Short Code Council to regulate licensing for VAS

NEW DELHI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has recommended that licencees of telecom licences may provide application services and additional facilities in case of any value addition or upgradation that the technology permits subject to intimation to the licensor and the Authority at least 15 days in advance before the introduction of these services or additional facilities.

In its recommendations on ‘Application Services’ (Value added services), the Authority has said this should be included in the terms and conditions of existing licences as well as in the proposed licences under unified licencing regime.

The licensee cannot provide any other application service which otherwise requires a separate licence.

Trai has also recommended setting up of a Short Code Council (SCC) for allocation of Short codes to telecom service providers/licensees and licenced application service providers/content providers.

The Authority has defined Application Services as: “Enhanced services, in the nature of non-core services, which either add value to the basic tele services or can be provided as standalone application services through telecommunication network, the basic services being standard voice calls, voice/non-voice messages, fax transmission and data transmission.”

Application Service Providers should be covered under licensing through authorisation.

Short codes will be allotted centrally through an online web based system in accordance with the National Numbering Plan. Short codes will be allotted to both ASPs and TSPs independently.

The Short Code Council will also centrally manage the details of short codes allotted, type of service provided under short code, tariff for the service and hosting details for application services, which can be used by customers for discovering the services interactively.

Application service provider can launch the service only after online approval by the SCC. If the ASP/TSP/content provider wishes at a later date to run a new, modified or additional application/content on the same short code, TSP/ASP/ content provider will update the same online for obtaining revised approval.

Appropriate fee, one time and recurring charges, should be charged for allocation of common short code by Short code Council so that only the genuine and serious content provider/ application service provider/entity should seek the same.

The service through allocated short code should be made operational within three months of allocation and intimated online about the date of operationalisation of the common short code by the concerned Application Service Provider/ entity/telecom access service provider. If no such information is updated online within three months by TSP/ASP/content provider for declaring the service operational, it shall be presumed that the common short code has not been made operational and non-utilisation of short code for a period of more than three months will be subject to cancellation of short code and reallocation to other applicants.

Telecom service providers should open the common short code within a fortnight after the code is approved by the Short Code Council and update this information online with Short Code Council.

The orders/ directions/ regulations of the Department of Telecom or Trai from time to time as the case may be will be applicable in this regard.

The Authority recommends that for spreading awareness regarding utility application services in rural and remote areas, awareness campaign for NeGP initiated by Department of Information Technology (DIT) should be utilised.

Development of application services in Indian regional languages should be encouraged through suitable incentives.

The expansion of these services will contribute in enhancing the lifestyle and capability of customers as well as providing an additional revenue stream of telecom service providers.

The paper has been issued because a need was felt for this considering the enhanced market potential for application services due to rollout of 3G & BWA services, deployment of 4G services in the coming years, implementation of National Broadband Plan and migration to Next Generation Networks (NGN).

The Mobile Value Added Service (MVAS) market in India is rapidly growing and has great revenue potential. The revenue estimated from mobile application services is around 11 per cent of the total revenue of mobile telecom service providers, which excludes revenues from SMS which is 7 per cent of total revenue of mobile telecom service providers. The revenue from application services is expected to reach 31 per cent (inclusive of SMS and data access) of the mobile telecom service providers‘ revenue by the year 2015.

Growth in mobile application services is fuelled by the continuous improvement in quality of handsets and their falling costs, younger generation of mobile users and innovative content/applications and packaging.

With the ongoing rollout of 3G/BWA services, it is expected that higher data transfer rates would facilitate more data intensive applications and services. This growth in applications and services is going to be a win-win situation for the mobile telecom service providers, application service providers/content aggregators, consumers, handset manufacturers, content developers/ authors/ creators and others associated in the application services value chain.

A Consultation Paper on “Mobile Value Added Services” had been issued on 21 July 2011 and comments received from stakeholders. Open House Discussions were held at Bangalore on 24 November 2011. Based on the written submissions of the stakeholders, the discussions in open house and prevailing international practices relevant to our country the Authority has finalised the recommendations.

Traditionally Value Added Services (VAS) have been defined as enhanced services, which add value to the standard or core tele-services offering like voice calls and fax transmission. Examples of value added services include call related services like call waiting, call forwarding, multi party conferencing, voice mail; email, SMS, MMS etc.

However, currently various Application Services (AS) are also being provided through telecommunications network. While services like SMS, MMS on mobile phones, and data access and call related services both on wireline and wireless were usually considered value added services, but in recent years SMS, MMS, call related services and data access have more and more become standard services, and VAS therefore has beginning to exclude those services.

Many more applications and services are being offered on telephone and these services continue to evolve with changing technologies. However, the term VAS continues to be used for all kinds of applications being offered through telecommunications network.

Since most of the services offered pertain to content or application services, the term VAS needs to include all kinds of content and applications provided on telecommunications network apart from traditional value added services. In view of the fact that value added services have evolved to Application Services the recommendations will be for Application Services.

In India, SMS, Ringtones and Caller Ring Back Tones (CRBT) constitute bulk of the revenue from value added services provided by mobile telecom operators presently. However, there are innumerable application services like gaming, video and audio streaming, stock quotes, news, cricket updates, tele-voting, chatting, etc that are getting popular.

Each service differs in content, cost and demand and is customised for different segment of consumers. With the introduction of 3G and Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) services this is going to change in a big way as high bandwidth multimedia content services, mobile TV, online gaming and utility applications like e-governance, e-commerce, e-education, e-health will push the demand for applications and services as well as innovations in applications and services products offering.

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