policy

Audio conferencing platform Sabsebolo has gone offline. A note on its website, and voice message on its dial-in number says that the company has had to temporarily suspend its services due to regulatory issues. Note that Sabsebolo is founded by Hotmail founder Sabeer Bhatia, and was backed by Tata Group’s Ratan Tata in November last year. It’s been around for a very long time, though: rolled up a bunch of VoIP services as long ago as 2009, when it first bought VoIP app Jaxtr, and then another one called MobiVox.

The note on its website:

sabsebolo-site

We’ve been unable to contact Sabsebolo for comments: there’s no contact information on its website, nor a customer care number when you dial the helpline. We’ve mailed info@sabsebolo.com requesting information, and will update when we hear from them. In case someone at Sabsebolo is reading this, please contact me at nikhil@medianama.com

What regulatory issues?

Well, MediaNama has been using Sabsebolo for conference calls every now and then. The way it works, rather, used to work, was pretty simple: they had local numbers for major cities across India, and everyone would call up their local number, use a conference ID and a PIN to log in, listen to Sabsebolo ads for Jaxtr, and join the conference call. All the calls would effectively be joined together, rather, bridged together.

Sabsebolo used up try making money from this by offering conference call recording facility for a fee. We never used that. For us, it just saved one person the pain of dialing everyone in to a concall. Now we just use Google Hangouts for this, because of its Slack integration.

Now, the possible regulatory issue – and this is unconfirmed – is that Sabsebolo didn’t have an AudioTex / VMS / UMS license, which was needed by Sabsebolo to operate a call conferencing / bridging service. We checked, and the latest information uploaded on the Department of Telecom website, dated 30th June 2016, does not mention Sabsebolo Technologies as a licensee. That list is here.

Our take is that Sabsebolo appears to have met most of the criteria for the license: they didn’t do outbound calls, they didn’t do point to point conferencing, which the license explicitly disallows:

30.6 Point to point conferencing and calling card facility shall not be provided by Voice Mail/Audiotex/ Unified Messaging Service licensees (pdf).

from 22.6: “…In case Voice Mail/Audiotex service licensee takes resources for the operation of the services from more than one telecom service provider, the dial out facility will not be permitted. In case the resources are taken by the Voice Mail/Audiotex service licensee from only one service provider the dial out facility will be permissible. However, for UMS licencee the dial out facility shall not be permitted.”

Note that the TRAI is looking to address issues related to this license, even as the Department of Telecom appears to be clamping down on companies not in compliance with the old license.

Additional reading

– Read our overview of the issues that Knowlarity faced with the its services in Delhi being briefly shut down.
– A summary of the TRAI paper here.
– The TRAI paper is here.
– Comments that have been filed about this license with the TRAI are here.
– Countercomments deadline is 8th of August, 2016