The Dutch regulatory authority OPTA has today published a consultation document on VoIP, concerning "generic obligations of providers of packet switched voice services towards end-users".

OPTA discerns 5 categories of "packet switched communications and telephone services":

1) Internal use of VoIP by a telecommunications operator (IP in the core network).

2) VoIP used in intra-company networks (to make intra-company calls), a gateway may be installed to call out to the PSTN.

3) Internet telephony from PC to PC (typically by means of a peer-to-peer application).

4) IP telephony (with the possibility to call the PSTN); fixed and nomadic.

5) VoIP linked with a broadband service (provided as a single package), typically implemented by using VoDSL. Nomadic use is not possible in this option.

Only categories 4 and 5 are considered by OPTA to constitute "Electronic Communications Services" (ECS) or "Publicly Available Telephone Service" (PATS). T-REGS Note: The Dutch Telecommunications Act, as interpreted by OPTA, makes no substantial differences in the regulatory treatment of ECS and PATS.

Providers of services in categories 4 and 5 are subject to a number of obligations resulting from the applicable telecommunications legislation and secondary regulations.

The legal and regulatory obligations include obligations specifically designed to protect end-users (listed in full in the consultation document), such as the obligation to provide number portability, access to directory services, access to emergency numbers, the provision of location data and number data to the emergency services, data protection, certain consumer protection measures relating to contracts and tariffs, etc.

OPTA invites interested parties to indicate by 2 Dec 2004 any difficulties they may encounter or envisage that they will encounter in the future in complying with the obligations listed in the consultation document.

The full text of the OPTA consultation document (in Dutch) can be accessed by clicking here.

For further questions or assistance relating to this consultation or for regulatory input concerning VoIP more generally, please contact Alexa Veller or Yves Blondeel.

OPTA specifies in its document that issues pertaining to the use and allocation of numbers are not a subject of this consultation. A study on numbering issues and VoIP is ongoing at the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs.

A civil servant at the Ministry told T-REGS that the results of the study are due to be published at the beginning of Dec 2004, after which they will be discussed in the “Nationaal Nummeroverleg.” A wider consultation will take place on the matter spring of 2005.