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  • Abhinav Negi

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the government came up with the new OSP Guidelines in 2020 and the further revised OSP Guidelines in 2021 which superseded all the previous orders released over the period of time.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!

2008-2019


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.

2019


TRAI RECOMMENDATION: In Oct 2019, releasing their Recommendation paper on “Review of OSP Terms and Conditions” TRAI mentioned the following points:

  • The requirement of PPVPN for WFH may be removed and the WFH may be connected to the OSP center using any commercially available VPN

  • Provision of prior intimation to DoT with complete address of the WFH location including static IP address for availing the facility should be continued

  • The requirement of agreement including the bank guarantee for availing the WHF facility may be removed

  • In case of violation of terms and conditions of WFH facility by any agent/employee or by the OSP, the OSP may be subjected to a penalty of Rs 10 lakh per WFH terminal subject to an upper limit of Rs. 1 crore

  • In case the penalty for violation of Rs. 1 crore is reached, the OSP may be declared as barred for using the WFH facility

These points were sent as recommendations from the body to the Department of Telecom to amend the ongoing regulation.

2020


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:

  • The requirement for Security Deposit and agreement for “Work From Home” facility for OSPs was exempted

  • The requirement for Authorized Service Provider Provisioned VPN (PPVPN) was exempted

  • OSPs were permitted to use secured VPN configuration using Static IP/Dynamic IP (from the pool of Private IP assigned for VPN to be used for WFH) by OSPs to interconnect OSP center and Home agent positions with predefined locations

  • OSPs were then required to provide prior intimation to the respective LSA field units of DoT before starting WFH facility. While intimating, OSP must submit complete details of ‘Extended Agent Position’ i.e., name of the agent, physical address and Static IP/Dynamic IP Pool assigned thereto

Security Conditions around WFH:

  • The CDRs/ call logs had to be maintained by OSPs for one year and provided in a simplified form to DOT, as and when demanded by them

  • In case of violation of terms and conditions of WFH facility by any agent/ employee the OSP was subjected to a penalty up to Rs. 5 lakhs per WFH location

  • OSP registration including maintaining all logs of the activities carried out by Extended Agents remained unchanged


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:

  • The agents at home shall be treated as Remote Agents of the OSP Centre and interconnection is permitted

  • The Remote Agent is also allowed to work from any place within India

  • The OSP shall be responsible for any violation related to toll-bypass

  • The OSP shall ensure that the system logs are tamper-proof and the CDRs/ all logs of the activities carried out by the Extended Agent shall be maintained for one year.

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:

  • Voice based OSP operations are allowed to be carried using any technology including broadband i.e. on the Internet over secured VPN connection

  • The VPN server (VPN concentrator) should be installed in an Indian site only, to ensure the traffic from Extended Home Agent and the server should not go out from Indian boundaries and the IP location of the agent must be traceable to a physical location in India

  • CDRs and System logs capturing all the attributes relevant to call traceability must be captured during the remote operations

  • The OSP shall be responsible for any violation related to toll bypass and must not infringe in the jurisdiction of the Telecom Service Provider (TSP)


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