April 1 saw the opening of the gateway to Internet Telephony in India which till then had been considered illegal. Now the service provides for making regular calls, both international and domestic long distance, at an affordable rate. With Internet Telephony opening a new market there are a handful of ISPs who are offering the Internet Telephony service in India.
Net4India became the first licensed Internet Telephony Service Provider (ITSP) in the country to offer this service for the retail market. With a customer base of 75,000 customers in India as an ISP provider, Net4India claims to have made a lead with its launching the services in early April inspite of the tough competition from the other competitors. Says Uday Sodhi, COO of Net4India, "We have received an overwhelming response from our customers which is certainly an endorsement to our services and we hope to add 30,000 customers every month."
The service, which is available as PC-to-PC and PC-to-phone, costs only Rs 4.95 per minute to UK, Canada, Singapore and US. Since the termination charges to certain places are higher, the market in these countries are regulated. As the call rates depend on agreements with the phone companies in that countries one will find that making a call to countries like Afghanistan, Albania and Bhutan is rather expensive. "If the telecom business in these markets get liberalized the cost will come down significantly. Similarly, the price to countries like US, UK are less as the market is deregulated," said Uday
Phonewala.com, a portal launched by Net4India enables for the online booking of calling cards for Internet telephony. The phonewala calling cards are available in different packages. `Easy call' costs Rs 50, which means you will be entitled to a talk time of the same value. The other packages in the kit are Value Call (Rs 100), Family Pack (Rs 250), Executive Pack (Rs 500) and Business Pack (Rs 1000). The calling cards are now available in more than 5000 retail outlets, which include cyber cafes, computer accessory stores, mobile card shops etc and Net4India branch offices. They have already sold 75,000 prepaid calling cards in the initial offering to the market and expect to sell 30,000 - 40,000 prepaid, PC-to-phone cards every month for which they have appointed close to 100 - 120 distributors across the country. "For Phonewala services, we have an excellent distributor network across the country to promote our services. Our network would reach 10,000 retail outlets through 300-350 distributors across the country in the next six months.
We are also looking to provide turnkey solutions on the prepaid calling card platform to Class B & C ISPs. In the corporate segment we will leverage our existing strengths and offer Voice services as part of our complete range of value added services. We have a more than 200,000 strong customer base of Corporate and SMEs and we will be offering Voice services as a value add to them," added Uday
For Internet Telephony, Net4India has tied-up with deltathree, an IP communications network solutions provider. With Net4India's IP network and deltathree's back office services the company intends to break-even in 3-4 years when they are planning to invest Rs 250 crore in the ILD space.