Skype in trouble with France over not declaring operator status

The French telecommunciations regulator ARCEP (Autorité de régulation des communications électroniques et des postes) has informed the Paris public prosecutor that Skype has not registered itself as a telco, as per its obligation.

According to ARCEP, the Luxembourg-based video call service will be committing a felony, but only by not declaring itself, in line with Article L. 33-1 of the French Postal and Electronic Communications Code.

ARCEP states that Skype falls into the telco category because the company offers itself as a “service that allows internet users located in France to call fixed and mobile numbers in France around the world using their computer or smartphone.” This means that Skype has an obligation to route emergency calls and intercept calls when required.

“As a result, ARCEP has requested several times that Skype declare itself as an electronic communications operator, which the company has failed to do thus far,” ARCEP said in a press release.

In response to this update, Skype told AFP: “We will continue to work with ARCEP in a constructive fashion to seek agreement on a resolution that ensures people, wherever they are, can continue to rely on Skype as they do today.”

This has the potential to open a can of worms to the ongoing wrangle between operators and OTT players over data consumption. Skype, along with the lines of Viber and WhatsApp, offers free voice calls in a structured data plan, to the detriment of the telecoms operators.

This year’s Mobile World Congress saw the operators’ fight for supremacy as a key battleground in the discussions, both in the conference hall and the exhibition floor.

One particular panel discussion saw OTT harbingers and telecom operators head to head, with the overall conclusion that telcos need to continue innovating to decrease churn.

David Thodey, Telstra CEO, asked: “Are we going to fight OTT or are we going to find a way to partner?” whilst Talmon Marco, chief exec of principal OTT player Viber, said that operators’ current efforts are “simply not taking off”.

Back in October, Amdocs released research stating that most service providers view OTT players as potential partners instead of a threat – yet noting that it could all be a piece of underhanded skulduggery.

Nevertheless, the battle for market share is going to be attritional, with neither side giving in. Find out more about OTT and VAS strategies at Telecoms Tech World, on 4-5 June in London.

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