Internet telephony
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This article is written by Bheeni Goyal, from Symbiosis Law School which explains the various articles of the Internet Telephony and the related issues.

Introduction

The concept of Internet Telephony dates back to the time when a few computer users began the conversation over the Internet. The growth of the Internet Telephony acts as a potential challenge to the Plain Old Telephone System or the regular telephony. There was a lot of debate and discussion before the introduction of the Internet Service Providers or the ISPs for offering telephony services in India and finally, in 2002, the Government of India paved the way for allowing the ISPs to use telephone services. The quality of the services through the mode of the Internet Telephony will not be that high as compared to normal telephony services but the lost cost will definitely attract the consumers. However, there are many regulatory and Quality of Service issues that are required to be settled. Hence this article has tried to identify the key issues in relation to Internet Telephony and certain aspects related to it.

What is internet telephony?

Internet Telephony is a form of Internet Protocol Telephony. Internet Protocol Telephony can be used as a generic term among the various ways of transmitting voice messages, fax, and related services over packet-switched IP-based networks. The basic steps which are involved in initiating an Internet Protocol telephone (IP Telephone) calls are the conversion of analog voice signals to digital format (binary data) at the premise of the subscriber itself and then the translation of the available data into particular IP packets for the purpose of the transmission over the Internet. However, the whole procedure is reversed in the end. All the communication takes place in real-time though. So to differentiate between Normal Telephony and Internet Telephony it could be said that for the former the circuit-switching technology is used while in the latter packet switching technology is used. There are various methods of Internet Telephony:

Personal Computer to Personal Computer (PC to PC)

In this type of communication, both parties should have the required devices like computers for the purpose of initiating and conducting the required call. The second required criterion is that they need to have internet connections. The ISP which is known as the Internet Service Provider is responsible for providing the required internet connection for the call but does not ensure smooth service. Nowadays the same level of services is available on smartphones and tablets as well.

Phone to Phone

In this type, both parties should have the required telephonic devices whether fixed or mobile. These devices should have required a network connection. The Telecommunication players have provided certain gateways which provide for the transmission of voice over an IP based network. This ensures a quality network for both the users. These gateways basically convert audio into data for transmission across the Internet Protocol Network and then it converts the incoming data back into the analog signals.

PC to Phone

PC to Phone or PC to Fax method are considered the same. Under this method, there is the conversion of speech into packets that takes place on the originating user’s PC. This process is overturned at an Internet Telephone Service Providers (ITSP) gateway server, which then dials the called party’s telephone no. and, when a connection is made, it starts carrying the caller’s speech and transmitting called party’s speech in the other direction. The PC to Phone or PC to Fax category includes PC to Phone Voice and PC to Call Centre services.

Difference between internet telephony and voice over IP

The use of Internet Protocol-based networks is continuously developing all around the world due to a large number of applications being supported and due to Voice over Internet Protocol. The Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), facilitates the users to make the real-time voice calls that are transmitted over the packet-switched network using the Internet Protocol. It helps the customer in the significant reduction of the cost of a telephone call and helps in saving the costs.

The difference between Internet Telephony and Voice over IP depends on the IP Network that is the medium of transmission. Internet telephony has to be dependent on the availability of the internet for making any sort of communication. However, they are not dependent on the Public Switched Telephone Network for the purpose of transmitting real-time audio from one Personal Computer to another PC. On the other hand, VoIP, a private network is used instead of a Public Internet.

Another point of the distinction between Internet Telephony and Voice over IP is the quality of the transmission. VoIP, use the private network therefore there are fewer technical difficulties because the reliability of the quality of transmission is more as compared to that of the Internet Telephony.

How is it different from traditional telephones

Internet Telephony is different from Traditional telephones in many ways. One of the significant grounds of the difference can be Technology. The Internet Telephony is based upon the most advanced technology. Voice over IP uses the Internet Protocol. However, all the phone calls are made on the Public Switched Telephone network. This technological aspect of internet telephony has provided good quality services to the customers with reasonable rates and better quality. Although the government does not have the required understanding and regulatory framework for the new technology the government needs to understand the new Internet Protocols.

Another area of difference between the Public Switched Telephone Network and the Voice over IP is a circuit-switched network. Whenever a phone call is made, a dedicated channel is established while the phone call is going on. However, in the case of Voice over IP, data packets are used between two IP addresses of the caller and the recipient. In this case, no fixed line is established. And due to no fixed established channel, it is considered to be much more cost-effective.

Issues in relation to internet telephony

There are various issues in relation to Internet Telephony. Some of the key issues will be discussed herewith:

  • Regulatory issues

The existing licensing provisions provide that there is no restriction on the PC-to-PC telephony using the internet. The devices such as Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN)/PLMN which are used to make internet telephony calls abroad are not permitted to be used in India. Internet Service Providers are demanding that devices such as PSTN/PLMN should be permitted in India as well. If such permission is granted then it will help in bringing the call charges down in the country. Internet Telephony was also permitted to Internet Service Providers because of the new ISP licensing conditions which had been issued in the year 2007 by the government. 

However, the Internet Service Providers are not permitted to make any calls on the PSTN/PLMN subscribers because they are not allowed to make any calls to the subscribers of PSTN/PLMN networks for the purpose of terminating the Internet Telephony calls within the country. However, while finalizing the recommendations on “Review of Internet Services” which has been sent to the Department of Telecommunication, the issue of permitting the Internet Telephony to the PSTN/PLMN within the country by the Internet Service Providers was during the consultation process. If the Internet Telephony is connected to PSTN and PLMN, the benefit of the advancement of the technology will pass on to the subscribers. 

  • Blocking Internet Telephony websites

When the ISP license has been granted, it does not give the subscription only to the internet subscribers. The services by the ISPs are provided to all. However, sometimes the internet service providers try to block the rival ITSPs which include foreign ITSPs as well. They try to block the rival ISPs, especially the foreign ones because they can easily establish ISTPs without any help from the ISPs established in India. This will surely affect the base of the consumers.

  • Quality of Services

This is one of the significant difficulties in Internet Telephony is that of achieving a parallel standard of the Quality of Service as that of the normal telephony services. Generally, such difficulty arises because the Internet Telephony uses as the packet mode for the transmission of data which usually degrades the quality of the communication. The packet mode of transmission has the tendency to get lost in the transmission on the public internet. This could lead to a delay in the transmission. Some of the stakeholders are of the view that the parameters of the Quality of service should be mandated identical to the regulations given out by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India in 2002 for Voice over IP as well. They based their contention on the point that Internet Telephony is simpler than the telephony service which is being regulated by TRAI, and therefore it should have a Quality of Service similar to that of the other telephony services. However, there are contradictory viewpoints on the same. Other sets of stakeholders want the parameters for the Quality of service should not be made similar and mandated as the same cannot be ensured over the Public Internet. Therefore the different opinions of the shareholders have made it difficult to adopt one particular type of approach. This issue is required to be solved by the government at the earliest. 

  • Lack of adequate co-operation from telephone operators

Another practical difficulty that Internet Service Providers are facing is the lack of suitable co-operation from basic telephone operators. Unless the basic operators give better Quality of Services in their agreements with Internet Service Providers, ISPs will not be able to deliver better Quality of Service to their subscribers. While in the past year, the Telephone Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released certain commendations for Quality of Service for the ISPs who have been offering Internet Services, Internet Service Providers are impotent to meet the terms of quality of service (QoS) due to the lack of cooperation from the basic operators. Hence, the TRAI must keep in mind the existing opposition and economic scenario while framing the terms of Quality of Services for Internet telephony services. 

  • Access to emergency services

Emergency services are referred to as the services which are available to call the police stations, hospitals, etc. Before the introduction of mobile services, finding out the exact location was a difficult task. However the same has been changed with the introduction of mobile services. Nowadays the mobile has Global Positioning System (GPS) systems that make it possible for Hospitals or Police Stations to track individuals. In case of the usage of the Internet Telephony services from a particular fixed location, it is possible to map the information of the position and route the emergency calls to the appropriate agency or the service provider. Nevertheless, one of the important features of Internet Telephony services is its nomadic nature. Because of such nature, it would become really difficult to map the precise information while organizing the emergency calls.

Conclusion

The market and scope of Internet Telephony have increased quite a lot in the market since the Introduction. However, if there is the growth of Internet Telephony, the competition with the basic service providers will increase too. And due to the increasing competition in the telecommunication sector, India can be considered as an eye-catching market for increasing the scope of Internet Telephony and Voice over IP. However, with the implementation of the same, there have been certain issues that are required to be addressed before the proper implementation of Internet Telephony in India. We need to settle down all the regulatory issues and there is a requirement to establish a regulatory framework for the proper implementation of Internet Telephony and making the valuable services available to the consumers like the effective rates and the better quality of the Service. The ambiguity and differences between the opinions should be settled down for executing the effective implementation of the Internet Telephony services in India.

References


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