Telcos Revolt Against BSNL’s App-Based Calling Service; Claims That It Violates Licensing Agreements
Led by COAI, private telecom operators (except Reliance Jio) have revolted against BSNL for re-launching limited fixed-mobile telephony, and allowing app-based calling services. COAI has approached Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and asked them to intervene, and immediately stop BSNL from offering this service.
BSNL’s has relaunched their limited fixed-mobile telephony services, which converts any mobile phone into a cordless telephone, which can work in-sync with landline telephones and allows the users to make/receive calls via an app installed on the smartphone. Thus, basically, the user is able to make or receive calls using the BSNL modem, without involving any usage of the BSNL SIM Card or BSNL’s mobile telecom services.
Rajan S. Mathews, Director General, COAI, said in a letter to TRAI Secretary Sudhir Gupta: “We request your kind intervention in issuing an immediate direction to the BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd.) for withdrawing this app-based calling service,”
Interestingly, Jio is not part of this opposition, as COAI has informed that they have ‘divergent views’ on this issue.
BSNL’s Formula: Old Wine In New Bottle?
BSNL had launched their Fixed Mobile Telephony (FMT) last year but had withdrawn their services amidst similar protests. Then, in the middle of January, BSNL relaunched this service, albeit ‘limited’ this time. While last year, BSNL customers could have used the app-based calling anywhere in the world, this re-launch allows the users only to use this service while roaming within the home premises.
BSNL Chairman Anupam Srivastava had earlier justified their move by stating: “Landline subscribers find it inconvenient to fetch the contact details from mobiles and then dial the number on fixed line … This service will turn a mobile handset into a cordless device within the home premises, which means that customers can still avail the attractive landline tariffs of BSNL..”
COAI has vehemently opposed these tactics by BSNL to re-launch a service which was already withdrawn last year.
COAI said, “BSNL’s Fixed Mobile Telephony (FMT) service is a restricted but in-principle same version of their FMT service, even though they are marketing it as a distinct service.”
Why Is COAI Opposing App-Based Calling Services?
It’s plain and simple: Profits. BSNL’s app-based calling service will suck away other telecom operator’s profits, and allow BSNL’s customers to make and receive calls for almost free of any expense, or rather at the expense of other telecom players.
In the letter, COAI explained the reason for their opposition: “We understand that the new service will use fixed line Caller Line Identification for making calls from mobiles and currently no termination charges are applicable for calls to and from fixed line in terms of Trai’s prevailing IUC regulation,”
As per COAI, this re-launched service by BSNL is disguised as a Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), and it clearly ‘numbering plans’ and major sections of licensing arrangements of telecom operators in India.
COAI has clearly said, “Such routing with an app number is not allowed under the license and it is not Internet telephony,”
We will keep you updated as more details come in regarding this issue.