Citing security concerns related to the inability to track the origin of calls made via Internet telephony (Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP), India’s Intelligence Bureau has asked the Department of Telecom (DoT) to block VoIP services to and from the country, reports the Economic Times. According to the report, the Intelligence Bureau has asked the DoT to block the calls until a mechanism has been put into place to track these calls.

Requests to block VoIP services are nothing new. During the consultation on ISP licensing, certain stakeholders had raised the issue that Skype and Google (Talk) are not licensed to provide telephony services in India, and VoIP lacks the facility of lawful interception and monitoring.

The issue largely appears to be with incoming calls, since outgoing calls can still be tracked, but maybe not intercepted. Note that several telecom operators in India have begun offering VoIP services to broadband subscribers – MTNL has Pigeon powered by Aksh Optifibre, Sify provides the Way2Talk service.

Now it is not clear whether this request will apply to all Internet Telephony, or specifically to calls that terminate on a landline or a handset.  As far as we know, even though the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended unrestricted Internet Telephony in India, these haven’t yet been made operational by the DoT. Thus, terminating VoIP calls on PSTN networks (landline, mobiles) still isn’t permitted in India. It’s unlikely that the DoT will be able to enforce identification of where VoIP calls are originating from anyway.

Anyway, is it possible for ISPs to block VoIP altogether? Because even though one may not be able to terminate calls on a handset, users will probably be able to use applications like Fring, Nimbuzz or even Skype Mobile via 3G or WiFi.

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