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Webex by Cisco may have become the first videoconferencing major to be allowed to enter enter The Ken With telco licences in the bag, Cisco heads into Jio-Airtel-Vi territory Read more  the Indian telcos’ turf with unified communication services. But it won’t remain the only one for too long.

It’s only a matter of time before rival Zoom Video Communications enters the fray with a unified licence for access services unified licence for access services Unified Licence for Access Services It’s the licence under which Indian telcos provide wireline and wireless services. , according to people close to the company. 

Zoom, like Webex, is expected to use the licence to sell cloud-based voice, video, messaging, and telephony services. Together, they are called unified communication as a service (UCaaS).

Earlier this month, the department of telecommunications (DoT) granted this licence to Webex. In September 2021, RingCentral, a US-based cloud-communications-service provider, also secured a pan-India licence.

Zoom had applied for the licence by the end of 2020, people close to the government and Zoom said. The company tasted some success around April and May when the DoT granted it UL virtual network operator (VNO) licences. But these are not enough for Zoom to sell UCaaS in India—especially its cloud-telephony service, Zoom Phone. It needs the same licence as Webex and RingCentral. 

As per regulations, only UL access services licensees can provide integration between IP and legacy PSTN/PLMN networks. This is to ensure that users can make a call to a mobile number or landline phone even by using an internet app.

The licence application filed by Zoom has been under consideration with the DoT. “It is not only the DoT that does due diligence. It also has to seek security clearance from other ministries [ministry of home affairs],” a top department official said. Some senior officials in the department have hinted that the approval may come soon. 

This is particularly interesting as the home ministry in April 2020 had directed government officials not to use Zoom, citing security concerns. There were uproars about the company’s China linkages, too: it operates a unit of software developers and a colocated data centre from the East Asian country. In April 2020, it admitted to calls being routed through China data centres.

But that was a minor hiccup in Zoom’s remarkable global growth in Covid years. Giant tech companies selling virtual conferencing—Cisco, Microsoft, and Google—paled in comparison with Zoom. 

Millions of people downloaded and started using the app.

AUTHOR

Pratap Vikram Singh

Pratap is based out of Delhi and covers policy and myriad intersections with the other sectors, most notably technology. He has worked with Governance Now for seven years, reporting on technology, telecom policy, and the social sector.

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