Russia could be about to introduce legislation that limits or even bans the use of VoIP technology. Members of the government along with Russia’s prime business lobby, the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, are looking to introduce the measure to prevent Russian telecommunications companies from going out of businesses. They are concerned that local landline and mobile companies such as TransTeleComs and MegaFon will struggle to compete with foreign VoIP competitors. VoIP offers big savings, and is becoming increasing popular, with 40% of all calls expected to be via VoIP by 2012.
This isn’t the first talk of measures being brought in to slow down the inevitable increase in VoIP. In Germany, Deutsch Telekom tried to prevent the use of Skype over the T-Mobile network’s platform. They were, however, unsuccessful in this attempt.
Although helping local telecommunications companies seems to be Russia’s main issue with VoIP, there are also thought to be concern regarding security. The government are apparently worried that VoIP can’t be wiretapped like landline telephone’s and have expressed concern that it could be a risk to national security. In France, VoIP usage has been banned in certain institution, such as some research laboratories and Universities on the grounds of security.
This issue brings up a few questions about fair competition. On one side is it right that international companies can come along with their product or service and put local businesses out of business? Some may argue it is the responsibility of governments to protect local businesses where possible. If this is the case then there is an issue of when governments should intercept and when they should not.
On the other hand it could be argued that it should be up to companies to provide a better service, either in terms of the quality or price, than the competition and therefore come out on top with the governments help.
It looks as though this legislation in Russia is set to go ahead soon. Customers are likely to be unhappy as this means that they will not benefit from the cost savings. The good news for customers elsewhere and for VoIP providers is that other nations are unlikely to follow Russia’s lead.
Andrew Marshall ©