State-owned telco BSNL has launched fixed mobile telephony (FMT) service allowing subscribers to virtually install a fixed line phone number onto a mobile device using an app. Customers using the service can make and receive cheaper calls (hosted via 3G/4G  or WiFi) while travelling outside India to any cellular or fixed line network.

Note that this service was initially launched in March last year, but was withdrawn after receiving flak from private telecom companies who claimed that such calls would bypass the interconnect regime and pose security risks since calls are routed over the Internet. Consequently, the telecom regulator TRAI issued a consultation in August last year looking to bring VoIP/FMT calls under the interconnect regime. However, BSNL seems to have overcome this by providing a standalone phone number to every FMT subscriber, as mentioned in the below tweet:

Rates and service charges

It’s not clear how a user will be charged for service, and how one can subscribe for it. We will update the post once the company posts more details about the service. This PTI report in March pointed out that FMT calls are basically an “add-on” service, and existing BSNL landline/mobile subscriber can simply install the app onto a smartphone and sign up via the app

While launching its last year, BSNL said that it would charge a fixed rate of Rs 99 per month and calls will be charged at Rs 1 per minute for both STD and ISD calls (within India). Calls made outside India will be charged as per existing tariff plans. Apart from this BSNL was also providing call transferring service via FMT. Any FMT subscriber can transfer his/her incoming calls to any other BSNL cellular number. Users had to pay a fixed monthly charge.

RCOM has a similar app-based calling service

In November last year, RCOM launched an international calling app ‘Reliance Global Call India’ for Android and iPhone users. This was made available to a customer of any telecom operator. Calls were charged at Rs 1.4 per minute to list of 200 countries only. However, 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.