TWO FRANCOPHONE INCUMBENTS ADOPT DIFFERENT STRATEGIES TO COMBAT GREY MARKET VoIP

Internet

Two francophone incumbents are trying different strategies to squeeze out grey market voice traffic, according to a wholesale VoIP supplier who understandably wishes to remain anonymous.

In Cote d'Ivoire, incumbent Cote d'Ivoire Telecom cut international calls from FCFA250 a minute to FCFA127 a minute. This has put pressure on the margins of grey market sellers whose prices range between FCFA130-150 minute. It has also not reduced the price of internet access. The wholesale VoIP supplier buys at US1 cent (4FCFA) and sells to Ivorian retailers at US4 cents (FCFA20) a minute. As the wholesale VoIP seller told us: "Our customers are not happy. If we slash prices by half, we'd have to see volumes increase dramatically."

Gabon used to be quite a good market for grey market VoIP last year. Calls are still USD1 a minute to France and the wholesale VoIP supplier was selling at 4 cents a minute. Gabon Telecom had also deployed ADSL so it was possible to get the kind of connectivity required for good VoIP calling. But since July last year it has been blocking all audio traffic by filtering SIP protocols. Gabon Telecom's ISP has the largest part of the market and there is only one other ISP."Calls now sound like a badly tuned radio and you only get one way audio." When similar filtering techniques were used in Kenya there were protests from the private sector who found it interfered with legitimate applications like currency exchange systems, video and conference calling.