The Austrian regulatory authority Rundfunk & Telekom Regulierung-GmbH (RTR) has today published a document in which it sets out its (preliminary) position with regard to the regulatory treatment of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).
A classification system with 3 classes of services is put forward:
Class 1: Internet-only VoIP services without a gateway to the public switched telephone network
Class 2: VoIP services which include a gateway to the public switched telephone network, but which are offered independently from an Internet access service
Class 3: VoIP services which include a gateway to the public switched telephone network, and which are offered together with an Internet access service
The RTR does not consider Class 1 VoIP services to be electronic communications services, and the proposal is therefore to exempt them from sector-specific telecommunications regulation. Class 2 services are split into two types of services (one type of service whereby calls can be made to and from the PSTN and another type whereby calls can only be made from IP connections to IP connections). The former type of service is proposed to be treated as a public telephony service. The latter type of service is proposed to be treated in the same manner as Class 1 services (i.e. not to be considered to be electronic communication services). Class 3 services are proposed to be considered to meet the definition of the public telephony service.
The proposed RTR categorisation has an impact in a number of regulatory areas, such as authorisation (registration), numbering and specific obligations of Class 1, 2 and 3 VoIP providers. A general authorisation (with obligatory registration) is proposed to apply for the provision of Class 2 and Class 3 services.
It is proposed that calls to emergency services will have to be offered by all Class 2 and Class 3 providers. The calling number will have to be identified by both types of providers in the context of an emergency call. The provision of location data to the emergency services will not be obligatory (only when such data are in fact processed by the network). Given that VoIP providers may not be able to implement these location data, routing issues may arise in the context of emergency calls. VoIP service providers will be expected to introduce solutions to eliminate this problem.
The RTR proposal is that only Class 3 service providers will have the right to use geographic telephone numbers. Class 2 and Class 3 services would be allowed to use non-geographic numbers. Class 1 service providers would not be allowed any use of the telephone numbering plan.
Caller Line Identity (CLI)
It is proposed that Class 2 and Class 3 service providers will be obliged to send CLI information for national calls (not for international calls however).
The RTR proposal is that Class 2 service providers will, for the time being, be exempt from lawful interception obligations. Class 3 providers would be subject to all lawful interception obligations.
The regulatory authority does not have a clear-cut view on how interconnection should be organised. Because in Austria a system of reciprocal interconnection charges is used for fixed telephony, the authority would like to see a discussion on whether this principle should also be implemented for VoIP calls.
The Austrian regulatory authority is also inviting a discussion on extraterritorial service provision, and in this context EU-wide harmonisation is promoted.
Responses to the RTR consultation are due by 6 August 2004.