The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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On the Web, STD will go local

New Delhi, Nov. 28: Call the US for five bucks! When internet telephony was allowed three years ago, tantalising adverts like that pulled hordes of people into internet kiosks.

The revolution that happened in overseas calls — some may argue that the scratchy and unreliable quality of the calls punctured the hopes of the anticipated boom — could soon be extended to STD calls. Imagine making a call from Calcutta to Delhi at the cost of a local call — Rs 2!

It is a prospect that has been thrown up by a consultation paper floated for discussion today by the telecom regulator. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has proposed to develop an integrated policy for high penetration of internet and broadband. The authority has sought the comments by December 21.

The main thrust of the policy paper is to remove the fetters on internet telephony, which is restricted to ISD (or overseas) calls.

“The major issues to be examined include allowing unrestricted internet telephony, promoting the availability of low-cost internet access devices, fostering local development and manufacturing of equipment through government incentives and a less onerous taxation policy,” said a senior Trai official.

The paper says three ingredients have to be tackled — quality infrastructure, affordable access devices, and local content — to achieve desirable growth and penetration in internet and broadband connectivity.

The paper draws upon the examples of domestic successes and studies in other Asian countries that can be used to help deepen penetration of internet and broadband services in India. (See chart)

The paper has sought views of various stakeholders on the various policy initiatives, regulatory actions and steps required to accelerate the growth and penetration of internet and broadband in the country. Also included is a summary of the various technical options available to provide broadband services.

“Internet and broadband can be a catalyst in rapidly achieving wide reaching social and economic objectives. The unified licensing framework in telecom is appropriate as the distinction between voice and data blurs even as the flexibility of various technologies to provide diverse services becomes more encompassing. The importance of internet and broadband becomes immediately relevant in this context,” the official said.

The consultation paper, which has been placed on the Trai website, also points out that much needs to be done to achieve such an objective because the situation at present is far from satisfactory in terms of capacity, subscriber base and growth rate of internet and broadband usage.

Trai feels that the availability of broadband services at affordable price-levels will have a positive impact on the economy and the resulting business developments are likely to attract new investment, create more jobs, and increase productivity through infrastructure build-up.

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