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German VoIP Ban to Be Lifted

It looks as though German telecommunications company T-Mobile/Deutsche Telekom is likely to lift their ban of VoIP (Voice Over IP address). They had banned use of the technology and received a court order preventing customers from using it over their network.

T-Mobile claims that there are two main reasons for this VoIP ban. The first is that the high traffic that can be generated by VoIP would hinder their network and prevent their other users from the high quality service they would expect. The second is that if the Skype service, for example, didn’t work then it would look as though T-Mobile is responsible for these issues. Some have claimed, though, that they are just worried that they will loose revenue if cheaper VoIP services can be used on their networks by their customers.

This ban imposed by T-Mobile looks set to be lifted. However, they are considering a surcharge for the use VoIP. Reports suggest that there will be a EUR9.95 charge for any customers wishing to use VoIP over their network. The company say that this surcharge will fund the investment that would be required for the network to work efficiently with the extra VoIP usage. They say it is not fair for their customers who do not use VoIP to have to pay more on their bills to pay for the improvements. They have been accused, though, of just trying to make up for their losses. If their customers are using a cheaper VoIP service then they will inevitably loose revenue, and this EUR9.95 a month may be a way of making up the difference.

Germany isn’t the only place where a potential VoIP ban has been talked about. In the United Arab Emirates, where many of the biggest telecoms companies are linked to the government, the have been worried about how VoIP might effect profits. In Russia a lobby is attempting to get either a full or partial VoIP ban within the country, on the grounds of security and that Russian companies will be unable to compete with foreign VoIP operators. This all shows that many companies are running scared of VoIP; they are concerned that the cost savings that can be made with VoIP will entice customers to switch to these services. The costs savings with VoIP can be significant, as running the technology is not as costly. The quality is also getting better, meaning that more people are considering it as a viable option.

Questions could be raised as to the fairness of VoIP being banned in such ways. Is it fair competition that potentially better services for customers should be banned to protect certain businesses? At the same time, some businesses may argue that they are not competing on a level playing field, as the VoIP providers are able to offer a cheaper service than they are. Questions should be asked as to whether this should be a matter for the courts, or whether all businesses should be fighting it out to produce the best service, in terms of price and quality.

A lifting of the ban in Germany would suggest that eventually VoIP will prevail and this could have a huge impact on the telecommunications industry.

Andrew Marshall (c)
Business VoIP