New Philippine VoIP draft laws unveiled

Country's telecom regulator releases latest rules governing voice over Internet Protocol services in the Philippines; outlines operator charges.

PHILIPPINES--The country's regulator National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has released its latest draft rules on voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which include details of charges local VoIP service providers must pay to continue offering their services.

The NTC draft policies also aim to "clarify and supplement" Asia previous rules on access charges, the regulator said Tuesday.

Under the new regulations, VoIP service providers are still required to sign interconnection agreements with at least one public switched telephone network (PSTN). In turn, the PSTN will take care of routing calls to and from other networks.

VoIP players must pay at least 0.25 peso (US$0.006) per minute as "transmit charges" to their partner telcos for calls made either through a landline or a mobile phone.

VoIP service providers will also be charged an access fee, or a routing charge, of 1 peso (US$0.024) from each call originating and terminating from a fixed line network and a slightly higher 1.50 peso (US$0.036) for calls made via a mobile phone.

The regulator is also set to conduct a hearing on the draft rules, and has invited industry players and stakeholders to give their comments and recommendations on the new rules.

Philippine Internet service provider (ISP) Mozcom welcomed the draft rules, noting that "it will ensure healthy competition" among local VoIP players.

Flat routing fee preferred
In a phone interview with ZDNet Asia, Mozcom's president William Torres said the ISP "has already submitted its own recommendations", which the NTC will soon "review".

"The rates that the NTC is proposing is generally okay with us," Torres said, adding that the regularto's recommendation of pegging a flat rate for long-distance calls via VoIP is also welcome news.

However, he said Mozcom has a different view on the routing and access charges, which the ISP believed should also tagged at a flat rate.

"We are recommending a flat rate for both fixed line and cellular phone calls made via VoIP at 1 peso (2.4 US cents)," he said. Mozcom is also recommending the NTC to "simplify" the rates.

Torres further urged the Philippine regulator to treat every call originating from a VoIP terminal as a "landline" call.

Mozcom and other VoIP service providers are considered value-added resellers and are, thus, not subject to regulation.

Torres said the NTC will "soon" meet up with local VoIP players regarding the new draft rules.

Joel D. Pinaroc is a freelance IT writer based in the Philippines.