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Viber Now Lets You Call Phones; But Is It Legal?

Viber Logo

Mobile messaging company Viber has launched a calling service, Viber Out, that will let users make calls to mobile phones and landlines around the world.

The service will be available through Viber’s Android, iOS and Windows & Mac desktop apps. Users can buy credit needed for these calls using in-app purchase or using a credit card in case of desktop users. The company says its rates are lower than Skype, but it’s also much costlier than HelloIP, a service launched by Nimbuzz earlier this year in association with Spectranet. While HelloIP charges 1 paisa per second (Rs 0.60 per minute) for calls to US, Viber charges almost double the rate.

The service has around 15 million users in India and had started monetizing its app recently by selling stickers, an approach followed by its competitor LINE. Talmon Marco, Founder and CEO of Viber had then said that he plans to launch VoIP service to create another revenue stream.

Legality

As per Indian laws, calls originating from India cannot be terminated on mobiles or landlines anywhere in the world without a license. This was the reason why Nimbuzz had to tie-up with Spectranet for their service instead of launching it themselves. However PC to PC, or IP to IP telephony, the kind provided by Viber, is legal in India. To launch a full-fledged VoIP service Viber needs a unified license or at least tie-up with someone who has. When NextBigWhat asked Marco if they have the license for this service, he answered saying, “We are not an India based company. So…”

Though we would like to see VoIP services such as Skype and Viber become popular in India, the legality of it all brings up a lot of questions. There will be several players within the country wondering why they can’t launch such a service without a license if a foreign company can do so here.

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