All entries for May 2009
May 03, 2009
Blocking skype on 3G
Recently i bought myself a 3G usb dongle from T-mobile. It is quite a neat little device by allowing me to surf at high speed wherever I am at. And the best thing is the speed and convenience is well worth the 2 quid/day I pay. Now, as I am experimenting beyond "surfing" stage, I begin wonder see if I could use VOIP apps like Skype. The result from my initial experiment was negative. Apparently only my voice was heard but I could not hear anything coming from the other side. The first thing I suspect was that T-mobile was blocking Skype on their GSM network. It makes sense since if everyone makes their mobile phone calls through 3rd party apps like Skype , T mobile would not collect much revenue from their normal "voice" service.
So I Googled it and found that my suspicion was correct (see 1, 2, 3), then i read with some interest what the public feels about this. As expected, most people feel strongly against this act calling it as "uncompetitive" or "corporate greed". Then there are people who empathise with the telecos arguing the view that skype "free rides" the exisiting 2G/3G network. The official statement from skype is also against attempts to block VOIP claiming that customers shouldnt be "restricted" in however they wish to do their calling business (here).
Well, what of all this? Should T-mobile have the "right" to block skype? Well I believe it does. Not only because it is their network and they can do whatever the hell they want. But also the case for "free riding" seem fairly strong. Why should telecos like T mobile after spending large sum of money establishing wireless network only to have the benefits reaped by other parties like skype who took no responsibility in the initial investment? Unless we are doing something for charity, we wouldnt bring food to the table only to have our neighbours come eat it? It seems very similar siutations are faced in other industries as well. In broadband, the issue is whether telecom should "unbundle" their services. In music, whether media corps should allow online media sharing (The Pirate Bay) or making ripping music /movies legal (here)? The biggest dilemma faced by mediators (like the government) is how to make sure market remain compeititve and maintain that companies have enough incentive to doing things that have large 'spill over' benefits. The two objectives are in direct conflict. The current solution seem to be to give a temporary monopoly to "inventors" and gradually strip monopoly away as in copyrights and IP patents.
Nowadays It is almost expected that product and services should become cheaper and better day by day. But it is also important for us consumers (even if we dont want to) to believe the ultimately goal of businesses is to make profit! And businesses will do anything to make that happen. By banning telecos from 'banning' skype is a lose-lose situation. Because the very service skype runs on- namely the 2G/3G network would be brought down, and the end consumer becomes the biggest loser. It is unlikely to get to this stage though. I don't see "blocking" skype is a long term solution and the telecos probably know it themselves that it is not in their best interest to block skype. If another teleco finds an innovative way to integrate VOIP with its existing network, and make money, self protecting firms like T mobile would certainly become uncompeittive and forced to change their strategy or go out of business. But until then, blocking should only be a temporary strategy until telecos/skype/others can find a better way to resolve this conflict of interests.
The ultimate solution, whatever it will be, has to ensure it doesnt serve only the interest of any single party(telecos/skype/ or customer). As better technology becomes available and services can be delivered by lower cost alternatives, telecos should instead of fighting to block the trend, find a way in which they can benefit from the changing times.
I hope I have made the situation and my stance on this clear enough. Obviously I know this can be a contentious topic and my views may not be the same as yours. But I do want to hear your views . However please keep them brief to the point and try not to be agressive even if you feel very strongly about this. If I moderate it , it definately is not me trying to "silence" you , its just I dont like to be intimidated.