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Want Skype on your mobile phone? Swedes will have to pay

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Swedish operator TeliaSonera won’t ban Skype’s voice service on handsets using its network but it will charge customers for it. The operator is piloting plans that will cost customers extra for using an over-the-top voice service on its network according to an item in TeleGeography. Ring ring! It’s network neutrality calling.

Kevin covered the story in late April when rumors of the change in pricing and plans to block VoIP services surfaced. It turns out that TeliaSonera has tested the new pay for VoIP plans in Spain on its Yoigo subsidiary. Subscribers are charged EUR 6 ($7.50) per month for 100MB of VoIP traffic, which supports between five and ten hours of your Google Talk or Skype calling. Existing contract holders won’t have to pay such fees until their contracts run out and TeliaSonera will also offer unlimited plans where the cost of VoIP is included.

Carriers are clearly eager to hold onto their dying voice revenue, which in the U.S. comprises roughly 60 percent of what they make on average from each customer a month, according to data from the first quarter of 2012 gathered by Chetan Sharma. As you can see from the chart below, the revenue is declining along with revenue from texting. This is a global trend. When everything is IP-based, from voice to messaging services, carriers are stuck selling data — and data doesn’t carry the profit margins nor the limits of voice. A person can only talk so many minute per month, offering a ceiling on the potential outlay to support the service. But demand for data just grows and grows as we find new apps that can use it.

Still a charge for Skype provided VoIP — or VoIP provided by any other over-the-top provider — is a problem for fans of network neutrality who worry that TeliaSonera’s charges are an attempt to protect the carriers’ own business and services. Network neutrality is the principle that states ISPs can’t discriminate against the packets traveling over their networks. In this case, charging a user more to use an over-the-top VoIP offering could be construed as discriminating against those services.

However, given the revenue and margin pressure at operators, I doubt this is the last time we’ll see this issue arise in Europe or in other regions. In the U.S. network neutrality rules aren’t extended to wireless networks, but the FCC has said it would look askance at operators who try to discriminate against services that carriers also offer such as voice and messaging.

4 Responses to “Want Skype on your mobile phone? Swedes will have to pay”

  1. Agnieszka

    I know Vyke and use it for my international calls from UK, mostly to Poland. Their charges are transparent and there’s rarely any issue with connection/quality…would recommend it if you prefer an easy way to call (on the go so to speak) without having to swap sim cards or enter lots of digits…

  2. Julian

    You can still benefit from extraordinarily cheap international rates by using companies like Vyke. They offer VoIP services, but they also offer callthrough and callback services (non-VoIP) at the same price and with higher quality since they don’t rely on the internet and teliasonnera throttling games. Vyke has a fantastic offer – the VykeZone- and they charge only $0.15 per hour to a good bunch of countries. And the best of all, they are pre-paid, you use them when you need to use them without having to compromise on monthly contracts or plans. I use Vyke and I am very happy about their service.

  3. Steve K

    There is network neutrality in terms of equal access and not blocking, choking or censoring certain things, and then there is the “money for nothing and your chicks for free” cry of folks who play shell games with their usage.
    Maybe what is needed is some sort of “power” calculation that factors bandwidth at points in time, with total bytes transferred so that whatever you use the bytes for, you are charged fairly for accessing the infrastructure to transfer them. Granted there has been plenty of gouging going on. On both sides. Carriers charge for this and offer that at a lower rate as an enticement. Users figure out how to use the lower cost element to perform the higher cost function, so the carrier has to flip things around. The the chase is on.
    “Network” neutrality is a nice catch phrase, but that network is not just there for free as a public service paid for by mysterious persons out of the goodness of their hearts. It is a lot of very expensive hardware (which this blog constantly covers so people here ought to have an appreciation for what it takes to put it there), millions of miles of interconnections and hoards of maintenance people, all to support people transferring information.
    True network neutrality, the kind that supported the Arab Spring and countless other examples of connectedness between people, is a very important thing. It should be supported, lobbied for and outed whenever it is compromised. But it dilutes this noble value when the term also gets used for finagles to take advantage over complex carrier promotional cost structures.