Net Neutrality without hurting Telcos and End users.
Author. P. Abraham Paul. 13 April 2015
Introduction: No one can stop advancement of Technology; and then Technology changes too quickly too. However, most Technology advancements disrupt the paths it go through and grow. Same is truer in Information Communication Technology of sorts. Advancement in ICT brought in convergence of Systems & Networks, mode connectivity, the end links and User end devices. INTERNET is the best thing happened in Communication technology in past few decades.
From the technology and business perspective, the differentiation between Mobile Networks and Fixed phone network is slowly vanishing making Voice, Data / Multimedia and INTERNET characteristics in Mobile systems similar to these in Fixed Networks. Differences are the end link, type of access, bandwidth limitations and user devices. Thus advance in Technology converged various forms of ICT based transactions that helped to provide Universal mode of Telecommunication offering Net Neutrality for all. Strangling Net neutrality will be a horrendous mistake. However, it is suicidal for Telcos to allow Over the top (OTT) service providers poach all sorts of Telephony related products and services and its revenue along with it.
From DOT days Government neglected Telecom and it is the Public Telecom Service Providers by licensed Private PLMN operators made the Telecom in India what it is now. But then it is to be seen that how long Telecom Technology, systems, network and transport continues in the present form as IP based ICT is the order of the future. Access to ISPs and to INTERNET is no more monopoly of Telcos. ISP access is now available through Cable TV network any many other sources. Devices that can penetrate any TSPs network and to ISPs without SIMs are already there. Future systems and networks will be handling Telecom, TV, Internet all rolled in one.
1. Basic fundamentals of Public Switched Telephone Networks.
At the outset, while analysing the part OTT players in the area of conventional Telecommunication, there seems to be an urgent need to revisit the basic fundamentals of Telephony and also about the need to keep these principles in tact. By definition, Public Switched Telephone systems, both PSTN and PLMN are obliged to give access and connectivity to and between subscribers of own and of other PLMNs & PSTNs anywhere across the word. All other Private telephone systems like PABXs etc., have to be basically subscribers of one or other PSTN or PLMN and function within stipulated rules of their connectivity and operational limits. (Any PABX or any other Private communication system or else that do not have enough junction lines according to expected busy hour traffic over the junction can clog the Public telecom system it is connected to.) It means PSTN/PLMN are not obliged to provide access and connectivity to any unlicensed communication players of any sort that are not legally or rightfully the subscribers of a PSTN or PLMN. Same is true with ISPs.
Hence one of the issues is whether the OTT players are legally subscribers of a PSTN/PLMN or not? If yes, the issue is reduced to method of connectivity and commercial understanding between the TSPs and OTT players. Of course, in the case of accessing OTTs via Internet, how this can be ensured is a question to ponder.
1.1. Internet also need to grow continuously to meet the needs of the day.
Now Internet is being used to access and acquire every form of information & knowledge, personal and business communication, applications for services, e-commerce and mobile banking needs by individuals as well as small, medium and large enterprises, organisations and various arms of Governments across the world, which is growing exponentially every day.
Unless there are enough access pipes and bandwidths are made available between the end users and the millions of Servers in the mighty net, entire system will become slower and slower. Those who often complain of delays in getting connected and slow through put need to know that Internet work over a mesh of shared network of pure chance routing and through put depends on availability of access paths with enough bandwidth in these pure chance alternate paths in every access points from the origination up to the destination. Any bottle neck in between anywhere will make the transport slow. A user contracted for 1 mbps data may not get same through put when connected to a user having only 256 kbps connectivity. This is more true in case of real time applications and products.
2. Impact of transition from basic Voice and Data to Multimedia and IP based products.
Please see what I wrote many years back: Impact of transition from Voice to Data & Multimedia. http://wp.me/p1ZsI2-23 Major shift of Voice based and other high speed Data and multi-media services over to INTERNET based usage will inevitably take away the business from Telecom Service providers to external digital, multimedia and various e-commerce and mobile banking service providers, and along with it goes out a major chunk of their revenue.
2.1. A major chunk of CAPEX of Telcos Systems and Network and the revenue earned are related to basic Voice and Data Services. Same is true with Non-telephony related Value added services. In a given Eco system, Telephony related usage and revenue remain more or less constant. Non-telephony related value added products and services such as pay by phone and many other e-commerce services offer an excellent way to enhance Telephone usage and thereby enhance revenue.
However, providing uncontrolled free access to external systems on circuit switched paths for long duration of real time applications, will cause congestion due to heavy traffic that will not only make the telecom system to fail due to overload but also make other systems in the network to collapse due to congestion in the junction circuits. It will also clog the Internet.
2.2. With the advent of 3G / 4G and new generation digital services, the transition from Voice call business to Direct and IP based Data and Multimedia already moved out substantial amount of business revenue from Telecom Industry to external service providers such as banks, content providers, and other multimedia companies. Allowing external service providers to use the access through Telecom network and systems and Telecom SPs Customer base that are set up and run incurring huge amount of CAPEX / OPEX and cost of License and Spectrum and are compelled to meet the need to expand it further in order to cater for these ever growing non-telephony service related services. That is why I have been pointing out the folly of Government policies of Telecom such as delinking Spectrum from License and selling it by auction at high cost. See my post “Who need Spectrum; How much, Where and When? http://wp.me/p1ZsI2-82
2.3. Revenue sharing is the way out. Telecom Industry will find it difficult to survive unless they ensure adequate share of revenue from these external Service providers and industries that by default use their customer base, systems and network. Telecom Industry, therefore, has all the right to get adequate share of revenue from both Telephony related and non-telephony related services and it is suicidal for them to remain as mere onlookers while other industries hijack their revenue potentials.
2.4. Whether Net neutrality shall be applicable both ways?
Many are of the opinion that tariffing should left to competition and the market place to decide. But how it can happen for a zero-valued product or service. Here is the importance of the term “Net Neutrality”
In normal telephony environment, there is call charging based local call, national call or international calls depends on the destination and time of the day and day of the year. Due to various reasons there can be different tariff for calls over different mode of connectivity, fixed mobile etc. Of course, with IP technology, it can become cheaper, still unfair to ask for it at zero cost as the calls involve systems and networks of different stake holders.
Or is it better to make tariff also Net Neutral and leave it to the competition in the market place to decide it?
Important aspect to be kept in mind is that means and ways of revenue sharing shall be such that it will not unduly increase cost of service and burden end users. Government and Telcos should know that success of Telecom Industry as in every other Industry thrives on its business volume and the volume comes from its availability and affordability to general mass of country’s population. Cost of Super hyped handsets and other user end devises etc., and passing on the effect of high cost on License and Spectrum, to users will increase cost of usage and will push the common people out of the system and the Industry goes down the drain. Please see my blog: Make Telecom Systems, network, Phones, product and services for the common man. http://wp.me/p1ZsI2-9i http://wp.me/p1ZsI2-9i
3. Compromise solution to upkeep Telcos Interest with Net neutrality.
Openness is the prime strength of INTERNET. Everyone agree that strangling #NetNeutrality will be a horrendous mistake. Therefore, is the need to ensure Net neutrality according to principles of telephony without hurting Telcos while safe guarding end user’s interest keeping the basic fundamental of Telephony in tact.
As mentioned above Telcos are slowly losing their monoploy on Telecom service delivery. To get over the current stalemate what is needed is a compromise solution to derive advantages of Net neutrality without hurting Telcos and of course, also safe guarding interest of the end users.
The end users are real beneficiaries of Net Neutrality as far as Telcos tow the line using compromise solutions and Government wake up and do away the policies of milking Telcos with heavy cost on License and Spectrum. Please see my blog: The never ending Telecom muddle in India. http://wp.me/p1ZsI2-gG
3.1. Such being the situation Government had pushed the Telecom business into; they would not dare to indulge in higher and higher investment needed for the high-tech data networks and access pipes to support other’s e-business needs with no means of adequate return on their investment.
The Network Operators /ISPs therefore, need to find strategies and methods to get adequate share of the revenue collected by e-business units that use their customer base, their network and resources. Many are of the opinion that market competition will take care of the issue; but how market competition can happen in zero cost service?
3.2. With further advance in technology with fully IP based systems replacing current mode of telephone exchanges it is possible that TSPs and ISPs will be rolled into one. This can happen only if the present form of licensing based on areas co-terminus to Telecom Circles replaced with giving license on Pan India basis.
Need of Payment Gateways in PDN for apportioning and sharing of revenue.
It is to be reconciled that the e-business and e-services related to 2.5G, 3G /4G and Data services over INTERNET involve ‘High Volume’ of ‘Low Value’ payments and these cannot be done by direct payments or through banks, regular credit card companies etc. Also these payments can neither be handled by the Network operators/ISPs nor by the Service provider/e-business units as the value of each transaction is known only to the e-Business/Service provider who finally sells or provide the service.
This is the most critical issue and the high tech Telecom and IP related e-Business cannot take off and the Network Operators/ISPs cannot hold on to sustainable business plans until it is addressed and resolved.
Micro-payment Gateways in PDN is one such idea to get back part of the revenue generated from e-business based on data services. This need coordinated efforts by all stakeholders and the regulators.
4.1. Concept of Payment Brokers middle way systems.
To be in line with technology advancements, the network operators have no choice but to induct the new technology systems related to telephony and non-telephony value added systems in their networks and find means and ways to ensure sensibly viable business propositions. As mentioned earlier, the data related services gaining predominance, and the revenue potential moves from Network Operators/ISPs to Service Providers and e-Business units, Network operators/ISPs have to look for methods to grab their share of revenue generated in the PDN to survive. Here lies the emphasis of the Payment Broker systems, which can manage the accounting of payments, apportioning of it and sharing the revenue generated between the stakeholders.
4.2. Security is also a major concern. Volumes can be written on the hazards a fully open system can cause to various areas of security. One method to ensure security is to provide a two level access to Internet.
This can be done by having Exclusive Govt. owned GSM Systems & Networks for administration and Crisis /Disaster management. Please see my blog in the link: http://wp.me/p1ZsI2-dh
Another way is to have an INTRANET layer as INDIA_CLOUD below World Wide Web for all such purposes.
Please see schematic by clicking the caption below:
4.3. INDIA CLOUD and Cloud computing.
Obviously, such payment broker system mentioned above cannot be managed by individual Network operators/ISPs as the Service Providers and e-business units are common platforms shared by customers of many different Networks/ ISPs. For obvious reasons, such system shall reside in exclusive India- Cloud below the World Wide Web (WWW) and managed by Cloud Computing.
India-Cloud as proposed, need to be fully firewalled to ward off unlicensed service providers poaching products and services from existing licensed service providers or else, using their technology systems, Network and Spectrum.
This can be realized by routing out all non telephony related data access to Internet direct through the ISPs and all Telephony related service requests (such as IP based call connecting) routed over circuit switched toll free access to licenced OTT players associating the payment Gateways for apportioning and sharing of revenue between the Telcos and OTTs. As all non-telephony related services will be routed out to Internet as happens now there shall be no complaints from the end users of Internet.
Typical example may be seen in what I had been propagating for long: “Money through Mobile” (MTM), a system that supports all sorts of money transactions and e-commerce by phone users transparent to Banks and banking systems setup and owned by a consortium of service providers is an option for telecom service providers to look into. Please see article on Universal Money Management by phone. http://wp.me/p1ZsI2-4g
5. Coming back to the Net neutrality issue, please see my reply to TRAIs consultancy paper on the Pandora’s Box on Regulatory Framework for Over-the-top (OTT) with some short term work around ideas till entire systems comprise of IP based switching and transport, end to end.
Click on the caption below to open the PDF file.
Knowing fully well that the ideas and opinions in my answers being against general view of many millions on this; it is most likely to end up a wasted effort by TRAI, I did not spent more time on it to fully refine it. Of course, like everyone, I also would like to have everything free, but that doesn’t change facts. Fact is that I had tested out most of these OTT applications a decade back (Money through Mobile mTm for instance) but did not to push it forward exactly for these reasons.
As mentioned earlier, the final solution is in changing over to IP based systems, network and transport, the earlier it happens the better for all, the TSPs as well as for the consumers.
Abraham Paul. P. email@example.com twitter.com/PA_Paul