Xiaomi‘s Internet Telephony service Mi Voice made an appearance on Indian handsets, even though it doesn’t quite seem to be working (yet). A message which stated “Make international calls at lower rates” was pushed to Indian Mi phone users late last week. Mi Voice is not to be confused with another business called MiVoice or the voice assistant like feature, to users of Xiaomi phones. In China, the service was activated as early as October 2015 (another instance here), to make VOIP calls through the phone.
The top up package offers calling at 0.05 Chinese yuan, roughly translating to 51 paise per minute for domestic calls, and a little over Rs 3 per minute for international calls. The message states that users can call any phone in the world minus carrier restrictions. Sadly, clicking on ‘Agree T&C and use’ crashed the app/message screen.
Combing through MIUI forums (here, here and here), we see that the service has been active (probably in China) at least since early February, where it apparently needed to be activated either through an SMS or call. Some users have been complaining that the call app directly goes to Mi Voice, not providing the option to use the SIM card to make phone calls.
TRAI’s upcoming consultation paper on Internet Telephony and Throttling
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is planning to release a consultation paper on net neutrality covering two issues: throttling speed and blocking and prioritising data, and more pertinently, on the licensing of Internet Telephony services like Whatsapp Voice and Skype, according to an ET report.
VOIP is and isn’t a problem for Indian telcos
Indian telecom operators haven’t been consistent with their stand on VoIP. Bharti Airtel told investors last month that voice volume continues to grow, and they don’t see any material cannibalization from Internet Telephony / VoIP. Last year, Idea Cellular told investors that only 0.1 to 0.2% of its traffic was VoIP and cannibalization was not something it had to worry about. This contradicted something that the company said in a previous conference call, where it called for regulation of VoIP, saying “Proliferation of unregulated VoIP/Internet Telephony at a massive scale is leading to a significant disruption in the existing voice business of TSPs and would discourage TSPs capability and incentive to invest in infrastructure.” Reliance Jio on the other hand, wanted a regulatory framework to address security concerns, with communication services like Whatsapp and Viber, to bring them on par with telecom operators.
Ringo’s suspension: Readers would remember that in December 2015, Ringo, a P2P app which lets its users make local and international calls across landlines and mobiles at a low cost without using WiFi or carrier data (2G/3G), paused its operations in India temporarily, saying that it had run into a few hurdles locally, while international calling was operational without any issues. An ET report said that telecom operators had blocked backend support to the app, and were planning to write to TRAI stating that the service violated sector rules and did not operate according to license requirements.
TRAI says VOIP gaining traction: Last month, the TRAI, after consulting on the possibilities of ‘migrating to an IP-based network’ for interconnecting voice-data over IP network (VOIP) in 2014, issued recommendations to the DoT stating that IP-based networks are increasingly gaining traction, therefore facilitating interconnection between IP-based networks is imminent.
Disclosures: MediaNama has taken a strong position in favor of Net Neutrality and against price discrimination; Founder and editor of Medianama Nikhil Pahwa is a volunteer with the SaveTheInternet coalition.