The internet based telephone technology, Voice Over IP (VOIP), has received a warm reception from OFCOM, the UK telecoms regulator. OFCOM will be assigning a special area code for VOIP phone numbers (056), allowing people to have a fixed number regardless of their location in the world.
OFCOM are going to proceed with VOIP using a 'light touch'. UK regulation policy in past years had been 'pro-active', yet often to the extent that it hindered growth and implementation of new technologies. In recent times, regulators have decided to step back, allowing markets to do most of the regulating, and only stepping in where necessary.
VOIP in the US has come up against some problems (e.g. US requirements for phone tapping) which have hindered its initial take off; its hoped this wont happen in the UK. OFCOM have launched a consultation on the new technology to find out whether it should apply the same rules to these providers as standard hard wire providers. For example, whether they should force them all to offer 999 services. This consultation will end in November.
OFCOM believes that VOIP could bring down costs of telecoms significantly, and has high hopes for the technology. Their stance will also be encouraging to providers, who have had a rough time elsewhere.