Vodafone faces legal threat in VoIP row

Mobile operator Vodafone could face legal action over allegations that it is blocking calls to a voice over IP (VoIP) provider's numbers.

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Mobile operator Vodafone could face legal action over allegations that it is blocking calls to a voice over IP (VoIP) provider's numbers.

"We believe Vodafone's stance is not lawful, and we are considering our position," said James Tagg chief executive of IP phone company Truphone. Vodafone was failing to meet interconnection obligations and blocking competing websites, as well as disabling internet telephony on handsets, he claimed.

Vodafone was refusing to connect calls to Truphone's range of mobile numbers, in breach of telecoms regulations, Tagg said. Truphone has a range of numbers with which it can function as a mobile operator, allowing the numbers to appear in call logs and the handsets to receive text messages.

But Vodafone customers would find that calls to these numbers were blocked, whether they were made over Wi-Fi or the Vodafone network, Tagg said.

The operator was also blocking VoIP websites including Skype to users of its mobile internet service - a move that would breach EU. competition regulations, Tagg claimed. "European telecoms legislation gives operators an obligation to interconnect, and to offer unfettered access to services."

Vodafone’s N95 phones include SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) and internet telephony, but the internet telephony is locked so it cannot be used, Tagg claimed. Such a move could be illegal, even on subsidised handsets, he said.

But Vodafone hit back. "Customers can download VoIP applications if they choose to do so or can use VoIP services via a laptop and data card.,” it said.

The company did not offer a response to Truphone's claims that it is blocking interconnection to Truphone numbers. But in a statement, the operator added: "Vodafone believes that VoIP over mobile is not yet a mature service proposition as it does not have guaranteed quality of service, and would fall short of the customer experience demanded of any service we launch.

"To ensure a solid end-to-end customer experience, this service would require in-depth testing, billing integration and customer service support which is currently not available."

Vodafone added: "There is also a misleading perception that VoIP services are ‘free’. This is not the case when it comes to using VoIP over mobile, where customers will need to use data connectivity to establish a service. By doing this, there is a risk that customers could incur unnecessary charges when competitive mobile tariffs are likely to be a more cost-effective choice."

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