VoIP Outlaws

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Here’s an interesting dilemma: Would you use VoIP telephony, saving hundreds or thousands of dollars on your international business phone calls, if it meant risking a jail sentence.

As it turns out hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of small businesses and individuals are doing just that in Nepal. What they’re trying to do is reap the savings that users of Phone.com and other VoIP service providers represent compared to ageing legacy phone services.

It seems that VoIP is illegal in Nepal, and the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) is in the process of attempting to stomp out use of the technology, which is apparently being offered secretly via many if not all of the mountain kingdom’s 29 Internet Service Providers (ISPs). It’s not clear whether the actual VoIP providers are located outside of Nepal, and the ISPs are simply declining to block the traffic, or if they’re providing the VoIP service themselves. 21 of those 29 ISPs are also refusing to tell the NTA who their customers are, another demand of Nepali regulators.

There’s no secret why the government of Nepal is turning VoIP users into arch criminals. VoIP, as any reader of this blog knows, costs far less than traditional phone service. The NTA thus calls VoIP a “fast growing problem that is costing legitimate operators in terms of lost revenue.” In other words, small businesses which use VoIP services get to keep more of their earning, and the traditional phone companies get less.

But isn’t that what business is all about?

Nepal, by the way, isn’t the only country in the world that’s protecting the revenues, particularly the international long distance revenues, of incumbent phone companies. For instance, VoIP is still pretty much illegal in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where a majority of the residents are expatriate businessmen and thus international long distance use is heavy. Again, local phone companies with lots of political muscle are attempting to protect the huge tariffs generated by their now obsolete phone service.


Stuart Zipper is currently a contributing editor to Communications Technology, a high tech business journalism consultant and freelancer, and the past Senior Editor of TelecomWeb news break.


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