• Sonia Karki

Inclusion of Audio Conferencing/ Audiotex/ VMS in UL and amendment in the guidelines

DoT, the licensing authority of India in the telecom sector has issued the “Licensing framework for Audio Conferencing/ Audiotex/ Voice Mail Services under Unified License”. This policy has been under consideration since October 2016 wherein DoT asked TRAI to share its recommendation in framing the same. The Department of Telecommunications has finally come up with the guidelines based on the last recommendation dated 24.12.2019 by TRAI.

A new authorization chapter has been added to the Unified License (UL) guidelines and the agreement to make this license a part of the Unified License. However, the migration of the existing license to Unified license has been kept optional for the existing licensees. Although, no new standalone license or their renewal will be issued for this license against the DoT guidelines dated 16.07.2021 while various amendments in the terms and conditions of the existing standalone license of “Voice Mail Service (VMS)/ Audiotex (ATS)/ Unified Messaging Services (UMS)” have been made.

The major highlights of the changes made in the UL guidelines are as below:

  1. A new authorisation chapter named “Audio Conferencing/ Audiotex/ Voice Mail Services” has been added in the Unified License guidelines and the agreement.

  2. The service providers providing Audiotex services on a commercial basis to any other entity(s) are required to obtain this license.

  3. The conditions of Entry Fees, PBG, FBG and application processing fee have been revised accordingly.

  4. The audio conferencing unit can be connected to a PSTN/ ISDN/ PLMN or IP network as per the TEC standards.

  5. Dial-out facilities using resources from more than one access provider will be allowed subject to the license conditions.

  6. The Service Area for the License under UL is being changed from “SDCA” to “National level” i.e. All India level. However, it will remain SDCA for a standalone license of VMS/ Audiotex/ UMS.

  7. The licence fees of the new licensees and existing licensees will be 8% of AGR, which is at par with other licensees of UL. The license fee shall be paid in four quarterly installments.

  8. The maximum amount of penalty that will be imposed under any violence in the licensing conditions in each Service area will be 20 Lakhs.

The major highlights of the amendments made in the standalone guidelines for this license are as below:

  1. The licensee will have to declare the Indian & Foreign equity structure of the company (both direct & in-direct) and submit a compliance report to DoT on 1st January and 1st July every year.

  2. The licensees are only allowed to acquire the customers in the same SDCA for which the license has been issued.

  3. No further extensions to the existing licensees will be issued. However, the licensee can migrate the license to UL upon the expiry of the existing license.

  4. The amount of Penalty has been included and a maximum of 20 lakhs per SDCA will be imposed on the license upon the violation of any licensing terms and conditions.

  5. An annual license fee as a percentage of AGR will have to be paid by the licensee (from the date of issue of this amendment) for each service area. The license fee shall be 8% of the AGR.

  6. A revised PBG will have to be submitted separately for each service area with an amount of Rs 60,000/-

  7. The existing licensees shall also have to submit a FBG of amount Rs 20,000/- within 30 days from the date of issue of the amendment.

  8. The technology for this license will be based on the latest standards/ requirements issued by TEC.

  9. The audio conferencing unit can be connected to a PSTN/ ISDN/ PLMN or IP network as per the TEC standards.

  10. Dial-out facilities using resources from more than one access provider will be allowed subject to the license conditions.