Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Voice Over IP (VOIP) Banned in Oman


A piece of news that not many have taken note of is the recent Ministerial Decision issued by the Telecommunications Regulation Authority regulating the provision of Internet service in public commercial venues. While it has been rumoured for long that Skype and similar services are banned in Oman, this is the first time I come across an actual piece of legislation that explicitly prohibits the Voip and renders it illegal.

The Decision was issued on 12th of September and has only been published in the latest issue of the Official Gazette that came out yesterday. Article one of the Decision defines (in Arabic) Voip as a service for delivering audio conversations via the Internet using Internet Protocol instead of the Public Switch Telephone Network (PSTN).

Article 9 later prohibits an internet service provider in public and commercial venues from offering VOIP services or offering any help or guidance on how to use this illegal service. Punishment for violating this Decision include the right to close the internet cafe for a month and revoking its license if the breach is persistently repeated.

I think that the definition of Voip is lose, any audio conversation on the internet is carried over IP protocol and it is done instead of PSTN. When you have a voice chat over MSN you are using Voip, when you talk over Google Talk, Yahoo! Messenger, and all those services you are using Voip. It is clear that they are targeting services such as Skype which let you call regular phones using Voip, but that definition goes way beyond that.

The TRA does not understand that there are loads of Voip services out there, it is possible to use an instant messenger on a mobile device to make an audio conversation with another using the same instant messenger using another mobile device, so that we are using Internet voice chat but on a mobile device with no Skype-out like functionality.

I think that banning Voip services is unfair, we as consumers should have the right to use the Internet that we pay for in whatever way we choose. We do not care if it is bad for the business of Omantel, Oman Mobile, or Nawras. All of those three companies offer data services (whether cabled or otherwise) and promoting Voip is a promotion for using their services.

The use of Skype is rumoured to be unofficially crippled by Omantel to stop home users from making use of its service.

21 comments:

Suburban said...

How predictable. How Pathetic. Way to protect the consumer TRA.

Blu Chi, Do we as consumers have any right to take the TRA to court over this? Or failing that draw it to the attention of the council of ministers? I'll help.

*rant* Back when I was working and traveling my monthly mobile bill was usually between 400-500 rials a month. For my money I got an unreliable network, other people's conversations cutting into mine during peak hours, indifferent service, and Inconsistant roaming. Our phone bills accounted for 10%of our monthly operating expenses until we got broadband and skype.

So you guys can imagine that I'm delighted to know that I can continue to pay omantel truck loads of money each month, in return for the incinsistant and unfriendly service I've grown to associate with doing business in muscat. */rant*

Blue Chi said...

You can in theory take them to the Administrative Court [المحكمة الإدارية].

Other alternatives for voicing your opinion could be by writing directly to the TRA, or asking your Shura Council representative to bring up the issue in upcoming council meetings.

Suburban said...

I guess I'll start by getting off my butt and writing to the TRA. I'll let you know if I get any response.

thanks mate! good post.

Meticulousness said...

Voice over IP isn’t just restricted to Skype, but it’s something you may face everyday. Regular calls to your contacts through msn are considered VOIP too so considering Skype to be banned by Omantel, how if you ban MSN too?

Though, Omantel is working on its new infrastructure to start the Next Generation Network (NGN). Based on that, VOIP will no longer be measured as illegal action; on the contrary, Omantel will launch VOIP as one of its services as a part from the NGN project. With NGN, you’ll be able to make distant calls with your home line by means of VOIP. It’s a matter of time..

JP said...

Typical Omani Government... It was common knowledge that Omantel were purposely screwing up skype, plus they even blocked the web site.

Its the Government trying the milk the people and businesses for as much as it can, and to boost the price they get for selling most of Omantel. The old business model of big fixed phone companies is broken, and they don't want to admit it.

Is Skype legal in the UAE? Isn't this sort of thing against the WTO and/or the Free Trade agreement rules?

And why do Omanis put up with this crap? This is the sort of thing the old Sultan would do, trying to stop progress and keeping Oman an ignorant backwater. I can't believe His Majesty would approve if he knew the real story.

JP

Anonymous said...

http://www.letsconnect.com.au/calls-to-have-skype-banned-r21.htm

<< maybe this is why

Anonymous said...

It is absolutely unfar. No one will be able to protest against TRA since this is not a democratic country.

But I adopt a different strategy. I never make international calls from here. Others in India call me from there. Why should I pay omantel or nawras when they are totally unfair to the expats.

Anonymous said...

i was in touch with my parents and sweet heart by GTALK voice chat, but omantel has taken it away from me.... i hate omantel

Anonymous said...

es totally unfair to do that banning, left the ban...

Anonymous said...

This is the height!!!!

The sultan just sits on his big fat chair and passes decrees for nofin. No country in the world has blocked voip calls except oman.I am a student in uk and i am trying to make calls to oman and its not letting me thru!!!

These guys are patheic!!!

Omanis need to grow up!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Oman is still in the dark ages .. It is like they donot want to grow at all.

They have been like this for the past 30 years. I donot think they want to adapt to technology and the growing connectivity around the globe. Just because Omantel is loosing business ,banning VoIP is not the right way. Adapt to the new ways. Offer it as a service and may be charge customers as an Extra fee or something.

This is like hey.. I hate eating fish.. so lets kill all the fish in the water and let every body eat chicken or goat.

allen said...

sangambayard-c-m.com

Anonymous said...

Skype is still blocked in Oman today, May25th 2010: It's simple though, let them block whatever they want.
Just search the web for UltraVPN (free service). dowload their small application and voila, you can access all websites and use Skype from any network in the world. Free service, just sign up and create a login/password. Great stuff UltraVPN, we love you!

stealth said...

Thanks for the idea of downloading UltraVPN. I tried it but i could not connect to ultravpn, first there was a warning: no server certificate method has been enabled and then there were TLS errors... pls help me

Muhammad Haroon Aslam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

All of you Oman Residents guys do onething...Recharge your home mobile from here or by mobile websites. They can call you more than from here...Skype is blocked here in UAE as well..but once u installed it is working...

Anonymous said...

This is really sad. I went to uae last month. My friend over there was happily using voip service without any tension, because they dont impose such restictions on expats. Omanis need to broaden their horizons. High time grow up omanis.

Anonymous said...

Omantel people doesn't know the pain of living away from family members. With messengers we could communicate with our family .Now its stopped. I hope they will remove this ban

Anonymous said...

international Human rights NGOs and courts should take proper action against the following unfair restrictions on internet in Oman

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