There is much confusion among stakeholders about the applicable policy on Internet Telephony in India – each stakeholder we’ve spoken with over the last couple of years has a different interpretation of the policy. Many companies provide Internet Telephony services – some through partnerships with telecom operators like BSNL and MTNL and primarily target international calling, others route the calls back to India through international exchanges. As the same time, we received a copy of a notification from our sources, with a list of foreign Internet Telephony Service Providers that have been banned in the country.

Last month, MediaNama filed a Right To Information request with the Department of Telecom for the applicable policy on Internet Telephony/VoIP in India. According to the response, the policy is as follows:

(i) Internet Access: Internet access means use of any device/technology/methodology to provide access to Internet, including IPTV and all content available without access restriction on Internet, including web hosting webcolocation but it does not include service provider’s configured Closed User Group Services (VPN). The content for IPTV shall be regulated as per law in force from time to time. Permission to provide IPTV services shall be granted on application by licensee provided the licensee has net worth of Rs 100 crore or more.

(ii) Internet Telephony: Internet Telephony mean a service to process and carry voice signals offered through Public Internet by the use of Personal Computers (PC) or IP based Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) connecting the following:
a) Pc to PC, within or outside India
b) PC/a device / Adapter conforming to standard of any international agencies like-ITU or IETF etc in India to PSTN/PLMN abroad
c) Any device/Adapter conforming to standards of International agencies like ITU, IETF etc connected to ISP node with static IP address to similar device/Adapter; within or outside India.
Explanation: Internet Telephony is a different service in its scope, nature and kind of real time voice service as offered by other licensed operators like Basic Service Operators (BSO), Cellular Mobile Service Operators (CMSO), United Access Service Operators (UASO)

(iii) The Internet Telephony described in condition (ii) above is only permitted
(iv) Addressing scheme for Internet Telephony shall only conform to IP addressing Scheme of Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) exclusive of National Numbering Scheme / plan applicable to subscribers of Basic/Cellular Telephone Service. Translation of E.164 number / private number to IP address alotted to any device and vice versa by the licensee to show compliance with IANA numbering scheme is not permitted

(v) The Licensee is not permitted to have PSTN/PLMN connectivity. Voice communication to and from a telephone connected to PSTN/PLMN and following E.164 numbering is prohibited in India”

Further information is available at http://dot.gov.in/internet%20services/table1.htm

Apart from this, we had also requested the following:

1. All notifications regarding VoIP received by the DoT from the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Status: This has been denied, citing national security.

2. Each notification related to VoIP services sent to ISPs, Access Service Providers or UAS/CMTS/ISP licensees, both official and non-official, from January 2006 to August 2011.
Status: the DoT has asked us to contact Central Public Information Officers of specific term cells. This will take some time.

Scans of the RTI response received: