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Indian Minister Says Telecom Companies Should Only Charge For Data

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the remember-that-voice-is-data dept.

Businesses 177

bhagwad writes "In the US, telecom carriers are trying their best to hold on to depleting voice revenues. Over in India, the telecom minister urged carriers to stop charging for voice calls and derive all their revenues only from data plans. Is this kind of model sustainable, where voice becomes an outmoded and free technology, and carriers turn entirely into dumb pipes which have no control over what passes over them? This is a step forward and hopefully will make Internet service more like a utility."

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subsidize phone calls (3, Interesting)

rgbrenner (317308) | about 2 years ago | (#41506369)

so you want to subsidize phone calls by overcharging on data...

how is that an improvement?

Re:subsidize phone calls (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41506395)

47% of the population gets a FREE (as in you pay for it) ObamaPhone. Why should they care what it actually costs?

Re:subsidize phone calls (4, Insightful)

snakeplissken (559127) | about 2 years ago | (#41507273)

47% of the population gets a FREE (as in you pay for it) ObamaPhone

actually it's a reaganphone if anything, since the scheme that provides them was introduced under his regime...
i guess that makes reagan a dirty socialist? :)

snake

Re:subsidize phone calls (4, Informative)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 2 years ago | (#41506399)

I think he's probably saying that voice and text messages are hugely overpriced. I don't know about voice but SMSes certainly are.

Re:subsidize phone calls (5, Insightful)

davester666 (731373) | about 2 years ago | (#41507123)

Two things will happen:

1) New phones will be changed so that both voice and SMS's are sent over the data channel
2) Suddenly, every carrier will be all over HD Voice. Who needs compression, you need to be able to clearly hear the other party and they need to clearly hear you!

Carriers have the knowledge and experience to game whatever system politicians can come up with, even if the carrier's don't millions of dollars helping to craft new rules/regulations.

Re:subsidize phone calls (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41507249)

you bet - mod parent up

Re:subsidize phone calls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41507961)

I get free texts, so I use a program to encode my data as SMS messages. You can't beat free.

Re:subsidize phone calls (3, Interesting)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about 2 years ago | (#41506449)

so you want to subsidize phone calls by overcharging on data...

how is that an improvement?

The actual amount of data transfer which a voice call is "deemed" to have involved might be a surprise to the average customer.

Yes, we all know your voice will be compressed to at best a barely tolerable audio content. But the data charge might be for full duplex 320kbps, if you're lucky. If you're unlucky, they'll charge your full theoretical bandwidth times the duration of the call (with a theoretically 5Mbps link, a 2 minute call would appear as 75 MB, and 1GB would be less than 27 minutes).

Re:subsidize phone calls (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41506783)

Not if they have a modern network, and are honest. Modern networks are completely ip on the inside. Price to customer pr megabyte of voice traffic is approximately 100x that of the same volume on a data plan.
But note that carriers production cost on data is very high nowadays, due to very large build costs. Don't know about India, but in western networks data usage have been growing by about 80-90% year-over-year the last few years - that is, exponentially. Revenue is only increasing in the low double digits, far lower than cost. Equipment cost is also falling, but not quickly enough. In the long run this is unsustainable. That's the reason for the more restrictive data plans and price hikes you have been seing the last few years. For many carriers, voice is susidizing data right now.

Source: I'm technical management at a large telco.

Re:subsidize phone calls (1)

craigminah (1885846) | about 2 years ago | (#41507049)

Good info. Since voice is just time sensitive data it makes sense to only charge for data so long as you can estimate minutes remaining based on data usage before you go over your monthly data limits (e.g. if I have 100MB remaining until I go over, how many minutes is that).

Re:subsidize phone calls (1)

sjames (1099) | about 2 years ago | (#41507591)

...and are honest

Well, so much for that then!

Re:subsidize phone calls (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | about 2 years ago | (#41506453)

so you want to subsidize phone calls by overcharging on data...

how is that an improvement?

New phone model: 2GB cap at double the current data rate and voice calls are all routed through Skype.

Re:subsidize phone calls (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | about 2 years ago | (#41506513)

voice calls are all routed through Skype

They're already routed through VOIP.

Re:subsidize phone calls (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | about 2 years ago | (#41506933)

voice calls are all routed through Skype

They're already routed through VOIP.

Perhaps, but they are currently billed against voice minutes separate from data. I'm saying a "data only" plan would both be more expensive than current data plans but you would get to pay for voice calls out of your data plan as well.

Re:subsidize phone calls (4, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 2 years ago | (#41507255)

Hell I recently read an article (sorry I didn't think to save the bookmark) that MSFT was doomed in the mobile space precisely because the carriers don't want competition from Skype and are punishing MSFT for buying it by refusing to give WinPhone the same push and deals they do with the Droid phones. Considering how badly they screw you on voice and data? Certainly sounds believable to me.

This is why the whole "pushing smartphones" frankly scares the living hell out of me, AT&T in my area has pretty much stopped bothering to add so much as a single foot or Mbps to their DSL offerings and are instead pushing cell phones where they can make insane profits and the cableco has decided to simply gouge the customers they have instead of adding more customers and running lines. Imagine a world where you can't get on the net except with a smartphone with no tether ability? Makes the carriers happy, they can gouge away, makes the content owners happy, you won't have enough bandwidth to do anything that would piss them off, but it would royally suck for the users as you'd be stuck on these crappy little screens with no hope of getting anything better.

Re:subsidize phone calls (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41506491)

You get all you can eat data for 15 pounds a month in the UK on Three. They still charge for calls, but you can Skype to your hearts content, until the cows come home (no fair use policy, no clause to let them introduce one later if they change their minds). Not sure how big their customer base is though... but it doesn't seem to scare the rest of the carriers into providing similar services.

If the Indians get their way and say "everything is data" and start charging a flat monthly fee and only capping your top speed (i.e. you get less top speed for less money, should you be skint), only the greedy shareholders would have something to moan about.

Re:subsidize phone calls (3, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | about 2 years ago | (#41506529)

so you want to subsidize phone calls by overcharging on data...

You assume voice and data are ultimately different things. If providers simply charged for data (which may or may not happen be voice), and competed on $/megabyte, then making a phonecall would be vanishingly cheap, and texts even moreso.

I realize I just said something different than the Indian telecomm minister, who things voice should be completely free. But I think simply dropping the mostly mental distinction between voice and data accomplishes almost the same thing and makes more sense.

Quality of service (4, Insightful)

goombah99 (560566) | about 2 years ago | (#41506659)

Voice is lower total bandwidth but requires low latency and no interruptions to be high quality. When data connections are not strained then there is no challenge to provide that but it can become important and thus much more expensive than the data it bears. Personally I do use VOIP and so I know it's not as good as non-voip some of the time.

Re:Quality of service (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41506947)

There is also the issue of reliability. Voice calls are the main channel to reach emergency services and it is important that they are, for all practical intents and purposes, always available. Pushing the reliability to such extremes is expensive.

Re:subsidize phone calls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41506673)

Phone calls ARE data (and always have been).They are now (in the digital age) still charged separately in an anachronistic way.

Re:subsidize phone calls (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 2 years ago | (#41507567)

No. The conversion of voice to data is a fairly recent thing, as far as the telephone network is concerned; dating back only to the 1960s. For the first 100 years, everything was analog. Even today, analog is used for the "last mile" connection.

Re:subsidize phone calls (1)

epSos-de (2741969) | about 2 years ago | (#41507467)

Voice calls are also data, it just gets paid by minute instead. Get the idea ?

Re:subsidize phone calls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41507473)

Over charging for voice and sending it down a cheap data pipe is better its like email nothing amount of data but being charged a crazy price.
On you system they might decide the can get for all data what they do for voice and phone. 5 gigs of voice and email is enough to last my life time.
30 bucks worth.

Re:subsidize phone calls (1)

abhi2012 (2739367) | about 2 years ago | (#41507501)

Unlike charging a huge amount by the minute and virtually no "unlimited" packs, the government can shift to unlimited packs and charges on mobile data like we have here in the US.

Re:subsidize phone calls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41507669)

False argument, you are confusing reality with market philosophy. When the price of a product is arbitrarily set by simple supply/demand or through collusion, that is a function of belief. What people are WILLING to pay... there is no precise calculation for desire :P

Back to your statement, the price being gauged for simple data transfers would be quite accurately described as insane by, say, a baker... So having companies charge for simply data (which is all that phone calls are nowadays... how you separate the two into separate commodities is quaint) would eliminate the price fixing. Pay $5 for the phone app, voila you have computing device = you have phone.

How the accounting of our communal services goes down isn't all that important, except for eliminating the inefficiency (secret econ word for corruption).

Yet another bad idea (1)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#41506375)

And I imagine Mr. Sibal thinks that voice should be just as unreliable and as low priority as data services. After all, reporting a car accident with multiple injuries is just as important as delivering the latest cricket scores.

Call 911? (1)

aNonnyMouseCowered (2693969) | about 2 years ago | (#41506485)

"After all, reporting a car accident with multiple injuries is just as important as delivering the latest cricket scores."

Is that how things are in India? Most countries have a "911" number or its equivalent that's either free or costs much less than a regualr call. So if there's a serious accident that's the number you call.

Re:Call 911? (1)

Compaqt (1758360) | about 2 years ago | (#41506511)

What he's saying is even if you "call" emergency services, who knows when the packets carrying your voice will arrive at the other end, or in which order, hence not being able to talk as well when you really need it.

Re:Yet another bad idea (1)

Animats (122034) | about 2 years ago | (#41507237)

And I imagine Mr. Sibal thinks that voice should be just as unreliable and as low priority as data services.

Cell phone to cell phone calls from Sprint to other carriers can have as much as a full second of round-trip delay. This is so long that the echo suppressors don't detect it as echo, which is really annoying.

Re:Yet another bad idea (1)

Z34107 (925136) | about 2 years ago | (#41507667)

You're right. VoIP is impossible, and clearly not how cell calls are routed right now.

Voice is data. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41506385)

Same streaming music or video is data. Yes its sustainable, the only reason it's not like that now is because providers can charge more and 99% of consumers don't know any better.

Oh well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41506391)

Here in Portugal I have been using a prepaid account where most voice calls are free if you have a data plan for your mobile phone. The problem is, by some advanced accounting magic and possibly some fraud, the money still magically disappeared in troves.

So yes, it's possible for a telecom company, as long as they continue to cheat and mislead their customers in the best way possible and make sure their plans are incomprehensible to anyone with an advanced degree in math.

If voice calls are free... (3, Funny)

roc97007 (608802) | about 2 years ago | (#41506407)

...I'm digging that acoustic modem out of the closet. Whee! Free data. It may be too slow for pr0n, but fast enough for texting and email.

Re:If voice calls are free... (3, Insightful)

wiggles (30088) | about 2 years ago | (#41506557)

I think the idea is that bits are bits, and the voice should all be VOIP over your data connection, and you're charged just for the data which includes the voice.

I've long been thinking that content and delivery need to be separated in the Cable TV industry, and voice and data should be consolidated under the Cellular system as well as POTS.

The cable company or phone company or Google should provide a pipe to our house that we pay maintenance for, and TV channels, websites, VOIP, should all be purchased from separate companies.

If everything is digital, we should be charged strictly for the bits that flow in and out of our house, not separately for different classifications of data.

Re:If voice calls are free... (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 2 years ago | (#41506623)

> I think the idea is that bits are bits, and the voice should all be VOIP over your data connection, and you're charged just for the data which includes the voice.

I didn't get that from the article, but ok. I'm sure that voice is VOIP after it hits the cell tower, but unless phones are redesigned, it's not that kind of data from the phone. On the other hand, it's been decades since I did communication engineering; it might be different now.

> I've long been thinking that content and delivery need to be separated in the Cable TV industry, and voice and data should be consolidated under the Cellular system as well as POTS.

I think the problem with consolidation is that it misses so many revenue opportunities. Take texting, for instance. Essentially free for the cellular providers, but the singular most expensive transportation method (per character) on earth.

Re:If voice calls are free... (2)

MrZilla (682337) | about 2 years ago | (#41506799)

I didn't get that from the article, but ok. I'm sure that voice is VoIP after it hits the cell tower, but unless phones are redesigned, it's not that kind of data from the phone. On the other hand, it's been decades since I did communication engineering; it might be different now.

No, you are correct. VoLTE (Voice over LTE) for the 4G networks is a pure VoIP type setup, but for UMTS and GSM systems, it works a bit differently. Of course, the actual data will still be carried in either IP packets or ATM cells, but the setup of the call is different.

For UMTS systems (which I am most familiar with), all calls are divided into either the Packet Switched (PS) domain, or the Circuit Switched (CS) domain.

The PS domain is normally "best effort", and is used for all data calls (including any VoIP client running on the UE), and works pretty much as you expect an IP network to. It is possible to set up connections with certain requirements on minimum and average bit rates, but in general, you get what is available, and your allocation can shift over time.

The CS domain, on the other hand, behaves like the old telephony systems, and is primarily used for voice calls. When you set up your call, the resources needed to provide the requested sustained bit rates are allocated from your UE all the way to the receivers UE. If such resources can not be allocated, the call setup will be refused. If the resources are available, you should, theoretically, be able to keep your connection indefinitely, without quality degradation. In reality, of course, there are cases where your call will be dropped or reduce in quality (e.g. if the cell you are in is full, and someone makes an emergency call).

Useful "different classifications" (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#41507241)

I've long been thinking that content and delivery need to be separated in the Cable TV industry

That would require ISPs to actually implement multicast. Digital cable TV and cable Internet work on a fiber-to-the-neighborhood model, and cable TV has an advantage because dozens of people in a neighborhood are likely to be watching the same thing.

we should be charged strictly for the bits that flow in and out of our house, not separately for different classifications of data.

Are unicast and multicast "different classifications"? Are circuit-switched connections (minimum guaranteed throughput and maximum guaranteed latency) and packet-switched connections (best effort) "different classifications"?

In coming calls are free in India. (5, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 2 years ago | (#41506423)

According the the law, the phone companies can not charge for airtime of incoming calls. Most people use prepaid phones, with just enough money to keep the phone active. But they would not dial out any calls. Many very poor people use these phones. Street vegetable vendors, unofficial jitney taxis, servant maids, low paid gate security fellas. ...

And they have developed some social customs regarding "missed call etiquette". Typically it is understood that you never accept a call from certain classes of people, drivers, maids, delivery boys etc. They call, let it ring once, and they hang up. You return the call. Sometimes I have answered these calls and they would go, "Sir, why did you answer the call? I was giving you a missed call, sir". Usually I give them a few rupees to make amends.

Very typical conversation is:

"Mom, going to the dance class".

"OK, dear, do give me a missed call as soon as you get there"

Re:In coming calls are free in India. (4, Informative)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 2 years ago | (#41506443)

BTW typical airtime charges for prepaid phones: 1 Rupee per minute for out going calls. Incoming calls are free. Incoming texts are free. Outgoing texts are 0.5 Rs per text. Data charges are typically 100 Rs for 2 GB. Consider 1 Rupee to be 2 cents in USA. International calls were 6 Rs per minute. But this trip they had a promotion and I got USA for 2 Rs per minute.

Re:In coming calls are free in India. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 2 years ago | (#41506531)

They also have 3G USB dongles for netbooks and tablets. I was using my sister's account. Worked everywhere, without problems. Was able to use maps.google.co.in to find directions amazing even the local auto-rickshaw drivers. Never found out the plans and price of that service. It is considered a status symbol to own post-paid phones and get a monthly bill instead of using prepaid phones. This 3G USB dongle serviced by a company called Tata Photon was used by my sis. She would not tell me how much charges I raked up. "It is alright, foggetabout it". The newspaper ads seemed to suggest 4000 Rs for the dongle and account set up, and probably 5000 Rs a month for an unlimited data service. 200 Rs per GB as far as I could figure out.

Even if I was willing to pay it myself, I could not have gotten account for myself. Lots of security and physical address verification before they give you an account. Police are worried about terrorists and rabble rousers using disposable accounts. Would not say their fears are totally off base.

Re:In coming calls are free in India. (1)

Reesy (1027242) | about 2 years ago | (#41507743)

I went through the process of getting a prepaid sim card when I was there. It pretty much took a whole day out of my schedule. Photocopies of passport, visa and completion of a length form(in triplicate) and I had to provide multiple passport photographs. Returned the form to the vendor who then had to get it approved by an agent from the provider before he could issue me the SIM card. This was last year and I think I read somewhere the rules for foreigners have been tightened further.

Re:In coming calls are free in India. (2)

priyank_bolia (1024411) | about 2 years ago | (#41506753)

That is too costly, you need to change the plan :P. Most good plans are 1paisa/2second or 30 paisa/minute. And in practice, the 1paisa/2 second call are much cheaper, unless you are a girl or have to talk to your girl friend. So, the status call, like I am waiting outside the MacD, costs only 10 seconds or 5 paisa. 100 paisa = 1 rupee, 53 rupee = 1 USD. 1 USD = 5300 paisa = 10600 seconds = 3 hour talk time. And if you have to talk to your girl friend, you can always take free unlimited call plan on the friends circle.

Re:In coming calls are free in India. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41506487)

I never understood why in some countries you have to pay to receive calls.
Your calling me. Why should I have to pay?
Same with sms. I understand from the service provider stand point.
They get to charge everyone for things that are payed for by someone else.

Re:In coming calls are free in India. (1)

kwark (512736) | about 2 years ago | (#41506601)

There is no difference in used capacity of the network whether you are the caller or the callee. So why shouldn't both parties pay half the costs?

Re:In coming calls are free in India. (2)

Ja'Achan (827610) | about 2 years ago | (#41506755)

Because more often than not it's the caller who wants to contact you. Since they're the one in need of the product, why should someone have to pay the price?

Especially for texts (which you can't, AFAIK, refuse), it's downright maddening to consider the idea that someone else could charge you for capacity you don't want to use.

Re:In coming calls are free in India. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41506797)

You can refuse to receive all text messages (I think), but that's generally not what you want to do either.
At least with phone calls you can choose not to pick up.

Re:In coming calls are free in India. (3, Interesting)

Cinder6 (894572) | about 2 years ago | (#41507051)

The moment I realized how seriously messed up the non-unlimited texting system was was when I was in senior year of high school. I sent a friend of mine a small (think four or five) string of short texts, just goofing off. He then got mad at me because "I just cost him a dollar". Ridiculous. I have unlimited texting, so I'm unsure if it's still this bad, but I assume it is.

Interestingly, Apple's iMessages thing bypasses texting if you're messaging another iOS device. I can actually text my sister now that she has an iPhone (she's never paid for unlimited texting and thus never wanted people to text her). Does Android have an equivalent? It would be awesome if Apple and Google could agree on a cross-platform texting system that used data plans, so we could get rid of SMS fees altogether. I'm sure there are cross-platform apps that let you do this, but it'd be nice to have built-in without convincing everyone you know to download and use some random app.

Re:In coming calls are free in India. (1)

motokochan (1118229) | about 2 years ago | (#41507285)

Nothing built-in, unfortunately, but Google Voice works well. If both parties have it, they can send messages to and from the application and it's all counted as data. Since it's a normal phone number, people without it can use standard SMS on their end. The only difference with normal SMS is that Google Voice doesn't handle short codes (those four or five digit numbers often used by marketers and special lists). If you want something even more cross-platform, Google Talk, which uses XMPP, also works great and is a full-fledged IM service.

Given the animosity between Apple and Google over the whole Android thing, I don't think they'll be working on or agreeing to any kind of cross-platform messaging system anytime soon. Even then, they'll run into issues with the cell carriers in the US who will be very upset over being cut out of revenue they used to get.

Re:In coming calls are free in India. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#41507793)

Even my old Motorola phones (V300 etc, RAZR) would do SMS over TCP, if you had data service. But you can't make them come in that way, just make them go out.

Charging for SMS is beyond ridiculous, it only takes a couple packets to send one, it takes many packets per second to do voice.

Re:In coming calls are free in India. (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41506807)

There is no difference in used capacity of the network whether you are the caller or the callee.

Same with snail-mail. But please, don't tell me you also have to pay half-a-stamp (or more) to receive mail in your mailbox?
The GP point is exactly that: if you have something to say and you take the initiative to call me, you must pay for it, whether it's a joke or information that interest me (and even if you "dialed" a wrong number).

Re:In coming calls are free in India. (2)

MysteriousPreacher (702266) | about 2 years ago | (#41506929)

It doesn't make sense to me that I should pay to receive a call from someone, because that's what I'm used to. They made the call, they pay for it. To my knowledge this is the norm in Europe, with the only exceptions being reverse charges calls and calls received while roaming.

Re:In coming calls are free in India. (1)

kwark (512736) | about 2 years ago | (#41507515)

This is how telcos in my small EU country make money:
+charge caller x/s + y setup (hard to calculate since most mobile users have bundles)
-pay the receiving telco z/s (regulated at something like: 0.00027 EUR/s fixed dest., 0.00075 EUR/s mobile dest.)
+if destination is 0800/0900 get an additional kickback fee per call from that telco
-costs of running/maintaining/replacing/expanding network
=Profit

Someone has to pay for the virtual circuit to the receiver, why should it be me? If I have to call anyone it is their fault for not having a more modern method to communicate, they should at least pay some of the burden!

Re:In coming calls are free in India. (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 2 years ago | (#41507091)

When mobile phones were introduced, it wasn't just a way to connect people instead of running telephone lines. They were convenience items that allowed you to be connected in more places. The charges were for the air time associated with the devices not necessarily the calls being placed as it was already implicit with the air time. The old radio phones (pre cell technology) started this off.

Charging for incoming calls is really a relic from charging for the convenience. It makes no sense when the phones are used instead of laying or maintaining copper wires to provide phone service or even when the technology mimics traditional pots technology. But the first companies in the market where the same companies who did the radio phones so it was transferred over because it seemed like a working model.

Re:In coming calls are free in India. (1)

Pro-feet (2668975) | about 2 years ago | (#41507347)

When I moved to the US, I didn't know I would pay to get a phone call. I found that out _after_ I got me a phone and plan and all. One of those things that made it a little harder to adapt than I expected. Because it just doesn't make sense :-).
And I never got used to it.

Re:In coming calls are free in India. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41506539)

This "missed call etiquete" is called a "beep" in Romania :) Much shorter word. "Give me a beep" is a common phrase. In English it could even be "Beep me".

Now, this reminds me of something that happened there quite some time ago: a company introduced a pay-as-you-go plan that charged 1 eurocent per minute for outgoing calls in the evenings. They forgot to actually add the capacity to cope with that, so the network became useless in the evenings for everybody. I believe their network is much better now, but they're just in for the profit instead.

So I wonder how India might fare.

Re:In coming calls are free in India. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 2 years ago | (#41506617)

Indians typically say "missed call" faster than you can say "beep" in Romania ;-)

Re:In coming calls are free in India. (1)

isparkes (2726069) | about 2 years ago | (#41507217)

errrr, their network is much better now because:

1) Someone is paying so the company can afford to run the machines and add capacity where it is needed
2) People use the service with some small amount of care, because if they over-use it, they lose something too (the money)

Humans (and animals in general) are generally not able to use good sense in consuming valuable resources that look "free", and even more so when whatever they are consuming is an intangible. Networks take a *lot* of money to run well - people have forgotten that mobile anything is a miracle of technology.

Re:In coming calls are free in India. (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#41506759)

Some places are trying to charge the caller for missed calls. I don't know if any of them succeeded yet, but it definitely would suck if they do.

Re:In coming calls are free in India. (1)

jkflying (2190798) | about 2 years ago | (#41507181)

In South Africa we get charged a very small amount for a missed call - around 0.01ZAR (~0.001USD)

Re:In coming calls are free in India. (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 2 years ago | (#41507043)

According the the law, the phone companies can not charge for airtime of incoming calls. Most people use prepaid phones, with just enough money to keep the phone active. But they would not dial out any calls. Many very poor people use these phones. Street vegetable vendors, unofficial jitney taxis, servant maids, low paid gate security fellas. ...

And they have developed some social customs regarding "missed call etiquette". Typically it is understood that you never accept a call from certain classes of people, drivers, maids, delivery boys etc. They call, let it ring once, and they hang up.

Deja vu all over again. I remember when that was the pay phone deal - call, let it ring 3 times and your ride knew to come get you; when you hung up you got your quarter back as well.

Re:In coming calls are free in India. (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 2 years ago | (#41507099)

This was actually pretty common here in North America back in the 1930's, people would make collect calls using a particular name, and the other person would simply refuse to accept the call. But since it was an agreed name they knew the other person arrived safely. Since the party line stuff is pretty much dead and we don't have KL/AL/BL numbers anymore, and the standard of living is high compared to 80 years ago, this doesn't happen much anymore.

Re:In coming calls are free in India. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41507553)

It was still common in the early 1990s.

Party lines and KL/AL/BL numbers don't matter for this. What matters is that it isn't worth the time required any more, with the advent of Caller ID.

Re:In coming calls are free in India. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41507195)

In Australia you see something similar from teenagers, etc, signalling their parents for various things. Typically referred to as a "prank". "Prank me when you get there, and you're ready to be picked up", etc. It's a no cost method of signalling someone.

It's ALL data... (5, Insightful)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about 2 years ago | (#41506425)

What drives me bananas about these plans is in the end it's all data anyway. Whether you're updating Facebook or chatting with Granny, in the end it's just bits streaming to and from your phone. In the old analog cell phone days a case could be made for a user using up a circuit-switched channel for their voice call, but today with packet switching it seems irrelevant.

Re:It's ALL data... (1)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | about 2 years ago | (#41506461)

What drives me bananas about these plans is in the end it's all data anyway.

Could it be said that the telco provides a service atop that data connection, then, in the form of a voice service?

Re:It's ALL data... (1)

arielCo (995647) | about 2 years ago | (#41506747)

In GSM, two fixed time slots, one in an uplink frequency and one for downlink, are assigned to your phone as a part of call setup. In [W]CDMA, your phone requests a 'channel' out of a code space limited by the noise floor. There may also be fixed time slots in the trunks leading to the switch and out to your Granny's side. In both systems this resource won't be released until you hang up so effectively it's circuit switching. VoIP would be a lot more flexible, but you when the resource is momentarily congested you'll curse that flexibility.

Re:It's ALL data... (2)

rtaylor (70602) | about 2 years ago | (#41506835)

Not all data is equal. Some is time sensitive (voice) and some isn't (facebook). It seems reasonable to pay extra for routing priority of time sensitive data.

Re:It's ALL data... (1)

evilviper (135110) | about 2 years ago | (#41507477)

Not all data is equal. Some is time sensitive (voice) and some isn't (facebook). It seems reasonable to pay extra for routing priority of time sensitive data.

Perhaps, but paying $30 for 300 minutes/month, and then crazy 25c/minute for anything over that, is ridiculously high.

And besides that, WiFi APs are everywhere these days, and smart phones can connect to them easily enough, and use them for all the data transfers instead of the cellular network... Why isn't voice handled the same way? Going VoIP when on WiFi would save a lot of people a whole lot of money, and would still have the fallback to the cellular network, just like data.

That model is precisely how Republic Wireless gives people unlimited everything for $19/month, as opposed to $55/mo on BoostMobile. http://republicwireless.com/ [republicwireless.com]

I often get angry that this isn't SOP for cell phones, particularly when I'm in a building where a cell signal is non-existant, but I've got a high-speed WiFi connection, and yet I miss calls, and don't even get notified that I've missed a call, perhaps hours later as I leave.

Coverage issues would be greatly diminished if smartphones just used WiFi APs as part of their network... I know I'd be happy to install APs all over the place to fill in gaps that bother me, and any of my customers... A high power (Buffalo) AP is only $50 shipped these days, and with DD-WRT, the only infrastructure you need is a modest amount of power (5V can be easily provided by PV solar panels)... because it can easily act as a powerful repeater for a distant, very weak, AP.

Hell, I'd start lobbying the Dept. of Transportation to install a network of WiFi APs, atop power poles or street lights in particular, and in every one of their highway "call boxes", where WiFi would be infinitely more useful.

Re:It's ALL data... (4, Informative)

MrZilla (682337) | about 2 years ago | (#41506837)

But it's not, exactly. Unless you are using LTE, voice calls are still set up as if they were circuit switched, including allocating resources throughout the network. Only data calls are handled as pure packet switched best effort calls.

But the biggest reason for separating voice call costs is probably that if you are calling someone who uses a different operator, your operator needs to pay for the use of that network (weather mobile or land line). At least around here, calling someone who is using the same operator is usually free, but calling someone using another operator will cost you a per minute charge.

Re:It's ALL data... (1)

liquidweaver (1988660) | about 2 years ago | (#41507035)

Nice sig line. I'd say I thought of it first, but your uid says otherwise :)

Re:It's ALL data... (1)

MrZilla (682337) | about 2 years ago | (#41507507)

Always nice to see someone else who keeps in touch with assembly :)

And I have used this sig since at least 2005, and possible longer, but my memory is getting a bit fuzzy...

Re:It's ALL data... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41507039)

In LTE voice is still handled differently from data on the radio layer to ensure the needed bandwidth. You either get what you need to keep the call going, or it is dropped. With data nobody cares about a slight delay or temporary loss of bandwidth.

Re:It's ALL data... (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 years ago | (#41507143)

There's a huge difference in the way voice calls are handled by a cell phone network compared to data.

However, the end result of this will be that everyone is required to use VOIP, and gets charged as data anyway.

Re:It's ALL data... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41507185)

The big difference is latency.

A two second delay is acceptable for data, but not for real time voice communication.

This is basically where we are headed (1)

fermion (181285) | about 2 years ago | (#41506431)

Right now AT&T have a per device fee to access the network, and then a fee that essentially buys a chunk of data. The per device fee basically bought 500 minutes 10 year, and know buys unlimited voice and text. The data fees are steep, $10-40 a gigbyte. Verizon has essentially the same setup.The old landlines would do this as well, charge for each connected device, and then charge for service. If the mobile follows the same trend, I suspect it will not be long until it just becomes data.

Of course these plans right know are disingenuous, because the per phone fee is essentially paying form unlimited voice and test for each phone, so we are still paying for this. If they were charging say $40 for the first device, and $10 for each additional device like they do on the family plans, then that would make more sense.

carriers turn entirely into dumb pipes... (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#41506435)

This is exactly what we should demand of all communication services. Turn them into common carriers and make it the law.

Voice IS data. (4, Insightful)

gehrehmee (16338) | about 2 years ago | (#41506479)

Voice is data. It happens to not be very much data, based on how we compress it. Charge it for what it is.

There is the little catch that we want it to be low latency, and in that sense it may well be worth charging a bit of a premium for it.

Re:Voice IS data. (2)

Netssansfrontieres (214626) | about 2 years ago | (#41506587)

A rather silly over-simplification.
Of course, voice is carried as data. However, it requires more than low latency - it requires that the latency be sustained as low. And it requires low error rates.

The reasons are buried deep in human behaviors.
Delays easily realizable in IP networks with error correction are perceptible to the listener. Then, however, they're not ignored (as they are in a video stream being re-aggregated for playing) but are heard by the listener as hesitation.
The Q&A: "do you want to go out for dinner on Friday?" A: "yes" ... becomes "do you want to go out for dinner on Friday?" A: (slight pause) "yes".
In human interaction, that silent pause is extra information.

(Of course, the degradation of voice quality on mobile networks means that the Q&A leads to answers like "huh? what did you say?")

There's a BIG difference between saying "voice is data" and the fact "voice is carried as data".

Re:Voice IS data. (2)

fredprado (2569351) | about 2 years ago | (#41506631)

Considering the bandwidth voice data requires it is usually trivial to guarantee the needed quality especially in a system that has to be able to provide a reasonable service to a much wider bandwidth used by data connection nowadays.

The overcharging of voice data has no real justification and that is why phone companies around the world are so hostile towards VOIP.

Re:Voice IS data. (1)

Netssansfrontieres (214626) | about 2 years ago | (#41507209)

I should have made more clear.
I was talking about value to the customer / user.
You're talking about costs. The incremental costs may become small (but they're not yet, see - for example - Gettys work on bufferbloat).
Meanwhile, lots of folks buy Apple computers for 2x the price of a more powerful Windows machine because, well, perceived value. Apple has high margins. Perhaps, in your worldview, we should regulate Apple's prices and margins?

Re:Voice IS data. (1)

fredprado (2569351) | about 2 years ago | (#41507487)

Sure, price is not necessarily dictated by cost, but I see nothing wrong when the government that conceded rights to a telecom company to operate in their territory set the rules in a way that changes that.

Re:Voice IS data. (1)

KiloByte (825081) | about 2 years ago | (#41506809)

How is that different from about any other interactive thing you might be doing over the network?

Hesitation in other modes of interaction (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#41507291)

Just about any other mode of interaction over a digital network doesn't treat a split second of hesitation as a sign of being unsure of what to say.

Re:Voice IS data. (1)

jeffasselin (566598) | about 2 years ago | (#41506791)

It might also make them update the codecs used for voice on cell phpnes and landlines. We've had the technology to drastically improve the quality of voice calls for years now.

Re:Voice IS data. (2)

fm6 (162816) | about 2 years ago | (#41507831)

Voice is data.

I pretty much agree with you, with a semi-important exception: most landlines are still analog [lazylaces.com] . Of course, the connection becomes digital as soon as reaches the central office, though I'm old enough to remember when most connections analog all the way through.

Doesn't refute the point you're making. Just a small nitpick.

I don't drink soda pop. (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 2 years ago | (#41506503)

I think fast food restaurants should stop charging for food and only charge for the soda pop, since that's where the profit center is!

Re:I don't drink soda pop. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41506517)

I think Chinese restaurants should stop charging for chop sticks and fortune cookies

Data can operate over voice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41506571)

Remember the dialup modems of the past?

Install an app on your phone, and another phone at home connected to broadband

Make them talk to each other over voice channel

Free data access

Re:Data can operate over voice (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 2 years ago | (#41506621)

yea, there's a reason we ditched modems

Prices (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41506633)

As a pint of reference, when I was in India two years ago, unlimited GPRS was $2 a month through Airtel on a $5 prepaid sim.

What? US carriers already moved to data-only plans (1)

SashaMan (263632) | about 2 years ago | (#41506671)

This initial statement in this post, "In the US, telecom carriers are trying their best to hold on to depleting voice revenues", is blatantly false. BOTH AT&T Wireless and Verizon have already moved to plans where voice minutes are unlimited and only data is metered. Unfortunately, though, those plans pretty much suck because the data rates are so high.

And dialup via cellphone becomes popular (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41506815)

Whenever the government comes up with a new regulation, humans react by doing something unintended.

If it were free to make voice calls, I'd get myself several cellphones and enjoy completely free 2400 baud internet connections, joined together to give me a half-decent pipe.

http://linkhay.com/hoa-gau-bong-rat-thich-hop-lam- (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41506923)

moi ban vao tham trang web cua chung toi hoa gau bong [nhatnghe.org] xin cam on rat nhieu

Telecom coy's outrageous tariff (1)

mridontry (2742173) | about 2 years ago | (#41506961)

that's cool...This is how it should be. Wish my govt can really look into telecom theft on customers.

It's all free to me. (2)

tobiah (308208) | about 2 years ago | (#41507187)

I canceled service with ATT and use my iPhone as a SIP VOIP phone wherever there is Wifi. It's working ok for me, don't really need to be connected all the time, but if I do I'll get a prepaid data plan. Smartphone(iPhone 3G)+SIP client(Groundwire)+SIP service(Callcentric)+Google Voice(free local phone number and visual voicemail) is a rather good, almost free phone/data plan.
I use an OBISoft device to hook another Google voice number through the phone lines in my house, so normal home phones (comfortable and inexpensive) work as VOIP phones.
All I pay for is an internet connection at home and a small bit for SIP service. Ultimately I expect that to become unnecessary as well.

"This is a step forward" (1)

Seumas (6865) | about 2 years ago | (#41507307)

No, it isn't.

VOIP should also be made legal in India (1)

abhi2012 (2739367) | about 2 years ago | (#41507513)

I think VOIP services should also be made legal in India. Consider if we had something like Google Voice there. The operators can earn from data and in the meantime calls would be free as well.

Treat voice (and text) as data (1)

davidwr (791652) | about 2 years ago | (#41507525)

Don't charge for calls and texts per se but instead charge for them as if they were data.

I would grant some concessions:

  1. If the voice call created a "reserved" data channel exclusive to it even during periods of silence, that can be billed the same as if there was talking going on during those silent periods.
  2. If there are costs imposed on the carrier by governments that apply to voice calls but not data calls, then those can be passed on to the customer.
  3. If voice-telephone traffic between companies A and B is primarily A-to-B, B may charge A a fee for handling the excess incoming traffic. Unless the government orders company A to distribute the cost evenly (as it might in the interest of ensuring universal service), it's up to company A to decide if it will bill the callers who call to company B specifically, or if it will spread this cost across its entire customer base. In this scenario, company B may be in a different country than company A.

Analogy (1)

fm6 (162816) | about 2 years ago | (#41507783)

If data is a utility, it's a utility like gas or electricity. Now, yes, you pay for these by the unit. But you also pay a monthly fee ust for the connection. I pay $6/month connection fee for my natural gas, even in the summer when I could survive with it turned off. But of course it's not practical to turn gas on and off. Not a big deal.

I could certainly live with a data "utility" that charged me based on how much data I consumed — provided the fees were reasonable.

Now, the big reason this isn't happening is that it doesn't fit in with the standard corporate business model, where they deliberately keep their fee structure weird so they never lose an opportunity to gouge the consumer. But let's not forget how resistent geeks have been to paying for bandwidth.

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