Botswana and Cape Verde join the ranks of the real VoIP legalisers

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The Agencia Nacional de Communicacoes of Cape Verde has signalled intention to legalise VoIP. It will licence international VoIP service providers offering cheap calling and offer two classes of numbering. It has also licensed another Triple Play operator which will take advantage of the change in regulation to offer IP-TV, Internet and voice services. It joins the last real legaliser Botswana’s BTA which also opened the door to international VoIP service providers at the end of last year. Russell Southwood caught up with these innovative regulators at ITU Telecom Africa 2008.

Cape Verde’s Agencia Nacional de Communicacaoes (ANAC) has approved new regulation to legalise VoIP and will licence 2-3 international service operators. There will be new numbers offered for these services and they will come in two classes: fixed and mobile. The new operators will need a simple authorisation from ANAC to start offering service. PC to PC and PC to phone calling will be entirely without any form of regulation.

Taking advantage of this change, European-backed Cabo Com will shortly launch a Triple Play offer with IP-TV, Voice and Internet. Its equipment has recently arrived in Cape Verde and the launch will happen shortly. It will compete with CV Multimedia, the IP-TV subsidiary of Portugal Telecom-owned subsidiary CV Telecom. It has struggled to get a foothold and by the end of last year had only reached 1,600 subscribers. However, it will shortly reduce the price of its broadband connection.

ANAC is also setting the pace in the wireless area as next month it will start a public consultation on Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) where it wants to split the spectrum into 4-5 blocks and then have a public tender based on the highest bidders. It believes this will be the most transparent way of dealing with increased demand for Wi-MAX related spectrum. ANAC is also considering a 3rd licence with 3G as part of the licence package. The islands were promoted to the middle-income country group in January this year and increased tourist trade is drawing operator interest.

As part of its broader liberalisation process, the Botswana Telecommunications Authority (BTA) legalised VoIP at the end of last year and there have been two international VoIP service providers, BBI and OPQ Net. Both offer international calling cards but have not yet made much impact on the market. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that BTA is also addressing Wi-MAX spectrum in two ranges 3.5-3.6 and 1785-1805 Ghz. It will be taking a slightly different approach to ANAC and will be offering spectrum at fixed prices on the basis of the business case presented.

ITU Telecom Africa contained the usual number of regulators repeating the mantra:”VoIP is a technology, we are technology neutral and if you have a licence, you can do VoIP.” This is true as far as it goes but does not really open up the full disruptive market power of the technology. The questions become: how many international gateways have you licensed? And how many international VoIP service providers are there? If as in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, you have opened the range of people who have access to the international gateway function and international VoIP service providers can interconnect with other operators to offer cheap calling, then you can really say VoIP is legal. It will be the only way to drive down the cost of international calling and increase its volumes. If you’re not doing this, you’re missing the point….