On 23 June 2021, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) released revised guidelines for Other Service Providers (New Guidelines), which further simplify and supersede the guidelines issued on 5 November 2020 (2020 Guidelines).
The Other Service Providers (OSP) framework had undergone a progressive overhaul with the release of the 2020 Guidelines last year. The 2020 Guidelines limited the applicability of the OSP framework to only ‘voice based business process outsourcing (BPO) services’, and did away with many onerous obligations such as the need to obtain a registration and furnishing a bank guarantee. Other relaxations in relation to infrastructure sharing, interconnection of OSPs, and work from home were also introduced. Our update on the 2020 Guidelines can be accessed here.
In this update we summarise the key changes introduced by the New Guidelines.
While the 2020 Guidelines clarified that the OSP framework applied only to entities providing voice based BPO services, there was still uncertainty regarding what constituted such services. The New Guidelines define ‘voice based BPO services‘ to mean call centre services provided by OSPs to customers both in and outside India, where calls are made by or to a customer through Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN)/ Public Land Mobile Network (PLMN)/Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) (Public Network). This is a significant change from the previous regime which sought to regulate both Public Network and Voice over internet protocol (VOIP).
Another important definition introduced is that of ‘toll bypass‘. Though historically, OSPs have been prohibited from causing toll bypass, the lack of definition led to inconsistent positions with respect to the implementation of various call flow structures across the industry. The New Guidelines define toll bypass to mean the illegal carriage of voice calls between Public Network (a) at the domestic end in India and a foreign country; or (b) of two cities in India, by using the OSP’s own network, as opposed to the network of the authorised Telecommunications Service Provider (TSP). The reference to ‘own network’ could be interpreted to be a private network like Multi-Protocol Label Switching Virtual Private Network (MPLS VPN)/ broadband/ leased line of the OSP within the public network. The restriction is in line with the DoT’s intent to limit the OSP framework to the use of the Public Network and its interaction with the OSP’s network.
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