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Summary:

A bunch of engineering students rigged together a voice over IP network in the southern city of Madras and allowed folks to make and receive long distance calls, bypassing the monopoly networks. Basically, a person called a local number in India, and that number turned voice […]

A bunch of engineering students rigged together a voice over IP network in the southern city of Madras and allowed folks to make and receive long distance calls, bypassing the monopoly networks. Basically, a person called a local number in India, and that number turned voice into data, and sent it along using high-speed connections to the destination. And vice-versa! The whole scheme came crashing down, when a moron of Reliance mobile user “found it strange that he was talking to a relative abroad while his mobile showed a local phone number.” You dude, why couldn’t you just keep talking. Anyway, the Indian authorities see it as a VoIP racket. If they were in US, the venture capitalists would be running to fund their company. Anyway here is a link to the story, which is even more confusing than the network architecture of this so called racket! Apparently these kind of tricks cost Indian telecom operators around $200 million a year. More than 200 such exchanges have been busted in the country over the past few years.

By Om Malik

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  1. Its a Racket on the part of the local Telcos who want to charge different rates for local, long Distance and International calls. The Telco should be in the business of completing the last leg of the call, at the same price, no matter where the call originates. Same stuff happens in the US with the ILECs charging more for intraState calls than for interState calls.

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  2. Taxation without representation leads to Salty Tea.

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  3. On the subject of VoIP in India, the ‘racket’ part aside, can someone explain if I could just take my ATA box (I’ve had Vonage since July of 03.. Thank you!) with me while visiting and plug it into one of the broadband (Cable modem in India?) lines, will it let me send/receive calls using my home phone# in the US? Just wondering..

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  4. Sunil, you ask “will it …?” Do you mean will India …? If so, the answer is yes. The ruling is concerned only with terminating in Indian PSTN. It is another question altogether whether the access bandwidth is wide enough to support a VoIP call.

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  5. I have a friend who uses Vonage in India to make and receive phone calls using his broadband connection (128 kbps). Last time when he called me, the quality was very good. So you shouldnt have any issues taking you box.

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  6. Dont laugh guys.. for folks who are used to their measely 56 kbps (barely), the 128 kbps dedicated connection IS BROADBAND.

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  7. Aswath, by will ‘it’ I meant whether the ‘ATA box’ would let me make the calls. Of course the normal phone lines wouldn’t do the trick nor the 128 kbps or whatever they’ve got going, but I think the businesses (at least the IT-related ones) have higher bandwidth lines, right? Are they using VoIP yet for their phone systems?

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  8. Sunil, now you are asking a factual question, so I will disqualify myself. :-) But I suspect that these companies are using their corporate network for internal voice communications. This was done by big PBX vendors even during PSTN days. But as Avaya’s success suggests that the world still belongs to hybrid solutions rather than pure play.

    By the way one has to be careful with broadband bandwidth capacity – the constraining parameter is the uplink rather than downlink capacity.

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  9. Well I donot understand one thing, why is this a racket. When technology exist why are we shield the obsolute, expensive and non consumer friendly technology under stupid(may be I am not aware how useful) rules.

    VOIP is some thing that can really change the telecom of india and of the world which it is already….

    I hope the govt can get over its legacies…

    It is really un fare to charge a mobile user or for that matter any telephone user for extra charges when that can be easily erased with Voip ….

    Correct me if I am wrong

    Comment by Bhagvath — February 9,2005 @ 2:59 pm

  10. The law that is used to support the arrest of those techies was written in 1885. I believe it was formed by our colonial powers because they thought wireline telephone can result in freedom fighters across country uniting. They did not want bajajs and tatas of those days to get into telephone business.
    As an interesting anecdote I remember in 1994 i was about to be charged under the same law because I was trying to record a speech during a public function on Independence day. The collector of Madhya Pradesh was livid that I did not call telecom department to record the speech given by a Influential Politician( the creed that believes in representation without taxation :-) ). Collector had earlier asked me to make provisions to record the speech. (I was a rookie officer just joining the pantheons of Central government then- I resigned in 1997, in disgust, because I wanted to use my brain) and I thought he basically asked me to get some tape recorder and ask some of my staff to record the speech.
    Later I learnt that , as per the above act, only telecom department can record a speech. Apparently even this was penned to stop recorded speeches being circulated during pre independece struggle.
    So basically it is not surprising to me. In India if you want to do business first you have to be in politics.

    Comment by Shrikantha Prabhu

    India is atleast 200 years behind the US, we still have local calls being metered by the minute and by the number too. If anybody here has stayed in the US, heor she would know that local calls made a free. Its about time India woke up and smelt the reality, there is no India shining and would never be. We Indian pay premium price for the obselete technolgy that this farce of a country provides us

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  • Well I donot understand one thing, why is this a racket. When technology exist why are we shield the obsolute, expensive and non consumer friendly technology under stupid(may be I am not aware how useful) rules.

    VOIP is some thing that can really change the telecom of india and of the world which it is already….

    I hope the govt can get over its legacies…

    It is really un fare to charge a mobile user or for that matter any telephone user for extra charges when that can be easily erased with Voip ….

    Correct me if I am wrong

    Comment by Bhagvath — February 9,2005 @ 2:59 pm

  • The law that is used to support the arrest of those techies was written in 1885. I believe it was formed by our colonial powers because they thought wireline telephone can result in freedom fighters across country uniting. They did not want bajajs and tatas of those days to get into telephone business.
    As an interesting anecdote I remember in 1994 i was about to be charged under the same law because I was trying to record a speech during a public function on Independence day. The collector of Madhya Pradesh was livid that I did not call telecom department to record the speech given by a Influential Politician( the creed that believes in representation without taxation :-) ). Collector had earlier asked me to make provisions to record the speech. (I was a rookie officer just joining the pantheons of Central government then- I resigned in 1997, in disgust, because I wanted to use my brain) and I thought he basically asked me to get some tape recorder and ask some of my staff to record the speech.
    Later I learnt that , as per the above act, only telecom department can record a speech. Apparently even this was penned to stop recorded speeches being circulated during pre independece struggle.
    So basically it is not surprising to me. In India if you want to do business first you have to be in politics.

    Comment by Shrikantha Prabhu

    India is atleast 200 years behind the US, we still have local calls being metered by the minute and by the number too. If anybody here has stayed in the US, heor she would know that local calls made a free. Its about time India woke up and smelt the reality, there is no India shining and would never be. We Indian pay premium price for the obselete technolgy that this farce of a country provides us