My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: How Digicel and FLOW Jamaica Blocking all VoIP Services can monetize Paid VoIP Services

Thursday, July 3, 2014

How Digicel and FLOW Jamaica Blocking all VoIP Services can monetize Paid VoIP Services

“We are currently reviewing all VoIP services and will let our customers know in due course. But that position changed to action by Tuesday. In order to maintain network quality for our customers, LIME confirms it has been reviewing unauthorised access to its networks. As part of the review, LIME will no longer carry Viber voice calling on its networks”

LIME's Vice-President of Marketing Carlo Redwood, speaking on Monday June 30th 2014 of their blockade of Viber after Telecom Provider Digicel blocked all VoIP Services on their Network

Well that was quick and merely a day later folks!

Telecom Provider Digicel has blocked not only Viber and Nimbuzz in Jamaica on Monday June 30th 2014  but practically ALL VoIP (Voice over IP) Services on their Network as I’d reported in “Digicel blocks unlicensed VOIP services”, published Sun June 29, 2014, RJR News and carried exclusively on Kelroy's blog article on Geezam entitled “Digicel blocks “unlicensed” Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) services”.

Now Telecom Provider LIME has followed their lead with their own VoIP Blockade of Viber the very same reasons: bypass by these unlicensed VoIP Providers, who don’t pay Call Termination Tariffs to connect callers to their Network as stated in “Digicel, LIME follow through on VoIP blockade”, published Wednesday July 2, 2014 by Richard Browne, Business Reporter, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Good to note here that Viber is an Israeli base company with Servers in Cyprus and Belarus that got gobbled up recently by Rakuten for US$900 million. Not a nice sounding name either, but a lot less harmless when compared to WhatsApp, set to come on-stream soon, now that we’re officially in the Third Quarter of 2014 as predicted in my blog article entitled “WhatsApp VoIP Calling in Second Quarter of 2014 - WhatsApp kills International Calling at the Advent of Facetime-eqsue Premium Video VoIP Calling on smartphones”.

This was totally unexpected, based on what I’d written in my blog article entitled “Digicel blocks VoIP Services Viber and Nimbuzz in Haiti - Digicel losing International Calling Revenue but will be worse when WhatsApp comes”, but alas it was also expected. BOTH Telecom Providers had committed themselves to fighting Bypass, or should I say the coming onslaught of WhatsApp, which are technically a form of Bypass.

Still yet to hear from Triple Play Provider FLOW….and other small private Licensed Data Networks in Jamaica such as Island Networks and their stance on this issue!

Bypass by VoIP Apps – Loss of Revenue from Local and International Voice Calls and SMS

This can be simply interpreted to be outbound Voice or Data Connections from their Local Networks to Foreign Networks or inbound Voice or Data Connections from Foreign Networks terminating on their Local Networks where callers we’re avoiding paying for Voice or Data Connections and the Providers of such services were avoiding paying for Call Termination Tariffs with the Local Network.

In addition, their IM Services are often designed to supplant SMS (Short Messaging Service) or Text Messaging on most smartphones between persons that have the VoIP App installed, resulting in a loss of revenue.

In short, Viber, Nimbuzz and all their VoIP Compadres result in a loss of International and Local Voice Calling Revenue as well as Text Messaging Revenue as these services carry the Data for free. In the words of CEO of Digicel Jamaica Barry O'Brien during a speaking engagement at the Rotary Club in Kingston on Thursday June 12th 2014, quote: “An issue unique to the telecoms industry is over-the-top applications such as WhatsApp and Skype which erode our voice and text revenues”.

This is but the first strike as I suspect more is soon to come.

Blocking VoIP isn’t censorship – Telecom Providers in talks with VoIP to monetize their operations

Such operators are deemed illegal, no matter where they’re based and the Telecommunications Act of 2012, while not specifically referring to VoIP, does give the Telecom Providers Leeway to deal with any activity deemed as Bypass. So this isn’t censorship, as some in the Tech spheres have said; this is akin to going through the Toll Plaza WITHOUT paying the require Toll fee, plain and simple.

Censorship involves persons muzzling your Voice and freedom of speech and would fall under Section Three of the Constitution as it relates to Rights and Freedoms as well as the recently drafted and implemented Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As this is a Service and not an attempt by Telecom Providers to stop persons protesting against a State injustice or State oppression as we’re not at War, it stands to reason that their blockade is purely for financial reasons, not an attempt to oppress or suppress the Rights and Freedoms of members of the state.

Good to note that the Telecoms Tax as well the Cess that is collected by the GOJ (Government of Jamaica) via the Ministry of Science of Technology, Energy and Mining is in jeopardy due to bypass activity as explained in my blog article entitled “How US$1 Billion is lost from the USF and Telecoms Tax via Inbound International Calling Bypass - LIME, Digicel and Network Engineer French Connection”.

So continued bypass makes it difficult for the Telecom Provides to pay over moneys owed to the USF (Universal Service Fund) and thus build CAP (Community Access Points) as stipulated under E-Learning Project one as explained in as noted in my blog article entitled “LIME, FLOW and the $JA543-million Internet plan - Ebony and Ivory”.

JA$800 million was taken from the USF by the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining to introduce Tablets in High Schools starting with a Test Pilot in Academic Year 2014/2015 which starts September 2014 and ends June 2015 as stated in my blog article entitled Ministry of Science and Technology signs four Contractors in March 2014 to procure Tablets - Test Pilot Project in September 2014 means Teachers can monetize e-books”.

VoIP Degradation of Data Networks – Video Calling, Streaming and Downloading are the culprits

I’m not in agreement in their argument that it degrades the Data Network experience, as Voice, even on VoIP apps, barely taxes the available bandwidth. But it’s Video Calling and any activity that involves Streaming and Downloading massive Music Files that’s sure to cause congestion, especially if a lot of persons on one or two Sectors of a Cell Tower are making a lot of Data Connections.

So why did Telecom Provider originally make that statement?

Possibly their sales of 20,000 smartphones, mostly DL600 and DL700 in June 2014 must have gone REALLY well as I’d mentioned in my blog article entitled “Digicel poised to sell 20,000 Mobile Devices in June 2014 - GOJ's CET removal means JA$4000 to JA$6000 smartphones are Possible”, as it has now created a crush of traffic from these VoIP Calling apps that apparently all these persons are now using. In that sense, Telecom Provider Digicel has become a victim of their own success.

VoIP Genie out of the bottle – Legalization of VoIP means Jamaicans will have to pay

Now that they’ve let the VoIP Genie out of the bottle, they and Telecom Provider LIME can’t get him back in again. So they’re trying to tame the Dragon by negotiating with it, hoping that they can buy time as they upgrade their respective Telecom Networks to handle 4G LTE Traffic, which will be a lot more intense.

So since discussions with these VoIP might go downhill, it may have some positives. Viber and Nimbuzz may refuse to negotiate, opting to dodge the bypass with App updates or advise users to use Wi-Fi coming from Broadband Internet based Services i.e. Routers form LIME’s ADSL or FLOW connected to a Wi-Fi Router.

Still that too may be blocked, if Triple Play Provider FLOW decides to take a stand and block Skype and other free VoIP Apps over their Networks, citing loss of International Calling Revenue. Telecom Provider LIME may then do the same on their ADSL Network and Telecom Provider Digicel may follow suite and block these VoIP programs over their WiMaX powered “4G” Broadband Network.

In the case of Telecom Provider Digicel, they may cite the fact that they now have DigiHome which offers International Calling options as explained in my blog article entitled “Digicel rolls out DigiHome, their first Residential Postpaid Fixed Line Service - Ramp up for Landline Number Portability and LIME’s Homefone XPress”.

However, some licensed VoIP services that have a pay option such as Skype, and LINE whose services are as described in my blog article entitled “Japanese Line introduces Line Call for Landline and Mobile - US$0.02 per Call and Kawaii Stickers a plus as WhatsApp and Skype get company in making International Calling and Roaming Extinct” can begin advertising in Jamaica.

They can even start encouraging users of PayPal Account, CIBC VISA Debit Card or Scotia VISA Debit Card as described in my Geezam blog article entitled “How to use Scotia VISA Debit Card Online” to use them to pay for these service, many of which are less than US$19.99 per year.!

Even MagicJack has a pay option version to its Free Calls with Magicjack App as described in my blog article entitled How to make Free USA and Canada Calls with Free Calls with Magicjack - MagicJack Stock buoyed by the coming of WhatsApp to VoIP Calling to Mobile and Landlines”. Then there is always the option of using an International Calling Plan from Telecom Provider Digicel and LIME as described in Calling as described in my Geezam blog article entitled “How to set up an International Calling Plan for Digicel or LIME Prepaid and Postpaid”.

Telecom Providers and Conscience – Rally people via PR Campaign to support the USF

In short, Jamaicans have no shortage of low-cost International Calling Plans as well as Local Calling rates as low as JA$1.99. Throw into that bonfire of low-cost the fact that Landlines Cross-Network rates are set to tumble later in the year after the OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation) hired Consultant has completed the LRIC (Long Run Incremental Cost) Model as described in my blog article entitled “OUR to hire Consultant for LRIC Study on Landline - JA$1.49 per minute for Fixed Line and Landline Flat Rate as MNP, LNP Approaches”.

A PR Campaign is needed to encourage Jamaicans to make as many International Calls as possible, with prizes such as smartphones, Laptops, Book Vouchers and other goodies to encourage Jamaicans to feel rewarded for doing the Morally Right thing. This would boost the International Calling Revenue and thus boost Jamaicans awareness of the fact that the Calling rates for both International and Local Calls have fallen below JA$2.00 per minute, which for anyone at any level of the society is quite affordable

And it would have an American Themed ring to it as well, to appeal to the foreign-minded Jamaicans! Details on what the USF does would also be a good campaign and joint strategy for the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining and the Telecom Providers to engage in, making Jamaicans aware of what the Telecoms Tax as well as the Cess taken from International Calls is used to accomplish for the Jamaican people.

Don’t Bypass; Support the USF and E-Learning II Project!

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