Home > Cover Story
 Print Friendly Page ||  Email this story
VoIP set to explode as Telecom opens up

New and existing players wonder what kind of impact VoIP will have in the market and what percentage of calls will be IP-based

The telecom sector is opening up at last. The government has permitted the entry of private operators for NLD services. Internet Telephony/VoIP will be legalized from April 2002 and the ILD sector will be thrown open to private operators soon after. So we can expect cheaper phone calls and more widespread usage of VoIP in the enterprise.

"Legalization of VoIP will create opportunities for both new and existing players, generating the competition needed to drive down India's phone prices, which are among the highest in the world," opines M Balashankar, Business Manager, Communication & Product Services, Infosys Technologies. "This will in turn lead to growth in traffic volumes, spurring further investments in India's telecom infrastructure."

ISPs, international telecom companies and equipment vendors are all standing by to capitalize on these developments. Equipment providers like Nortel Networks are already talking to local carriers and ISPs.

"We will soon enter the Indian market and focus on ILD," confirms Enis Erkel, VP-Carrier VoIP, Asia Pacific, Nortel Networks. "We are bringing in end-to-end solutions for both enterprise customers as well as the carriers. We are already talking to three or four potential customers here."

IP Telephony solutions providers have chosen local partners/channels to market their offerings. For instance InnoMedia, a maker of IP videophones, VoIP gateways and other IP Telephony solutions, has partnered with Tata net for national distribution.

Local ISPs are also gearing up for voice services, as this will bring in much-needed revenue from value-added services.

Amitabh Singhal, Secretary, Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI), says the legalization of Internet Telephony will enable private ISPs to grow Net traffic and increment revenues by offering services such as real time online fax, video chats, Web conferencing, etc. It could also help ISPs to support other applications like Web-based call centers.

But what will it take to excel and lead in this Second Coming?

"Those service providers who can adapt their existing network infrastructure for next-generation multimedia applications and services will lead," says Nortel's Enis Erkel. He speaks enthusiastically about the convergence of voice, video and data networks and the emergence of Multimedia over Packet—a next generation VoIP technology.

Though ISPs want a share of the lucrative Internet Telephony pie, they face opposition from existing telecom companies, whose revenues could be severely affected. Some feel both can co-exist.

ISPAI's Amitabh Singhal says telecom operators can benefit too. "Following the international trend, basic telecom operators will gain in the long-term through increased call volumes. For them too, Internet Telephony represents an opportunity to value add to their traditional voice offerings. It's a fact that most telecom companies around the world have embraced telephony and co-exist with other application and service providers."

As many await the legalization of VoIP, new and existing players wonder what kind of impact it will have in the market and what percentage of calls will be IP-based after April 2002.

"It's too premature to comment on the size of the market and the revenue opportunity in it," says Jangoo Dalal, VP-Channels & Business Development, Network Support Services, Cisco India. "The dynamics of the market will only start shaping up once the market is opened up entirely. It is hard to put financial figures onto individual areas such as personal productivity or moves or changes, and they vary from one organization to another but feedback from the market is very positive. One thing is for sure and cannot be contested is the total cost of ownership of an IP-centric solution is significantly lower than that of conventional telephony."

Other industry captains that we spoke to had similar opinions. For now one can only speculate on the potential of VoIP, without accurately describing in advance, the kind of impact it will have on the market.

- <Back to Top>-  

Copyright 2001: Indian Express Group (Mumbai, India). All rights reserved throughout the world. This entire site is compiled in Mumbai by The Business Publications Division of the Indian Express Group of Newspapers. Site managed by BPD