World Markets Research Centre in TelecomDirect News reported yesterday that Ofcom, the British communications regulatory agency, has decided to support the growth of VoIP in their home market by taking a 'laissez-faire' approach. Their commitment to VoIP is expressed by their resolve to allow providers access to the traditional numbering system and emergency 999 services, to clarify and renew all existing regulation and to consult with all parties to establish an appropriate framework for consumer protection.
This is a significant development for US VoIP companies like Vonage who are scheduled to make their UK premier this year in preparation for a European invasion. However, the positive signals coming out of the UK may not represent the whole picture as the EU Commission prepares a much anticipated decision on how (not if) they will regulate the emerging industry. In June it published a report promising regulation if VoIP services satisfy four conditions as a service that:
1) Is available to the public.
2) Originates and receives national and international phone calls.
3) Gives access to emergency services.
4) Uses numbers in a national or international telephone numbering plan.
Brussels, to the continual frustration of many Europeans (and especially the Brits), has a strong tendency to meddle in any industry it can. Ofcom may be acting decisively in a move to influence EU policy. Whatever the result, it is relevant for US users in that the network effect is important for VoIP adoption (especially with free global in-network calls).
It will be interesting to see what Brussels decides in the coming months. Meanwhile, the message to US VoIP companies looking to cross the Atlantic: