TRAI norms violated in VoIP minutes sale

MUMBAI: Norms set by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India norms were flouted in the sale of voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) minutes to illegal call centres in Ahmedabad. An official said that TRAI offered VoIP bandwidth for a certain fee to licence-holders.

A four-member panel of IPS officers led by Ahmedabad police chief A K Singh, formed to investigate the bogus 'call centre’ racket, is probing how the TRAI norms were violated in the sale of VoIP minutes to illegal call centres. Illicit call centres utilised VoIP minutes to defraud US citizens worth lakhs a few days ago.

TRAI had earlier this year planned to set inter-connection charges for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls once the Department of Telecom (DoT) amended the relevant clause. The regulator suggested amending the licence provision for inter-connection at the IP level, which would ease Internet-based calls, alternatively known as VoIP calls.

Officials in Ahmedabad (Gujarat) were studying how other regulatory norms were violated by the alleged racketeers. Other agencies such as the department of industries and department of science and technology could keep a watch on such centres. A police officer said the alleged nexus between the accused and the police was also being probed.

The crime branch last week arrested Hardik Patel (a namesake of the controversial Patel leader), who had allegedly sold the minutes to a call centre in the Chandkheda area of Ahmedabad. Officials are investigating if Patel had a licence to sell VoIP minutes or if he purchased them from another licence-holder and then sold them to one Pritesh Joshi who managed call centre.

A telecom company is required to pay inter-connection charges when its subscriber makes a call to one on another network. The charge gets added up in the final price, which the subscriber has to pay. At present, there are no inter-connection charges for VoIP calls as the licence did not have a clause for inter-connection at IP level.

There was no means of determining the charges till the time licence is amended. Recommending to amend the licence, TRAI said there was no explicit clause relating to inter-connection at the IP level. Since IP-based networks, the regulator said, are continuing to grow, and traditional circuit switch networks are being slowly phased out, there is a requirement to facilitate inter-connection.

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