Insights

VoIP: Reap the Benefits but Understand the Risks

Many businesses are cancelling their traditional land lines in favor of Voice over Internet Protocol ("VoIP"), the new technology used for making phone calls over the internet or an internal network. However, while reaping the benefits of (i) cost savings, (ii) data integration, and (iii) portability, are businesses also ignoring the legal risks? 

With any new technology, it is important to understand the legal and regulatory impact across jurisdictions, and to understand how this might change as the market evolves. With regard to VoIP, it is important to be aware that: 

  • There is an increasing likelihood of government regulation as the popularity of VoIP grows.
  • Certain governments are keen to protect the position of legacy telecoms incumbents.
  • There is no common regulatory standard (despite attempts by various international institutions).
  • The regulatory burden may be high as each country needs to be considered separately (although there are moves to harmonize this at EU level).  
  • You may need to obtain a telecoms license from the local regulator and may be required to provide:
    • emergency call access 
    • number portability between traditional public switched telephone networks ("PSTN") and VoIP services, and 
    • net neutrality.
  • The operating restrictions are often reflected in the local telecoms service agreements entered into between telecoms operators and users.
  • In some countries, such as China and India, certain VoIP services may be illegal or heavily taxed.
  • You may be restricted from bypassing the local telecoms incumbent's PSTN gateway, using local phone numbers, and using or importing encryption technology.

However, there are options for businesses to mitigate these issues and to roll out VoIP systems that are tailored in compliance with local rules. For example, a company may configure its VoIP system in such a way that it either falls outside of, or is exempt from, local toll bypassing restrictions.  

In addition, a company may want to make sure that the relevant agreements with local telecoms providers contain the appropriate regulatory warranties and guarantees. In other instances, the regulatory risk may be so small, or the sanctions for noncompliance so trivial, that a company may want to take a commercial view that the risk is worth taking. 

So, while regulators across the world are grappling with the challenge of how to regulate VoIP services, there are still significant opportunities for businesses across all sectors to take advantage of this new technology.  

However, as is the case with any new technology, it pays to understand the regulatory environment and to protect your long-term investment. 

Lawyer Contacts 

For further information, please contact your principal Firm representative or one of the lawyers listed below. General email messages may be sent using our "Contact Us" form, which can be found at www.jonesday.com.

Emmanuel G. Baud
Paris
+33.1.56.59.39.18
ebaud@jonesday.com

Paloma Bru
Madrid
+34.91.520.3985
pbru@jonesday.com 

Sébastien Champagne
Brussels
+32.2.645.15.20
schampagne@jonesday.com

Wolfgang G. Büchner
Munich
+49.89.20.60.42.200
wbuechner@jonesday.com

Yvan Desmedt
Amsterdam
+31.20.305.4203
ydesmedt@jonesday.com

Veronica Fridman
Moscow
+7.495.648.9200
vfridman@jonesday.com

Haifeng Huang
Hong Kong
+852.3189.7253
hfhuang@jonesday.com

Jonathon Little
London
+44.20.7039.5224
jrlittle@jonesday.com

Stefano Macchi di Cellere
Milan
+39.20.7645.4104
smacchi@jonesday.com

Delbert D. Smith
Washington
+1.202.879.7600
delsmith@jonesday.com

Francesco Liberatore, an associate in the London Office, assisted in the preparation of this Alert. 

Jones Day publications should not be construed as legal advice on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general information purposes only and may not be quoted or referred to in any other publication or proceeding without the prior written consent of the Firm, to be given or withheld at our discretion. To request reprint permission for any of our publications, please use our "Contact Us" form, which can be found on our web site at www.jonesday.com. The mailing of this publication is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. The views set forth herein are the personal views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Firm or its clients.

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