Mobile operator’s dirty war against VOIP providers

If you ever wondered whether Wi-Fi and VOIP were disrupting of old worn business models, look no further than the dirty war being waged by the UK arm of T-Mobile against Truphone, a mobile VOIP provider. I use Truphone regularly and this just makes my blood boil. Truphone, a mobile VOIP operator, is battling the UK arm of T-Mobile whose latest tactic is to kill off cheap mobile phone calls with a “T-Mobile policy decision” that denies access to cheap calls. The other operators continue to allow calls to Truphone numbers, but not T-Mobile. As more people use services like Truphone and Jajah and use Wi-Fi on their Wi-Fi enabled mobile phones, the operators will become more nervous and start clamping down on these services. This is more than a Truphone vs. T-Mobile issue, as it will affect all new carriers who want to play in the Mobile VoIP and Voice 2.0 arena.

T-Mobile has refused to interconnect with Truphone so that 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.

The weird thing is that 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. T-Mobile has also announced a trial of a VoIP service in USA and Germany.

Is this a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing?

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.

I am sure the irony isn’t lost on people who have seen T-Mobile’s current advertising displays with 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.

James Tagg, Truphone’s CEO, says: “If I were a shareholder I’d be asking some tough questions about whether T-Mobile is prepared for the Internet age. It looks like a company in chaos with no coherent strategy for VoIP: it is both resisting VoIP and buying it, and at the same time running ads saying it sets the internet free. Maybe the left hand simply doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.”

“T-Mobile’s move is the most aggressive act but it isn’t alone in trying to find ways to slow down mobile VoIP. Vodafone and Orange tested one way by removing internet telephony from their branded Nokia N95 handsets without telling their customers, and Vodafone is planning to charge more for VoIP traffic than for web traffic on its new mobile web service.”

“T-Mobile will argue that it is not ‘blocking’ Truphone but is merely negotiating on price. T-Mobile receives 35p per minute from its customers but is offering only 0.21p per minute to Truphone even when Truphone’s costs are 9p per minute to terminate the call.

This past week Truphone quietly introduced an advance look at version 3.0.

Links to other content

Ofcom statement on the Regulation of VoIP

Truphone and T-Mobile

Comments

  1. lol no suprise there, businesses are still stupid and greedy.