Indian mobile operators could soon be facing significant pressure to reduce calling rates following the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) proposals to allow Indian ISPs to offer unrestricted VoIP services. According to India’s Business Standard, the recommendations could lead to a 50 percent reduction in domestic long-distance calls and a 20 percent drop in the price of international calls. The current regulations restrict VoIP usage by ISPs to a computer-to-computer model with users unable to originate or terminate national VoIP calls via a mobile or fixed-line handset (though the regulations do not apply to international calling). According to the report, India’s telecoms licensees have had permission to offer unrestricted VoIP since 2006 but none have chosen to do so due to the possible negative impact on per-minute pricing and ARPU. TRAI’s latest recommendations now need approval from the Indian government before becoming law.

India’s ISP community welcomed the news while local mobile operator groups argued that the proposals were unfair as ISPs did not need to pay for telecoms licenses in order to operate. “The regulator has ensured that consumers who were not being offered a cheaper service provided by the march of technology despite the fact that mobile operators were allowed to do so will no longer be deprived of it,” said the Internet Service Providers Association of India president Rajesh Charia. Meanwhile, TV Ramachandran, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India, said: “If ISPs want to provide telephony they should take a universal access service licence and pay INR1,650 crore (US$378 million). Now they have been given the right on a platter and it violates the level playing field norms. The government is following the populist bandwagon.”