Thursday, January 06, 2011

India - Govt has delayed video calls for reasons of national security, wanting capacity to intercept all such calls

[business standard] A month after the launch of its 3G services, Tata Docomo said it had put video-calling services on hold, following security concerns.

Tata Docomo, the first private operator to launch 3G services, said the company had recalled its video-calling services following a communique from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on a note by security agencies. Reliance Communications, which launched 3G services yesterday, also received the letter.

Security agencies have raised concerns on features and facilities that were required to intercept and monitor calls and messages. Indian security agencies which had earlier put Canadian company RIM’s Blackberry services in India, are now concerned about their ability to monitor video-calling.

“The operators have individually discussed these requirements with DoT senior officials and it has been agreed to call a joint meeting of security agencies, security systems vendors, 3G operators and DoT officials to discuss these observations. Awaiting these clarifications, we have informed DoT that we will keep services like video-calling on hold for now,” said Tata Teleservices in a statement.

Video SMSes, a service offered by Tata Docomo, is also on hold. But other services like Internet browsing, online video streaming and downloads are operational.

According to an official of a telecom company, these meetings are likely to take place in the next few days. “They cannot keep these services on hold for a long time,” he said.

Tata Docomo offers 3G services in nine circles — Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and UP (West). It launched the service in early November. Reliance offers its 3G services in three metros — Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata — and Chandigarh. The company said it had not launched video-calling services.

“Reliance Communications informed DoT yesterday as part of the mandatory process about our intent to launch voice and data services on our 3G network. RCom launched voice and data services to our subscribers on our 3G spectrum. We have not launched video call services on our 3G network. Law enforcement agencies are yet to give clearance for video call services to all telecom service providers like Tatas, Bharti, BSNL, MTNL and RCom,” said Reliance Communications in a statement.

Other than Reliance and Tata, state-owned telecom operators BSNL and MTNL have been offering 3G services for over a year now. Telecom operators like Vodafone and Airtel are planning to launch 3G services by the year-end.

“It is strange that security agencies are not raising these observations in respect of 3G services of BSNL and MTNL, who have been offering the same service for a long time now,” said a Tata official.

3G video-calling services on hold over security issues

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