Red Tape could stall VoIP

For all those who haven't heard of VoIP (Voice over IP), it is the technology which allows voice communication over networks. This has been touted as a great thing by companies like BT who have been testing the system for a while now, as by only having a network in a building the costs of maintaining traditional telephony systems are lost. VoIP also allows extra features in calls, such as video conferencing, and it dramatically cuts the cost of international calls to the that of a local call.

Now the regulators are getting in on the act as Oftel, the UK's telecommunications regulator, have now published their guidelines on VoIP – and other regulatory bodies elsewhere are set to follow. This document provides both a good introduction to the technology and outlines how Oftel plan to control VoIP. The main part of the document is regarding the licensing of the system and it states that if the technology is sold and replaces traditional telephony there will be a need for licenses, but only if it "appears to the customer" to do this. However, if the system is used to complement the traditional system there won't be a need for a license.

This looks like another case of red tape holding back a potentially great technology – and as ever this will only result in the slower deployment of the technology, and the potential savings for businesses across the UK being stalled. Hopefully the rest of the world will realise the potential of the VoIP and they won't try and hold it back with such guidelines. With backers like Cisco – who are actively promoting the technology – more companies are likely to begin the deployment of VoIP in the foreseeable future.

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View: Frequently asked questions on the regulation of Voice over Internet Protocol services

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