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RCOM launches an app for International calls; does not work

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Reliance Communications (RCOM) has launched international calling app Reliance Global Call India for Android and iPhone users, which can be used by a customer of any telecom operator. Note that the app is made for ISD calls only, with rates starting from Rs 1.4 per minute. RCOM, as an introductory offer, is giving Rs 200 talktime for Rs 100, with calls possible to 200 countries globally including USA, UK, Canada, UAE among others.

Calls on the app are hosted using Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) technology to transfer calls via public switched networks (PSTN) without the use of the Internet or VoIP in the backhaul, a spokesperson from RCOM told MediaNama.

Reliance Jio also has a standalone VoIP app but currently does not link to landline or cellular networks yet. A couple of years ago, Airtel had launched Airtel Talk allowing international calls to India, free calls from Airtel Talk to Airtel Talk, instant messaging, video calls, conference calls, apart from file sharing.

VoIP calling in India

Providing VoIP via a standalone app was made possible after the Department of Telecom (DoT) modified the existing Unified Access Service (UAS) license in April to allow unrestricted VoIP telephony in the country. An UAS license is a mandatory license for telecom companies looking to provide wireless/wirleline voice and data services in the country, as per current regulation set by DoT. Currently there more than 163 licenses issued across 21 telecom circles to different telecom operators.

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Issues with the app

Update: The technical support team updated my account with credentials for logging-in that was sent to me via an SMS. Once a call is made via the app, it launches the generic phone dialer screen, denoting that calls are not hosted within the app using VoIP, but rather using PSTN networks.

When I tried to register, the app froze on the registration screen, and I had to shut down the app manually. On relaunching the app, I tried to register one more time, but it popped up a notification saying that I’m already registered on my number. I did not receive login credentials, and the app prompted me to contact the customer care.

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I’m not the only one facing this issue:

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Some users claims to have registered and paid for the service, but were unable to make any calls:

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VoIP in India and regulatory tussle between operators

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With the new launch, RCOM is posing a direct competition to its rival operators since the service is live for any subscriber on any network to make outgoing international calls at cheaper rates. But we are yet to see whether the rival operators would counter this with their own set of VoIP services or pursue lobbying the regulator to block unrestricted VoIP calling like they had done earlier.

Last month, VoIP operator Ringo, which provides cheap International calls claimed, that that top three telcos in the country including Airtel, Vodafone, Idea have been derailing its plans to launch Internet Telephony in India by not providing interconnection points even though it has procured a UAS license. While, telecom lobbying association COAI in its submission to TRAI’s consultation paper said that VoIP calling apps like Ringo benefits from zero interconnection charges (for wireline) and that such operators cannot offer VoIP calling without owning a cellular network. After launching in India in November 2015, Ringo’s operations till this date remains suspended due to the regulatory tussle between telcos and TRAI.

Corrigendum: A spokesperson from Reliance told MediaNama that the app utilizes Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) technology to transfer calls via public switched networks (PSTN) without the use of the Internet or VoIP in the backhaul; the headline and story has been changed accordingly. 

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