• Thursday, May 30, 2024
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Telcos block Skype over revenue loss on international calls


Concern over revenue loss from international calls may have compelled some telecom firms in Nigeria’s highly competitive market to block subscriber from accessing Skype services on mobile, BusinessDay has gathered. Skype is a proprietary Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) software for calling other people on their computers or mobile phones.

It is learnt that phone calls using Skype software can be placed to recipients on the traditional telephone networks. Moreover, calls to other users within the Skype service are free-of-

charge, while calls to land lines and phones, though reasonably priced, are charged via a debit-based user account system.

“Generally, the main fear of the telecoms operators here will be that customers will increasingly use Skype as a substitute for conventional international calls,” says Mattew Reed, principal analysts at Informa Telecoms and Media.

Sources close to some networks told BusinessDay that international calls make up a critical part of telecoms operators’ revenue, because of Nigeria’s large expatriate and Diaspora population. This apprehension, according to analysts, is further exacerbated by the steep decline in voice revenue. Last year, mobile networks were over exuberant, giving away lots of free minutes, which market analyst says has taken away a lot of value from the industry.

In the new business year, mobile operators are looking to offset the fallout of intense competition by closing gaps in the business that spur revenue leakage. Operators have however refuted the allegation of blocking Skype on mobile.

“It is impossible,” Wale Goodluck, corporate services executive, MTN Nigeria, puts it succinctly. Our reporter sought the view of the telecoms regulators on the issue.

“We don’t have any evidence of that. We do no regulate the internet,” Tony Ojobo, director, public affairs of Nigeria Commission Commission (NCC), said, saying “I am not aware of this development, but globally operators and network equipment makers don’t really embrace Skype.”

“They liken Skype to an individual who takes undue advantage of other people’s generosity without giving anything in return. Globally, there is this apprehension among telecoms operators that Skype only steals their customers while they invest billions of dollars to build out, expand and upgrade networks,”

Kenneth Omeruo, managing director, TechTrends Nigeria, told BusinessDay.

In the United Arab Emirate (UAE), Etisalat and Du had recently lifted a ban on Skype services. Both telecoms companies had announced that telecoms user can now download the application online and make Sykpe-to-landline or mobile calls, which were not previously permitted.

Many telecoms operators worldwide – including some companies in the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Spain – prohibit their mobile phone customers from downloading Skype’s software or outlaw the use of voice-over-the-internet phone services in their standard sales contracts.

Other carriers have imposed fees to undermine Skype’s attraction. Moreover, barriers to Skype software and similar internet calling services are coming under increasing scrutiny as the internet goes mobile. By 2013, the number of internet-ready mobile phones will surpass the number of computers in the world for the first time, according to Gartner, a research firm.