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TRAI paper suggests bringing voicemail, audiotex and UMS under a licensing fee


The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has come out with a new consultation paper seeking public opinion on issues regarding licensing terms, entry fee and revenue sharing arrangements for voicemail, audiotex (IVR) and unified messaging services (UMS).

In the paper titled “Consultation Paper on Review of Voicemail/Audiotex/Unified Messaging Services,” the regulator has asked 20 questions on issues such as the need for separate licenses for voicemail, audiotex and UMS, technical specification of licenses, duration of the license, conditions for migration of existing licenses for voicemail, audiotex (IVR) and UMS to unified license. These can be viewed here .

Initially licenses for voicemail, UMS and audiotex or IVR services were issued to telcos on the basis of cities in 1996; the DoT then wanted to reform grant of license and other financial terms in 2000, following wing which the TRAI recommended changes to license agreement. This was approved by DoT in 2001 and currently all licenses are granted under those terms.  However, Voice mail, IVR and UMS services are not regulated under the Unified Licensing (UL) regime and the TRAI is looking to bring these services under the UL.

What TRAI has said in the paper

The DoT issued recommendations regarding licenses for Voice Mail, Audiotex, UMS services to TRAI in January. The TRAI has considered them and discussed possibility of regulating these services under Unified License agreement. Licenses are subjected to terms discussed below:

-Scope of services: Existing license conditions has given freedom for telecom company to determine the scope and guidelines for services and the license conditions. For example: telcos can use Audiotex for IVR services and designate multiple dial codes to play pre-recorded information on recharge packs, Value added Sercies (VAS) like sport and weather, etc. The TRAI is inviting comments discussing regulation of these services offered through Audiotex and UMS.

License conditions: Today, a telco can offer voicemail, audiotex and UMS without an entry or license fee. They just need to have a bank guarantee of Rs 3 lakh. While, for Audiotex services, a telco need not acquire a license. TRAI wants to introduce entry fee and other charges for acquiring licenses and duration of those licenses. It added that the function of Voicemail is currently being replaced by apps such as WhatsApp, Viber, etc., and might need a technical upgrade or integration with email, SMS, etc.

Terms and conditions: The TRAI said telcos shall not use Voicemail/Audiotex services’ dial-out conference facility to illegally  host STD/ISD calls. It also mandated telcos to record call details of conference calls made through dial outs, and prohibited point to point conferencing.

FDI norms: The TRAI also proposed 100% FDI for telcos looking to provide Voicemail, Audiotex, UMS. Any foreign company looking to own more than 49% directly or indirectly in a domestic telco for such services will need an FIPB approval by default.

Questions for consultations: The TRAI has issued consultation around the above terms, stakeholders and the public can send their comments to pradvnsl@trai.gov.in with a copy marked to rksingh@trai.gov.in by 11th July 2016.

Image credits: Flickr user Ken Banks under CC BY 2.0

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