Tajikistan’s national telecommunications watchdog has annulled licenses for IP telephony services, according to a news report. Because of this action, mobile operators and ISPs have been forced to disconnect their voice applications. State institutions also plan to forbid calls over foreign messengers and VoIP applications.
The headquarters of the mobile operator Babilon-Mobile were closed by law enforcement officers on 15 December because the operator was providing IP telephony. After the operator disconnected those services, its headquarters were reopened. Mobile operators Tcell and Beeline Tajikistan had also provided the services previously.
The Tajikistan regulator said that it banned VoIP because of reduced tax income from calls. The agency also considers the activities of Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, WeChat and other messengers to be reducing state tax income, but the ban does not cover the messengers yet.
Mobile operators have long resented the incursion of OTT players, which took business away from their traditional voice telephony offerings, after having first taken a gigantic bite out of operators’ SMS and MMS revenue. In light of this history, it is particularly ironic that a government agency has struck a blow against VoIP—but not at all for the reasons that mobile operators would want it to be.
The Tajikistan government’s objection to VoIP is, apparently, simply that it is not taxable. And while it applies this criticism also to the non-MNO version—the popular international offerings of Skype, WhatsApp and others—it has chosen to target only those that originate with Tajikistan’s MNOs. Mobile operators’ VoIP offerings were for the most part created with the express purpose of undercutting the challenge from OTTs. Ironically, these are being shut down while the OTTs’ VoIP services are, for the time being at least, being allowed to continue operating.