Tuesday, March 16, 2010

VoIP - don't get too excited.

The TRA has announced an update on its VoIP policy, but I suggest we don't get too excited by it yet.

There's an immediate assumption that the cost of international calls will fall dramatically. For example, while EmBiz247 has good coverage it's under the headline: "New VoIP policy to shave call costs"

We can't assume that at all because charges are set by the operators, which have been named as Etisalat, Du and the satellite service providers Yahsat and Thuraya.

Although there may be slightly lower prices than we currently have I don't believe for one moment that they'll set prices down where providers like Skype have them for most of the world.

EmBiz247 in its information notes makes the point, correctly using the word 'may':

"There are many factors to be taken into consideration in determining the cost of long-distance rates. In addition, international VoIP calls may take place in a variety of scenarios, which will also influence the cost. There may be scenarios where international calls using VoIP Services may be more economical than current rates."

There's also the inevitable bureaucracy complicating the whole thing. The sort of red tape and jargon that causes confusion and creates unnecessary problems when new services are introduced.

And they're really talking about the technicalities rather than cost savings for companies and individuals.

For example Gulf News says: "Etisalat was quick to announce the details of its new VoIP solution for enterprise users" while Etisalat continues to talk in jargon rather than English with its statement: "...there is a significant opportunity for businesses to leverage the advantages of an integrated network and the convergence of voice and data through a VoIP solution."

Oh good, it's a solution.

And the TRA says: "The real attraction of VoIP lies in the fact that it enables true integrated services, location independent, with always-on capability and great flexibility."

I don't see anyone talking about reduced charges.

I haven't yet got my head around what we'll be getting or who will have access to it.

Here's the TRA again: "Closed groups or companies can make calls to their branches within the UAE as per the new policy and academic institutions for research purposes can utilise VoIP to contact international counterparts. This all has to be done within the framework provided by the licensee."

I'm going to wait for the clarifications and the clarifications of the clarifications.

EmBiz247 has the story here.


the real nick said...

I use Skype without problems. We downloaded / installed skype whilst abroad (e.g. Bahrain, which doesn't block access). It works fine for computer - computer calls, not to landlines though.

My advice: avoid 'the system' wherever possible.

Anonymous said...

The idea here is very simple: if there is money in it we should gain it" we as in the government supported companies" and with maximum profits that will pay us back very well and very soon, in the same time if there is a cheaper way of providing it by others including international players then we will try our level best along with TRA to stop that from happening.
I am accusing them of something harsh to digest I know but this make short story long is what leads me or others to think this way.
Again the majority of the people here have access to diffrent VOIP software and pay little in bank accounts of super users and get the credit to there accounts and still talk without using Etisalat or Du! Can these providers stop them? deposits are even made to super users personal accounts with banks that have Cash Deposit Machines.

Wake up TRA! intrest is not saved by blocking people, lets really have an free market when it comes to telecomunications!

samuraisam said...

the real nick:
I'm on Etisalat cable internet and although the skype site is blocked I downloaded it elsewhere and I can make calls using it successfully.

It seems to be quite random on whether its blocked or not.

Keefieboy said...

I never managed to use Skype whilst in the UAE - now I use it all the time and it's just marvellous (except when it isn't). But VoIP is nothing new: Media and Internet Cities (and probably lots more Nakheel enterprises) have had VoIP networks ever since they started.

And of course Itisalot and Pu will not pass on the massive savings to their customers.

DrVoIP said...

yeah, its blocked :( ha ha

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Daniel Schmidt said...

My perspective (I work for iWorldServices, a middle-east VOIP reseller) is that the block essentially did what blocks always do: it created an enormous black market for VOIP service.

Rates have fallen enormously at the carrier and wholesale levels (which are very competitive) but not nearly as much at the retail / local level. Here, the barriers to market entry are high, the risks of being caught and either fined or jailed are significant, and while it's easy to start a business, it's hard to sustain it once crackdowns come into play. The result is reduced surplus for both consumers and new businesses, with some minor benefits (and a lot of stress) for the existing providers.

On a separate note, if anyone is curious, it is quite easy to bypass the blocks using VPN. Many people choose Hotspot Shield because it's free, but I've recently heard of Vyper and OpenVPN being used as well, both of which are paid services.