China says VoIP Ban is Misunderstood

Last week China sought to clarify what it says is a misunderstanding about its position on Voice over Internet protocol in the country.

Most news outlets believed that this would lead to an attempt to ban the Internet calling service Skype in order to protect the state telecoms carriers.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has now said it is supportive of Internet-based telephone services as long as they are legal.

Wen Ku, the director of the ministry technology department, said: "The ministry is not against Internet-based telephone services, but only those operating illegally in the country."

He added: "VoIP is a worldwide trend in the telecom industry and we are not against that technology."

Of course in China it is always difficult to tell what is legal. After all this is a nation where public access to Google is censored.

So far there is no sign of any ban taking place and China's Skype users have reported business as usual.

Ministry spokesman Wang Lijian told the China Daily newspaper that the "whole issue is over". Heexplained that the purpose of the crackdown was to target online fraud and crime.

Nevertheless only two companies have been allowed to trial VoIP in four Chinese cities. It is probable that only their VoIP services will be deemed legal.

That will give China Unicom and China Telecom a virtual monopoly while getting rid of other Internet phone services that have sprung up in the meantime.

Kan Kaili, a professor at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, said: "I think the authorities will be extremely cautious in dealing with the regulations to avoid raising international concerns."

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