Digicel Blocking OTT VoIP Apps in Caribbean Markets

Digicel’s mobile network in Haiti now is blocking--or trying to block--VoIP services including Viber, Skype, Tango, Nimbuzz and MagicJack, among other over the top voice apps and services.

Digicel argues it is doing so “to recover millions of dollars in lost taxes and national income of the National Fund for Education (FNE) for the Government of Haiti.”

Probably more to the point, Digicel is concerned about voice revenue amounting to between $500,000 and $1 million.

The blocking apparently has been happening since June 17, 2014 on Digicel’s 4G network.

These same Internet applications are fully functional on all computers and tablets that do not use a subscriber information module, though.

Digicel calls the OTT voice providers “unauthorized providers” that compete unfairly with carrier voice services. It is an argument some service providers have made in the past.

The argument sounds as clumsy and craven as ever, as the one thing most observers might agree upon is that lawful apps--and all those apps are lawful--should be accessible by end users who have purchased Internet access.

"It’s time for us to act to protect our business, our customers and our service integrity and to ensure that the Haitian Government gets the monies it is owed,” said Maarten Boute, Digicel Haiti CEO.

“The actions of these unlicensed VOIP operators in contributing nothing to the delivery of these services mean that our customers do not reap the benefits of our significant investment, commitment and focus,” Boute said.

Separately, The Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago has requested Digicel not block customers from using third party VoIP apps while it conducts an investigation into the matter.

Digicel in Trinidad and Tobago apparently has said it will refrain from blocking for 90 days.

Digicel also is blocking VoIP in Jamaica. Mobile provider LIME additionally is  blocking OTT VoIP apps in Jamaica.

That OTT apps threaten Digicel's revenue is not terribly controversial. OTT apps threaten virtually all voice providers. But there is only one way forward. Digicel, as do other service providers, simply must find new revenue sources.
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