A big battle is brewing in the Caribbean between mobile carriers and over-the-top communications services. Multi-national operator Digicel has condemned VoIP applications like Viber, Facetime and Tango as “parasitic” and has taken steps to block those apps’ traffic in several countries, including Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and Suriname.
Other operators, like Jamaica’s Lime, have joined Digicel in the VoIP blockade, but it looks as if OTT apps are wending their way through the lines. Viber CEO Talmon Marco told the Jamaica Gleaner it has restored service to its customers in the Caribbean despite the carriers’ obstacles, and that Viber could overcome future technical barriers thrown in its way.
Ironically, the kerfuffle has only brought more users and more traffic to Viber’s OTT app. Digicel certainly isn’t the first carrier that’s tried to ban or restrict VoIP traffic from its network. TeliaSonera weighed charging customers additional fees for using VoIP services like Skype, but it eventually backed down, electing to raise its data plan pricing instead.
We’re going to see this kind of battle waged more throughout the world as carriers find their traditional voice and SMS revenue threatened. U.S. operators have tried to the head off the conflict, simply by making unlimited voice and SMS a standard feature on most of their phone plans. It’s hardly the most progressive policy, though. AT&T and Verizon may have no problem with you using VoIP, but they’re going to charge you for traditional voice services anyway.