Web giants call for VoIP over 3G

A gang of web giants are up in arms over operator attitudes towards Voice over IP (VoIP) applications on mobile networks.

With the European Telecoms Package currently making its way through the EU parliament, the VON Coalition Europe – made up of Google, Microsoft, Skype, Rebtel, iBasis, Intel, and Voxbone – is concerned that many provisions adopted on the subject of universal service open the door to the blocking or degrading of content, services or applications by operators “for motives that extend beyond efficient traffic management.”

This essentially, is the crux of the net neutrality argument, and is the reason the Voice on the Net (VON) Coalition formed at the end of 2007, championing internet telephony over all networks, fixed and mobile.

Last week, mobile internet telephony firm Vyke extended its existing agreement with Nokia to bring its VoIP application to more smartphones. While Skype’s own VoIP app has been made available on the Apple iPhone via the App Store, delivering free Skype-to-Skype calls over wifi and messaging connectivity over 3G.

Around the same time, T-Mobile Germany said it would block Skype on iPhones in order to maintain network efficiency, however the VON Coalition guys argue that a typical Skype call normally only uses 8 to 20kbps, which can be compared to the download of an average web page and is considered a low bandwidth application.

As a result, the VoIP champions are urging the European decision makers, “To adopt principles to allow consumers to access the services, applications and content of their choice on any public network, regardless of the provider that offers them. Blocking of voice applications on mobile devices, such as the announcement of T-Mobile to block Skype on iPhones in Germany, is highly detrimental for consumer welfare in Europe,” the group says.

“Consumers in Europe and across the world have been enjoying the benefits of Voice on the Net applications as an expected capability of their data service”, said Caroline De Cock, executive director of the VON Coalition Europe. “This can only continue if these applications are not blocked or degraded by the network operators, and if the choice of application, service or content they wish to access is left to users instead of network providers.”

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