The new guidelines on Other Service Provider (OSP) issued by DOT on 5th November is one big step taken by Government of India under leadership of Prime Minister Modi in Ease of Doing business for IT and ITeS sector.
You can find the DOT publication here https://dot.gov.in/sites/default/files/2020_11_05%20OSP%20CS.pdf
iSPIRT Organised a Panel discussion in PolicyHacks to understand the changes that have been announced and how they impact the Industry.
The panellist included
1. Shri R.S. Sharma, Ex-Chairman TRAI
2. Rahul Matthan, Partner, Trilegal
3. Shanmugam Nagarajan, Founder and Chief People Officer, 7.ai
4. Chocko Valliappa, CEO, Vee Technologies
5. Sudhir Singh, Core Volunteer, iSPIRT, Policy Hacks Host
The panel discussion can be watched at below given Youtube video or you can read through the excerpts of the discussion given below in this blog.
IT and ITeS companies looking for seamless cross border communication between the Indian Centers and their foreign counterparts centers use a telecom circuit service (IPLC, MPLS, Sip trunk), obtained from an Indian Telecom Service Provider (TSP). Traditionally, they were supposed to apply and get registered as OSP. The application and approval process were cumbersome and required them to submit detailed network diagrams and satisfy that authority of a legitimate use of the Circuits. The process was cumbersome, more bureaucratic than technical in nature and often subject to undue harassment by TERM cell even when use was fully legitimate.
Industry has been demanding this reform for long, as the Circuits were always subscribed through a licenses TSP in India. The Reform will give way to a new era of opening in telecom services. It is most likely to benefit IT and ITeS industry the most, boost innovation and synergistic alliance in Industry. Most importantly this will make India more attractive for FDI, as this was one major irritant in deploying most important part of the International operations i.e. International Communication.
The move will not only help large offshore IT and BPO Centers but also will empower domestic Software product companies. It will give a huge impetus to work from home and hence will be very instrumental in promotion of SaaS industry, both for their internal operations and also promote SaaS product adoption.
Some of the main highlights of this decision are.
1. No need for a Registration any more to operate as an OSP
2. Interconnection of multiple OSP centers and remote agents
3. Work From Home and Remote locations allowed
4. Centralised Infra and consolidated Traffic between Indian POP and International POP
5. Sharing of EPABX and PSTN lines by domestic and International Center
6. Distributed Architecture with main Infra at central POP and media gateways at other centers
7. CUG allowed for internal Communication
8. CDRs, access log, configurations of EPABX and routing tables to be maintained and aggregated for each media gateway for a period of one year
9. No toll bypass allowed and no telecom services to be provisioned
The panel discussions started with a round of Introduction and inviting Rahul to summarise the new regulations.
Rahul Matthan started the panel discussion with a summary of the guidelines announced. He termed the new guidelines issued as Radically simplified.
Starting the introduction to new Guidelines, he said, “OSP or the Other Service Provider regulation in essence regulates Business Process Outsourcing companies and the definition of the types of entities that are regulated by this is very important. Earlier the definition used to include things like call centers, Business Process Outsourcing and other IT services, but also had very broad language at the end which included all IT enabled Services.
So, the first amendment is that it’s been restricted now to voice based business process outsourcing services.”
“The second very significant amendment that has happened is that the registration requirement has been entirely removed. Earlier you had to register with the TERM cell of DOT and that that requirement has been entirely removed,” Said Rahul.
He further mentioned that work from home (WFH) is allowed without any restriction of site or permissions and submission of network diagrams. He added. “it is work from anywhere” and “also, infrastructure sharing has been permitted there are some significant changes in the interconnectivity regulations have been permitted”.
“Bank guarantees used to run into crores for many large companies. The requirement for submitting performance bank guarantee has now been removed”, mentioned Rahul.
He also informed that the general provisions about penalty provisions with regard to inspection have been removed. “In fact, the entire chapter with regard to penalties and inspection has been removed”, mentioned Rahul.
Shri RS Sharma informed the panel how the consultation papers and discussion at TRAI on the subject progressed at TRAI. He informed that whereas the OSP regulation was very old, TRAI got a reference to start the consultation process in September 2018 and the Consultations were submitted by TRAI to DOT in 2019, which is exactly one year back.
“Essentially thought which we had was OSPs are the ones who are the customers of the TSPs telecom, they are paying money to the main service provider which is the TSP, so why should we really come in between and you know ask for all kinds of you know compliance” said Ex-TRAI chief, recalling developments.
He further informed that, next thing that was taken up is the definition, and as these are the entities which are taking resources from the telecom service providers or ISP and actually doing somebody’s work or providing services to some other entity, they should all be called application service providers (ASPs).
“Unfortunately, the OSPs also included those people who were actually providing services internally. We said any entity which provides service to itself after taking resources from the telecom service providers will not be coming within the definition of logical OSPs”, Said Shri Sharma.
He also recalled that it was recommended that everyone need not register, and only voice based OSPs need to be registered, Data based OSP need not be Registered.
The new definition given at chapter 1 point 7 states these recommendations. As said by Rahul earlier, the new guidelines limit OSP to voice-based processes only.
Shri Sharma further recalled that the TRAI recommended the removal of the requirement to submit network diagrams in OSP registration. He also further mentioned that TRAI also took a stand not to include hosted contact center service infrastructure or cloud hosted infrastructure, in OSP application scrutiny.
Shri Sharma said,” Interestingly in the last 10 years not even a single bank guarantee has been encashed.” He said bank guarantee was the most ridiculous part of the provision, as Govt. was not earning any revenue from OSP,
Similarly, he recounts the recommendations made on interconnectivity among the various OSPs, that also we said should be allowed. “I feel really satisfied”. Said shri Sharma, citing that most recommendations have been accepted.
In further discussion, Sudhir added that we were not having regulation at par with the developed world and called Rahul to give his perspective on regulatory aspects of OSP provisions.
Rahul emphasised in past Data was scarce and a licenced kind of regime was brought in with some sort of a performance guarantee to ensure compliance. Data today is not scarce and with the advent of smartphones and choices one has to make calls, the OSP regime was just giving comfort to the Inspector raj of the TERM cell.
“Country ran out of static IP Addresses”, said Rahul, when it tried to tackle the work from home during the Pandemic. Although DOT cooperated in providing relaxation, the actual need was to remove regulations relating to logical separation between Voice and Data and the need for physical EPABX.
S. Nagarajan, joined the discussion and said, “antiquated rules only hurt the industry by not letting us expand freely within the country. We are in other countries like Colombia, Philippines, Guatemala and none of these countries have these regulations”.
“So this has many benefits for us in all the dimensions, one leading to the other.. ease of doing business, geo competitiveness, location diversity, workforce diversity, talent pool expansion and increased quality of delivery through reduced attrition, (taking it back to geo competitiveness) and there by increasing our business potential for the country, creating millions more direct and indirect jobs for the nation. Thus, it is a better stimulus to the economy than just a monetary stimulus.”
Extending the panel discussions further,
Chocko Valliappa, recalled how the Government brought in Texas Instrument to Bangalore and facilitated them with a Red Carpet but in due course with such regulations the Red Carpet became Red Tape.
He mentioned that, “We employ 6000 employees between US, India and Philippines and in US for example 95% of our work is done work from home and that’s how we always operated and but in India, we are operating in just 3 cities, Bangalore Chennai and Salem and I’m sure this (the new OSP guidelines) would give us a big footprint across India and set up offices across other places.”
“In the next 35-40 years India will be capable of handling 15% of the global economy. By 2050, India will be poised to become the manufacturing hub of the world replacing China by harnessing 3D design and printing capabilities. I think India engineering talent would be sought after much more, so I think its a step in the right direction”, he further added.
Shri RS Sharma spoke further in response to a question by Rahul on whether the OSP regulation will fully go away in future. He recalled his experiences and how and why bureaucracy could not implement the ease of doing business issues easily.
Shri Sharma said, “TRAI had given two sets of recommendations, one to Ministry of Information and broadcasting another to the Department of Telecom, where we actually targeted ease of doing business.”
He also said that he has seen that the honourable Prime Minister is passionate towards ease of doing business and ease of living. He wants it, but I think we all need to come together, and we all need to sort of continuously work towards it.
“It’s a great thing which has been done actually and I was so happy, and I complimented each one of the people who are involved including the Department of Telecom”, mentioned Shri R.S Sharma at the end.
Discussion ended thanking all participants.
Disclaimer: The discussion and ideas expressed here should not be construed as legal advice. The discussion is conducted with Industry practitioners and experts for purpose of benefiting the Industry members in Software product, IT or ITeS Industry.