Intellectual property/ telecommunications: Internet telephone services not subject to voice telephony regulation

United Kingdom
Internet telephone services not subject to voice telephony regulation

The European Commission has clarified the regulatory position of Internet telephone services, following the liberalisation of the EU telecoms market from 1 January 1998.

It has adopted a notice stating that telephony via the Internet at its current state of development is not classified as voice telephony. Internet telephony will be defined as voice telephony only if and when the following conditions are met:


  • the communications are the subject of a commercial offer

  • the service is provided for the public

  • the service is provided to and from public switched network termination points on the fixed telephony network; and

  • it involves direct transport and speech in real time.

The effect of this notice is that voice telephony via the Internet is not currently subject to standard voice telephony regulation, such as individual licensing procedures and contributions to financing the universal service. However, with growing sophistication, certain Internet telephony providers will be likely to qualify as providers of voice telephony in the future.