July 2018


DoT Finally Permits Internet Telephony or Voice Over IP (VoIP)

In a long overdue development, DoT issued its "Clarification regarding Internet Telephony" on 19 June 2018. The circular states "... it is clarified that the said service is un-tethered from the underlying access network. Hence Internet Telephony service can be provided by Access Service Provider to the customers using Internet Service of the other service providers."

Hence, any company holding an access service provider licence, can offer Voice over IP.

Further, this VoIP service can also use any other ISP's connectivity. An ISP cannot block a VoIP call that comes in on its network.


To fully understand the situation, it is important to understand - What Is VoIP.

VoIP is a general term that enables a voice chat, between 2 p e r s o n s connected to the internet. A VoIP call does not use the connectivity of a telephone company (telco).

Further, there are 2 types of VoIP:


In its simplest form, this is where 2 persons connected to the internet, speak to each other via the sound card on their computers.

There are also many apps like WhatsApp, Skype etc that allow Voice chats, but both users must have the same app such as WhatsApp, Google Duo, Skype or WeChat, etc.


Telcos usually charge a certain amount for any calls that originate of terminate on their networks. TRAI has permitted a maximum charge of 6 paise for local calls & 35 paise per minute for international voice calls terminating on an Indian telco.

Hence a skype call that terminates on a land line will be expensive. It could cost upto 35 paise per minutes, compared to zero cost for an in-app or net-to-net voice call.


COAI (Cellular Operators Association of India) had made representations to DoT that internet telephony service should not be untethered, i.e. it cannot be implemented on a third party's broadband network.

DoT has rejected this plea.


To ensure that consumers receive good quality VoIP, DoT has also asked VoIP operators to clearly described the parameter supported by them & define their quality of service so that their "subscribers can take an informed decision."


Strictly following the new law, WhatsApp, Skype and WeChat calls are not legal, unless these companies obtain an Access Service Provider licence in India.

New companies may emerge, providing low cost VoIP calls. However, WhatsApp international calls are free & most Indian mobile companies now offer unlimited voice calls in a low price monthly package. This effectively makes paid VoIP, irrelevant.

This circular is another case of too little done too late. n