Evolution of Work From Home Regulations for OSPs
The Covid-19 outbreak turned into a wake-up call for the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to amend the 12-year-old regulation of work from home (WFH) for the contact center/Other Service Provider (OSP) operators.
Before the pandemic, WFH had been a common practice in India's corporate sector but was limited to the enterprise (Non-OSP) part of the business only. To tackle the situation during the difficult times of COVID, the government at that time temporarily relaxed by waiving off the stringent regulations. Continuing to further promote the ease of doing business, the government came up with the new OSP Guidelines in 2020 and the further revised OSP Guidelines in 2021 which superseded all the previous orders released over the period of time.
The evolution of work-from-home guidelines for OSPs reflects the industry's adaptability and responsiveness to changing circumstances. Let us discuss how the guidelines have evolved over the years through this article!
REGULATIONS: Work From Home for OSP units was introduced in 2008 in the circular No.18- 2/2008-CS-I Dated: 5th August, 2008 with Subject: - Revised “Terms and Conditions - Other Service Provider (OSP) Category”
Extended Agent Position (WFH agent) as a concept was introduced with limitations in permission to extend the Agent position to a predefined location (agents’ home) over authorized Service Providers Provisioned VPN (PPVPN).
The OSP had to seek prior permission from DoT for facilitating WFH along with complete details for the ‘Extended Agent Positions’ including all the field units such as name, physical address, Static IP/ Dynamic IP Pool assigned in a prescribed format.
The OSP was to also submit a BANK GUARANTEE of INR 5 Cr. which was later reduced to INR 1 Cr. for each OSP site.
CHALLENGES: Using PPVPN was a major challenge for OSPs as there were no such services available from any authorized telecom service provider. Getting an equivalent leased line or MPLS circuits was way too expensive to be used and also is not allowed for any TSP to terminate at a residence address.
TRAI RECOMMENDATION: In Oct 2019, releasing their Recommendation paper on “Review of OSP Terms and Conditions” TRAI mentioned the following points:
These points were sent as recommendations from the body to the Department of Telecom to amend the ongoing regulation.
MARCH-NOVEMBER 2020 (COVID-19 PANDEMIC): Post the country-wide lockdown was announced by the Prime Minister of the country on 24th March 2020 due to ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic widespread, Department of Telecom released relaxation in existing Work From Home norms for OSP on 13th March 2020. All the above listed points from TRAI consultation paper was taken into consideration and further subsequent relaxations were released as well including:
Security Conditions around WFH:
NEW OSP REGULATIONS 2020: Recognizing the criticality of a robust digital infrastructure, the Indian government came up with the new OSP guidelines dated 5th November 2020 giving a fresh new dimension to this industry by relaxing several stringent regulations. Encouraging Work From Home for OSPs in India, these guidelines also allowed OSPs to provide Work From Anywhere in India. The facility of Extended Agent/ Remote Agent position is permitted with following conditions:
HOW WFH REGULATIONS WOULD LOOK LIKE NOW
REVISED OSP GUIDELINES 2021: With an intent of further simplifying the new OSP guidelines, these revised OSP guidelines dated 23rd June 2021. Since the OSP registration process is now done away with, no registration or intimation to Department of Telecom for Work From Home would be required by OSPs. However, the below security conditions must be maintained: