EU may force wireless carriers to allow VoIP on cellphones

Brussels (Belgium) – The European Union (EU) is preparing binding guidelines for wireless carriers to allow VoIP services such as Skype to run over their cellular network. EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding stated that there “action” should be taken against carriers that use their market power to block “innovative services.”

The decision of wireless carriers across Europe to prevent Voice-over-IP applications from taking advantage of traditional cellular network connections has struck a nerve with the EU. A report published by Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper states (article in German here) that the EU has already prepared a draft that would open smartphones to VoIP services. However, “the wording is not as clear as the EU would want it to be,” the publication said.  
Right now, each EU country has to decide on how they deal with blocked Internet services. Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding recently asked those countries to take legal action against companies that use their market power to “block innovative services.” Handelsblatt also said that Deutsche Telekom’s decision to block VoIP may prompt the EU to look into possible antitrust charges against the carrier. T-Mobile USA is a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom.

VoIP has always been a touchy topic with traditional telecom companies – first on landlines and now we are seeing a similar, albeit much more dramatic, scenario in the wireless field. The fact that devices such as iPhones and the G1 are tied to wireless flatrates would allow users to make much cheaper phone calls via the carrier’s data network and services such as Skype, circumventing much more expensive cellular network calls and more expensive voice plans.