP) calls, net neutrality emerged recently and they have also been included into the consultation paper. Sources said Trai is going to ask questions if the present licencing framework of unified licence can cater the OTT services or a different licence has to be issued to OTTs. In case of OTT players offering voice services, what security conditions including maintaining data records, logs etc should be imposed on them and if they are residing out of India, how these conditions can be ensured by the government. 
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