According to a report from Agence Ecofin, Senegalese internet users have accused national fixed line PTO Sonatel, a subsidiary of Orange Group, of blocking their access to the free voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) app Viber. In many markets across the globe, the proliferation of free VoIP services, such as Viber and Skype, has impacted on incumbent operators’ profitability due to a reduction in fixed voice call volumes.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that the regulation of telecommunications services in Senegal is characterised by a ‘technology neutral’ approach. There is no specific legislation within the current telecoms law concerning VoIP and, as such, IP telephony is permitted, on the proviso that providers obtain a licence from the Autorite de Regulation des Telecommunications et des Postes (ARTP). However, internet users are finding themselves being blocked and have questioned Sonatel’s legitimacy to do so – given the legal position. Further, it is not the first time that the PTO has been accused of blocking access to VoIP. In 2013, internet telephony users in the country complained to the ARTP over ‘illegal’ blocking, but are still looking to the watchdog to find a long term solution to the problem, and in the meantime are seeking their own means (e.g. publishing tutorials online to show how to bypass the blockage) via social media channels.