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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

MegaFon Goes After Skype

The Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs proposed Thursday to crack down or ban phone calls through Internet-based services like Skype and Zebra Telecom.

The lobby group, known as RSPP, made the recommendation at a meeting with United Russia lawmakers on behalf of cellular giant MegaFon and Transtelecom, a federal fiber-optics network operator, which say they are losing money to the Internet services.

“Most IP telephony market brands, such as Skype and ICQ, are foreign, and that is why we have to protect the domestic producer in this sphere,” RSPP said in a statement.

MegaFon and Transtelecom officials told Thursday’s meeting that IP telephony would account for 40 percent of all voice traffic by 2012 if they weren’t subjected to tougher regulations or banned. MegaFon deputy general director Valery Yermakov argued that IP telephony represented a threat to national security because callers could not be identified, unlike with fixed-line and cellular calls.

The RSPP called on the government “to identify the juridical status of IP telephony” and to “formalize relations” between the state, Russian businesses and “this phenomenon.”

IP telephony has come under attack in the past. In 2006, state fixed-line provider Rostelecom and other big telecoms companies successfully lobbied for a law that forced IP operators to pay for the use of fixed-line networks, said Konstantin Ankilov, projects director with IKS Consulting, which advises the telecoms industry. The extra costs were handed on to customers, but calls with calling cards like Zebra, OSS Telecom and Arktel still cost 30 percent to 40 percent less than fixed-line operators, Ankilov said. “The cellular companies are the ones who care more about IP telephony expansion now because the expansion of mobile communications and computer technologies go hand by hand,” he said. “So computer programs like Skype or ICQ are a big challenge to cellular traffic within Russia.”