One of the most interesting dilemmas facing VoIP is the reluctance of certain countries to allow this method of communication. We regularly point out the state of the telecom industry in more reserved countries around the Middle East and other parts of Asia. There are multiple problems that face the industry that extend beyond politics which many believe to be the main opponent of the industry.
Problems are often persistent in the communication networks of these countries. They simply do not have the capacity to support high bandwidths for every customer. The existing infrastructure for many countries would be extremely burdened if they were supporting very high speeds for fixed lines as well as 4G data networks. Allowing certain applications the full amount of bandwidth needed to operate properly simply isn’t possible in many cases.
It’s not just that decision makers are mean or uneducated about applications like Skype. The decision to ban such applications has a variety of factors that weigh on the decision. To those living in areas with more freedom, this may seem like an act merely to infringe upon the well-being of others who may simply want to speak with someone in another country. Rarely does the integrity of a communication infrastructure come into play.
Infrastructure here and there
In America and many other countries, your internet speed is essentially limited by how much you want to pay. Most providers can host speeds far beyond what is needed for nearly any home solution. I have about 12 Mbps service which is more than adequate, even when there are 4 people in the house all streaming a different movie on Netflix.
Not all areas are so fortunate. In some places, the only internet connection available is dial up or a very expensive satellite solution which is simply not feasible for most. In very poor regions of the world like Eastern Europe and parts of Africa, this makes it very difficult to do much beyond browsing non-media intensive web sites or use anything more than a stripped-down browser.
More often than not, most people have access to much faster internet than 56Kbps. However, speeds in developing nations like China and India do not have very fast connections by the standards of highly connected regions like western Europe, North America and Japan, to name a few. This is because companies in more developed areas have invested large amounts of money into high capacity conduits, both fixed lined and radio frequency, for the sake of moving a high volume of information.
Why infrastructure matters
One major reason VoIP is banned is because of the infrastructure but slight improvements are allowing some governing agencies to lift restrictions in certain cases. Certain platforms like Skype and WhatsApp are slowly becoming accepted in countries like Saudi Arabia which has very strict regulations – also a reason that Viber remains restricted, per the article in the link. Though private consumers of these products could command a significant amount of bandwidth, there are greater concerns beyond that of individuals making occasional calls.
If VoIP were to be completely legal, businesses would take full advantage of VoIP for communication. Large enterprises in countries with a less developed communication networks would be responsible for bottlenecking internet traffic that could cause an outage for entire regions. Until an adequate infrastructure can be built – one that can fairly accommodate everyone – non compliant applications will remain blocked. Some governments allow companies the ability to commission certain agencies for a special permit to use VoIP, essentially an exception for the correct quid pro quo. Yet, places where the technology is implicitly banned will have to wait until other pieces fall into place.
The country of India and its telecom market is a topic frequently mentioned by virtually everyone at WhichVoIP in our blogs. The country is in the midst a major turning point for communication which makes it very interesting to observe and speculate the future of the country. As new projects are continually improving the country’s mainframe, laws are slowly changing as well.
India has a very low data transfer speeds compared to other technologically privy countries. Last year, India hit a milestone – the average internet download speed for the country reached about 1 Mbps around the middle of last year. This was just after the 3G rollout that occurred in 2011. Though this initially allowed for much higher speeds (just over double), more subscribers joined this network and it eventually slowed.
Fortunately, the information grid of the country is continually improving. Thanks to a fiber optic project that is slowly moving its way around the country, the average speed has risen to 1.8 MBps. This will provide a couple of major benefits and of course VoIP is one service that will see a great advantage with a more powerful infrastructure.
With the fiber project rolling along so is legislation that will allow private and business consumers in India to make use of a broader range of VoIP platforms. Now, businesses will be able to have more liberty to select providers which were not possible to access in the past. Though many companies in India use VoIP, certain services like cloud platforms with a heavy feature set, simply don’t have the bandwidth available for consumers to take full advantage of every feature.
India still somewhat frowns on the use of Skype, though people legitimately using the app are not in contempt of the law. The fact that communication through applications like Skype and Google cannot be monitored keeps the Indian DoT on the fence regarding tolerance to these services. However, better infrastructure will give rise to Indian-based VoIP providers which will (actually, should) give the government the ability to monitor certain interactions.
In the end, we see the more accessible a service to a consumer, the more likely it will be purchased. When there are many choices, this shows good competition which drives innovation and prosperity to high integrity providers or manufacturers. Let’s not forget – communication is what drives business and personal relationships which is why it’s such an important industry to any economy. I would like to think the best will come from this new wave of technology now being adopted by countries that were initially behind the curve.