Last month, Digicel, which promotes itself as "The Bigger, Better Network" and tells consumers to "Expect More, Get More", blocked all such applications, including Viber,
"In order to maintain network quality for our customers, LIME confirms it has been reviewing unauthorised access to its networks," LIME said in a statement. "As part of the review, LIME will no longer carry Viber voice calling on its networks."
Viber, while not as well known in the region as WhatsApp, has more than 280 million users in 193 countries. It is estimated that about 100 million people use the service each month.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, TATT said that it had asked Digicel to reconsider its position in relation to the provision of access to consumers such that all consumers in
"Whilst the Authority has made no determination or decision in the matter, we believe that the maintenance of the provision of these services in the interim period would be in the best interest of all stakeholders and would allow the Authority time to engage in this process in a calm and constructive manner," TATT said.
Effective Wednesday, Digicel agreed to accede to TATT's request and restore service for the time being whilst preserving its rights in relation to the matter generally.
However, the restriction of services by Digicel and LIME may create an opportunity for greater competition in the regional and local markets since the other telecommunications company in
"bmobile's policy on the matter as far as use of VoIP on its mobile network is concerned is that ... customers pay a subscription fee for this access and once customers have bought data services from bmobile, customers determine how they wish to use their data," TSTT said in a statement. "VoIP essentially is data on the mobile network much like email,
Digicel and LIME complain that unauthorised applications offering free voice service is direct and unfair competition with the traditional voice services they provide, by using the existing network bandwidth without compensation for the financial investments made in their data networks.
Digicel described such applications as parasites.
"Unlicensed VoIP operators like Viber and Nimbuzz use telecoms networks to deliver their services, but they do not pay any money for the privilege," Digicel said in a statement. "This unauthorized activity puts enormous pressures on bandwidth -- which means customers' data usage experience is negatively impacted as a result. As such, Digicel has been forced to take firm action to prevent this parasitic activity."
However, according to industry analysts, what is driving the VoIP block are the lucrative termination fees Digicel and other carriers lose with every phone call that goes over the Internet.
The revenue shortfall for Digicel in
An internet petition launched in
"It stifles innovation. It stifles growth and it stifles entrepreneurship," he said, adding that he was surprised that Digicel would go this route. "The Jamaican consumer over the years has contributed greatly to the expansion and development of Digicel; not only in
In the meantime, Digicel and LIME may find that blocking such "parasitic" applications may well be akin to playing a game of whack-a-mole, since developers have a long history of quickly adapting new and existing software to evade such communications restrictions and access, whether attempted for the purposes of political censorship such as that imposed by
"Users should make sure they have the latest version of Viber installed so that they are best able to use the app. Viber will continue to operate as usual in light of these current developments," he said.
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