VoIP bill threatens KPN, others

26 May 2011

Dow Jones Newswires reports that a proposed change to the telecoms law in the Netherlands that would bar cellular operators from adding an extra charge for the use of Skype or web-based instant messaging (IM) applications, could prove a serious blow to fixed line incumbent KPN which has seen its voice services suffering as a result of the rising popularity of such services. The planned amendment, put forward by economic minister Maxime Verhagen, is being considered as the government believes that whilst it is acceptable for mobile network operators to charge more for faster data speeds and increased data caps, it is unfair to then levy another charge for voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) services such as Skype, or IM applications such as WhatsApp. If parliament approves the law change – and the ministry is working on the details of the amendment which will hopefully be ratified by the legislature in the weeks to come – the Netherlands will become one of the first countries anywhere to statutorily guarantee net neutrality.

Earlier this year KPN said it may not meet its financial targets in fiscal 2011 and warned that it was looking to cut 5,000 jobs by 2015. In reporting an 8.1% fall in first-quarter mobile revenue, KPN said it was concerned that customers are using fewer SMS text messages and opting for cheaper VoIP telephony services over its traditional PSTN-based services. KPN, which has a roughly 49% share of the Dutch mobile market, wants to charge users extra for Skype but not for WhatsApp, when it launches its new rate plans in the summer. KPN is not alone though. Second-placed Vodafone charges its users for access to Skype and number three operator, T-Mobile, currently bars users from Skype and WhatsApp in its terms and conditions. None of the cellcos would be drawn on the issue however, saying it is too early to comment.