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Wait for free roaming calls gets longer as new telecom policy awaits Cabinet's nod

The wait for free roaming and cheap Internet calls for customers has got longer as the National Telecom Policy (NTP) 2011 has run into an indefinite delay.

The National Telecom Policy 2011 is expected to settle uncertainty in spectrum allocation. The National Telecom Policy 2011 is expected to settle uncertainty in spectrum allocation.
The wait for free roaming and cheap Internet calls for customers has got longer as the National Telecom Policy (NTP) 2011 has run into an indefinite delay. According to sources, the government is yet to initiate the process for the Cabinet approval of the policy even as the 100-day deadline announced by telecom minister Kapil Sibal expired on March 24.

Sources said although the department of telecommunications (DoT) is ready with the draft of the new NTP, it has not sent it to concerned ministries, a procedure that has to be carried out before it is finally sent for Cabinet approval.

This has raised doubts amongst stakeholders in the telecom sector who are eagerly waiting for the NTP 2011 to come into force, which would bring more clarity and help the industry decide on its future projects.

Insiders said that there are differences among operators and the government over issues like free roaming and access to internet service providers (ISP) to offer voice services through Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP).

Operators have been protesting over these two contentious issues as they fear losing massively on revenue they earn through voice calls, which amount to over 85 per cent of their source of revenue. If VOIP replaces the existing voice services offered by operators, voice services that range between 80 paise per minute and Rs 2 per minute may drop drastically. Some ISP licence holders are also planning to offer free unlimited voice calls for their subscribers once they get licenses to operate on voice as well.

VoIP commonly refers to communication protocols, technologies, methodologies, and transmission techniques involved in delivery of voice communications and multimedia sessions over Internet Protocol (IP) networks such as the Internet. Other terms commonly associated with VoIP are IP telephony, Internet telephony, voice over broadband (VoBB), broadband telephony, and broadband phone.

Free roaming, another contentious issue which operators are unwilling to give up, amounts to almost 10-15 per cent of their revenue earnings. "Obviously, we cannot afford to lose on voice and free roaming. We will be left with data services alone if ISPs are allowed to offer voice services as well. The government needs to make changes in the new NTP. The new policy cannot ruin us.

We have made heavy investments in setting up infrastructure and spectrum. We cannot remain a mute spectator," said a top official working with a leading telecom company. The NTP is expected to further push the growth of the telecom sector besides settling uncertainty related to spectrum allocation, norms for mergers and acquisitions (M&As) and new pricing on which spectrum should be allocated to players.

The NTP 2011 is expected to cover a wide range of topics, including expanding telephony and broadband services to every citizen in India, with a special focus on rural and remote areas, and growing the domestic ICT manufacturing industry.

The draft of NTP 2011 was announced in October by Sibal, who had said that the new policy would be ready after incorporating comments from all stakeholders by the end of 2011. The new policy was to be in place by June this year.

Courtesy: Mail Today