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Skype denies ban in China

by Sarah Griffiths on 3 January 2011, 16:05

Tags: Skype

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Skype scruple?

Skype has confirmed its phone services are still open for business in China after the country announced plans to crackdown on illegal internet phone companies.

Rumours were circulating that Skype had fallen foul of the crackdown but a spokeswoman for the service told Bloomberg: "Skype is not banned".

She reportedly said: "Our users in China currently can access Skype via Tom Online, our majority joint venture partner."

However, while Skype may be operating normally now, there is some doubt to its future in China. Chinese newspaper The People's Daily had reported that Skype could be banned in China as all VoIP communications will be branded illegal in China unless provided by state-owned carriers.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology reportedly said China is cracking down on ‘illegal internet phone services' but did not define what constituted a legal site or suggest any names that might be banned. In fact it mainly announced a consumer hotline for people to report any illegal VoIP services.

While information remains fuzzy, the ministry reportedly said it: "is working with relevant departments to focus on the crackdown on illegal voice over internet protocol calls and we are now appealing to the public for clues for illegal VoIP case."

The Ministry's circular did not however provide any details about possible punishments that might be taken against ‘illegal' services.

Mark Natkin, MD of Marbridge Consulting (a Beijing-based market research firm) told Bloomberg that he thinks the Chinese government predominantly wants to track down small Chinese companies that are offering VoIP services.

"A major purpose may be to clear out small, low-visibility companies that are difficult to regulate. It's much easier to have 10 large companies with a lot on the line, and a lot to lose, because they are likely to be more cooperative," he reportedly added.

The Chinese newspaper, The South China Morning Post, reported that an anonymous ministry official said just 3 state-owned telecommunications firms (China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom) will be able to run VoIP services. It remains to be seen whether Skype will be banned in China in future.

Skype's Singapore-based spokeswoman told Bloomberg, that while she couldn't comment on Chinese regulations, Tom Online is obliged to conform to local laws like every other communications provider in China.



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