My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Digicel and FLOW Block WhatsApp - How Jamaica makes money from IXP via VoIP Cloud Servers, SIP and MVNO

Monday, November 9, 2015

Digicel and FLOW Block WhatsApp - How Jamaica makes money from IXP via VoIP Cloud Servers, SIP and MVNO

Digicel and LIME....er, I mean FLOW, it appears, are still blocking VoIP services. 

This based on a recent test conducted by Nationwide News and Opposition Spokesman on ICT, Dr. Andrew Wheatley in which they demonstrated that WhatsApp was blocked on both Telecom Provider's networks as reported in the article “Digicel still blocking VoIP Calls”, published Oct 26, 2015 by Kalilah Enriquez, Nationwide News


 In a test conducted by Nationwide News and Opposition Spokesman on ICT, Dr. Andrew Wheatley, where Nationwide News had a FLOW Mobile phone and Dr. Andrew Wheatley had a Digicel phone, WhatsApp Voice Calling feature was not able to work.

Voice Calling was a feature introduced on WhatsApp back in April 2015 as reported in my blog article entitled “@WhatApp Voice Calling comes to Version 2.12.1 - How Wi-Fi Calling by Proxy coming to Jamaica with Features to Boot”.

Voice calling is popular among Millennials as it’s the equivalent of Voice Notes, the glorified yet free Voice recording Service that exists on WhatsApp. It’s the Voice Calling feature, though, that seems to be the target of Digicel and LIME.

So how did Nationwide New conduct their test?

Nationwide News tests WhatsApp Voice Calling – More Detailed test needed but Service is blocked

According to Nationwide News, when they tested the Voice Calling Feature, the words “Connecting...” appeared on the screen of the person making the WhatsApp Voice Call without the call being eventually terminated with the called party. This indicates that WhatsApp's server was trying to terminate the call but was being prevented from doing.

This curious phenomenon occurred when either party tried to call each other via WhatsApp. However, when Wi-Fi was enable on Dr. Andrew Wheatley's Digicel smartphone, the call being made via WhatsApp from Nationwide News FLOW Mobile phone, the call was able to terminate.

This suggests that FLOW was able to route the call request over their Network to WhatsApp's servers when then handed over the call, as if he had Wi-Fi enabled, most likely it was picking up Wi-Fi from a FLOW Modem or a Digicel 4G Broadband Modem.

It would have been nice if they also did the test in the other direction i.e. call Andrew Wheatley's Digicel smartphone call Nationwide News FLOW Mobile phone with their Wi-Fi enabled. Also, changing the variables to test WhatsApp Calls over Wi-Fi provided by FLOW or Digicel 4G Broadband Modem would also have covered all bases to make this more conclusive.

Even more informative would have been a test on other VoIP Calling Services, as that would give us a true idea of how many VoIP Services both Digicel and LIME are blocking. I suspect Viber and Nimbuzz are still being blocked since June 2014 as noted in my blog article entitled “LIME and Digicel blocking all VoIP Services - How Telecom Providers can make money from Regularizing Paid VoIP Services”.

But assuming that no Wi-Fi is present, it appears that WhatsApp Voice Calling Feature is blocked on both Digicel 4G Mobile Network and LIME's 4G Mobile Network, which are really just faster 3G.

Digicel and LIME blocking VoIP Calling - Why this is necessary for Jamaica to make money from Telecoms

This doesn’t surprise me, as that's what is supposed to be happening.

Especially as Digicel had launched Digicel Zero, which implied that they were blocking WhatsApp Calling as noted in my blog article entitled “Digicel launches Digicel Zero - How @Digicel_jamaica is testing VoLTE vs @WhatsApp's Free Voice Calling to boost smartphone sales”.    

The OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation) in December 2014 had ruled that VoIP (Voice over IP) had to register in order to operate VoIP services in Jamaica as reported in my blog article entitled “Minister Paulwell says VoIP Providers must Register to Terminate - Why WhatsApp may no longer be Free as IXP by January 2015, MNP by May 2015”.  

Good to note that the OUR hasn’t published their ruling on the block on VoIP services since December 2014, prompting Opposition Spokesman on ICT, Dr. Andrew Wheatley to declare that they need to be published as reported in the article “Wheatley demands publication of OUR’s ruling on VoIP blocking”, published Thursday, October 22, 2015, The Jamaica Observer.   

The VoIP Blockade makes sense, as in order to make money from International Calling, both Digicel and LIME cannot allow bypass to take place on their Data Networks. This also helps the Government of Jamaica as they benefit from the collection of a Cess on International Calling that goes to the USF (Universal Service Fund) which now stands at some JA$12 billion.

The USF is used to fund programs such as the CAP (Community Access Points) for free Internet and the TIS (Tablet in Schools) project, which was recently audited as noted in my blog article entitled “Audit of Jamaican TIS Pilot Project - Why Minister of Technology, Phillip Paulwell extended to June 2016”.

VoIP Providers have options - Set up Cloud Servers in Jamaica or become MVNO's

So blocking VoIP Call termination benefits Jamaica and the Telecoms Sector!

Plus, aside from these VoIP Providers becoming licensed Telecom Operators in Jamaica, they can also apply for one of the twelve (12) MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) licenses that would allow them to also provide Telecom services as described in my blog article entitled “@TheOURja MVNO Licenses – How Telecom Providers benefit and Why MVNO are a source of Product Innovation”.  

There is nothing stopping them really, as the IXP (Internet Exchange Point) has been operational since January 2015 as noted in my blog article entitled “Jamaica's Local Internet Exchange Point - IXP Lower Routings, Web Hosting and Websites Loading on smartphones as Jamaican Domain Name Registration and MNP, LNP Approaches”.  

They now have to set up servers in Jamaica, get a Telecoms license and request access on the IXP to start peering in order to terminate their traffic on other Telecom Provider Networks as explained in my blog article entitled “Jamaican Telecom Providers ISP on IXP Not Peering –What is Peering, Why is Peering Important and Why Jamaican Telecom Providers are not Peering”.

Digicel and LIME's actions may be against ECTEL (Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority) rules as it relates to blocking calls without the receiving party's consent, but the Government of Jamaica needs VoIP to play their part in the developement of the Telecom Sector by becoming licensed operators.


  
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