Ringo Internet telephony service has been locked in a tussle with Telcos in India, as it attempts to launch Internet Telephony in the country. Ringo (through its group company VMobi) has obtained the technology and licenses for the service over six months ago, but various telecom operators including Vodafone, Airtel and Idea have not been providing interconnections to VMobi that are critical for Ringo to launch its services.
Unrestricted Internet Telephony is a progressive service that has been allowed in India since 2008 and can reduce the cost of telephony to one-third or even lower. In addition, it offers massive benefits to the end consumer such as simultaneous data transmission, HD voice, video calls as well as the ability to make calls over WiFi connections in bad signal areas. Ringo’s new call flow makes use of the Internet or the phone’s data connection to allow a user to make calls to anyone anywhere in the country over regular Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) lines.
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Ringo has acquired all the required licenses – under its company VMobi Solutions Pvt Ltd. VMobi has Access licenses for the Mumbai circle with other circles in the pipeline, National Long Distance Operator (NLDO), and International Long Distance Operator (ILDO) under the recent Unified License since February 2016 from the Department of Telecom (DoT). This license allows VMobi to provide voice services to its customers across the country. However, telecom providers have made attempts to derail the launch of Internet Telephony by refusing to provide VMobi with a fair, non-discriminatory interconnection agreement.
Bhavin Turakhia, Founder, and CEO, Ringo, said “Internet telephony is the way forward for voice services. However, in spite of having been permitted since 2008, the Indian consumer has not been able to enjoy the benefits of Internet Telephony because of Telecom players like Vodafone, Airtel and Idea have neither launched Internet Telephony, nor permitted other operators to launch the same. By failing to provide us with a non-discriminatory Interconnection agreement, or with the mandatory points of interconnect, these companies are making it incredibly difficult for us to do business and for the Indian consumer to ever experience a truly digital India, where low-cost calling and innovations like HD voice and simultaneous data transmission through Internet Telephony is a reality.”
Over the past six months, VMobi has been in constant touch with these operators seeking interconnections. However, these players have made repeated attempts to restrict the company’s scope of service and to prevent the launch of Internet Telephony, by including restrictive clauses in the agreements that VMobi has attempted to sign with them.
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“In each of the Interconnection agreements that we have attempted to sign, Telecom operators have inserted one or more clauses to prevent us from launching our Internet Telephony service. Some of these players have attempted to justify these clauses by saying that even though our licenses allow us to launch the service because there is much ambiguity that DoT and TRAI have not clarified, the service is not viable for launch. This is in spite of the fact that we are well within our rights to launch Internet Telephony as a perfectly legal service. Neither the licensor nor the regulator has opposed the service or given us the slightest reason to believe otherwise. I don’t understand why telecom providers are the one’s trying to convince us that we are in violation of our license when we have all the requisite approvals.” added Bhavin.
Without an Interconnection agreement, the licenses VMobi has procured to launch Internet Telephony in the Indian market are of little use. VMobi has further made attempts to contact TRAI to request assistance in obtaining an interconnection point and a non-discriminatory Interconnection agreement for both NLDO and Access services, on similar lines to those provided to other services providers.
“TRAI has been patient and progressive and we strongly believe that they will do the right thing for the progress of Internet Telephony in India” said Turakhia.
For the moment, things are looking up, and if all goes well, Ringo might be the first in a line of new entrants to the very saturated Telecom market – new players that are looking to push the boundaries of innovation and leverage technology to deliver the best solutions to the market.