Oman Internet users denied access to VoIP services

(By a correspondent)
Filed on March 29, 2011

MUSCAT — Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services, such as Skype, will continue to remain inaccessible to Omani Internet users due to security concerns, Oman’s telecom regulatory authority said.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) of Oman, however, made it clear that incumbent telecom operators in the Sultanate are free to use the VoIP technology to provide services to their customers.

Nashiah Saud Al Kharusiah, TRA Member, said that any international services, which did not meet the legal requirements of the Sultanate, were not allowed to operate.

“Since the servers of Skype etc are located abroad, they cannot be legally intercepted in Oman. Further, the foreign companies enable the beneficiaries to access the basic voice service without having to be licensed in Oman. And they evade payment of taxes and royalties due to the Sultanate and fail to provide job opportunities to Omani nationals in Oman,” she said.

The provision of such services from abroad undermines the ability to detect the possible associated crimes and their perpetrators since the facilitating infrastructure using VoIP is located outside Oman thus rendering its pursuit beyond the Omani judicial authority. Examples of this include human trafficking, money laundry, drug trafficking etc.

Kharusiah, however, felt the need of providing the cheapest possible and quality ‘voice service’ to the telecom customers within the Sultanate’s legal framework. The TRA urged the telecom service providers to offer VoIP to their customers to check illegality and ensure fair play in the area. It also sought proposals to arrive at the best methods to offer the voice service at reasonable and affordable prices within the legal provisions governing the telecom sector.

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