IT Taskforce
Basic Background  Report
9th June 1998



6.1 Toll-Free Services & Reduction of Telecom Costs

i) DoT & VSNL should introduce Toll Free Lines to access INTERNET from any telephone exchange in the country. For example, if you dial '0006517' from any telephone in the country, within few seconds you can reach Singapore Telecom without any charge. In the same way DoT can arrange for the Toll Free Lines to INTERNET access from anywhere in the country. DoT will be able to reduce the cost of this facility by connecting the user to the nearest city which has the INTERNET Node. If they feel that the user will stay on-line for a long period, they can restrict the call to a specific duration (for example 30 Minutes) which is normally enough for a user to download his mail and surf the INTERNET a bit. They can charge a nominal fee for those who use for more than the specified time.

ii) Another possibility could be to provide toll free access to every INTERNET Service Providers point of presence (POP). If the INTERNET policy can increase the number of POPs for making them available from every Tehsil Headquarters or even further down, the cost of usage of the telecom network, as distinct from INTERNET service charge, could significantly come down. Today, even within a city where there is a POP, the telephone access charge is high. For example, the charge for one hour of INTERNET usage is Rs. 20/- but in one hour, there are 12 local call charges to be paid to DOT. This amounts to Rs. 16.80. In other words, even the local telephone access charge is as much as the INTERNET usage charge. If the access were from a remote place on STD, the telephone costs would be several times the INTERNET cost. That is why, there must be special dispensation for INTERNET usage with respect to the telecom access/carriage.

iii) Local call rates for INTERNET access: INTERNET is one of the most significant developments in the world of global communications. Easy access should be provided to the vast information resources on the INTERNET for the public at large. Unless this is done, it will be difficult for companies and individuals to compete with their counterparts elsewhere in the world. The Government should therefore provide the widest possible INTERNET access to the public at reasonable cost. In countries like the United Kingdom and the US all access to the INTERNET is charged only at local rates. It is desirable that this model be adopted in India so as to give a fillip to extensive use of INTERNET services.

iv) There should be no surcharge for a fully paid international high speed Data Circuit (64 Kbps and above), if it is used for making phone calls. High speed data circuits are fully paid for. Therefore, the question of surcharge should not arise. Secondly, it is infeasible for the Government to monitor phone calls on this circuit.

v) The DOT charges double the tariffed lease rental for high speed data circuits leased by companies licensed to provide value added services like Electronic mail, voice over data, EDI, INTERNET services etc., to the public. This double rental must be removed and normal tariffed lease charges only should be payable.


6.2 DOT-related Routing Issues

All ISPs should be given the following facilities:

i) Requests made by ISP for release of Bandwidth to be sent by VSNL to INTELSAT within one week of receipt.

ii) Allowing voice along with data where required by ISPs to take benefit of the single window and providing opportunity for exports, should be cleared by DOT within 30 days.

iii) Reduction in domestic lease line rates by 50 percent for software units.

iv) In addition the following issues relating to international connectivity require urgent decision:

• Use of Microwave Radio Links by ISPs for accessing these earthstations as local to overcome 'last mile' problem.

• Direct Access Provider (DAP) status to ISPs so that they may route their requirements of transponder space to INTELSAT directly.

• Simplification of Procedure for Frequency Allocation and siting approval of Standing Advisory Committee on Frequency Allocation (SACFA/SOT).

• ISP to use state-of-the art technology to provide off-the-shelf services to the industry as per emerging requirements including dial-up services.

v) VSAT-based and other data networks should be allowed to be interconnected with the public switched telecom networks (PSTNS) with interconnect agreements entered into by the parties under supervision and arbitration, if necessary, of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. The present restrictions of the Department of Telecommunications preventing the private networks directly being linked with each other should be given up. The present restrictions against the networks being linked to each other directly and the insistence that they should go through the DOT's network should be scrapped.

6.3 New Public Services

i) Centralised call centres: Centralised call centres can reduce, if not eliminate entirely, the need for sales, marketing and technical support spread across regions. The call centre business is internationally estimated at US$ 200 billion. It is a relatively young industry and has only been recently established in the UK, USA and Australia. It is yet to be established in Asia to a significant extent. Time differences mean that India could answer calls when Europe and US sleeps. Availability of skilled staff and competitive wages make India an ideal location for such services. Better telecommunication infrastructure can help in setting up remote services in the country. The Government should actively encourage such services by quickly responding to requests for bandwidth and links.

ii) 900 Services: In the USA toll free services are called 1-800 services. The called party and not the caller pays. Nearly 50 percent of long distance revenues are from 1-800 services. Another service is 1-900. Here private companies develop and provide services which use the PSTN. There are two components for the service provided - normal charges for (a) the telephone company for carriage of call and (b) the value of the service (e.g. marriage bureau; which product is available where etc.)

The Telecom Company and the special service provider(s) enter into an agreement; every call to the 1-900-XXX.ABCD is measured; the caller identity is known to the Telecom Company; it bills the caller and transfer the charges collected for a commission to the service provider. DOT should promote 1-900 tariff services.


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