Update: Please note this post is regarding T-Mobile UK
VoIP has obviously changed the revenue equation in the telecom space with operators now facing competitors which are smaller, nimbler and able to launch new services rapidly. In some ways these new operators embody the ultimate dream of IMS. The only problem is in some cases operators have seen these new services as competitive to their core offerings and in many cases have blocked this competition. Sometimes illegally.
That is the contention of Andy Abramson who runs PR for Truphone. Here are some bullet points Andy recently sent me on how T-Mobile is potentially acting illegally to shut out a mobile VoIP competitor.
- T-Mobile has refused to interconnect with mobile VoIP provider Truphone: T-Mobile customers making a call to Truphone’s number range (07978 8xxxxx) will not be connected.
- T-Mobile refuses to interconnect with operators offering VoIP as a matter of policy.
- However T-Online Ventures, the venture capital arm of T-Mobile’s parent company Deutsche Telekom, has just invested in VoIP provider Jajah; T-Mobile connects with BT Fusion, a VoIP service; and T-Mobile has also announced a trial of a VoIP service in USA and Germany.
- T-Mobile is required to ‘make calls or otherwise transmit electronic communications to every normal telephone number’, which it has refused to do in the case of Truphone and other VoIP operators.
- The other four UK major mobile network operators – 3, O2, Orange and Vodafone – all interconnect with Truphone, leaving T-Mobile isolated on this issue.
- T-Mobile’s current adverts display the slogan "Setting the internet free".
- Currently a ‘beta’ service, Truphone’s is prevented from launching fully until the 07978 8xxxxx number range is fully interconnected. Beta service customers are presently unaffected by this issue.
- Other mobile operators have employed different methods to prevent VoIP uptake. There has already been the well-publicized removal of internet telephony functionality from Nokia’s popular N95 handset by Vodafone and Orange, and new data tariffs published by Vodafone that mean customers using VoIP will be charged more than for web browsing or email.
To be honest I haven’t done any fact checking on this issue due to time limitations but Andy has always been factually accurate in the past so I have no reason to doubt any of the above. While T-Mobile is likely doing the smart thing for the bottom line this quarter and the next, by blocking new technology on its network it makes itself a target of ferocious criticism.
The question T-Mobile directors need to ask themselves is how much PR damage are they willing to withstand to slow the erosion of pricing power?
In the mean time, I expect the blogging community and eventually the general media to skewer T-Mobile on this issue. The company will likely cave at some point but on an issue like this where they stand alone, they better be dead certain they are doing the right thing.