VoIP Gateways Article

Police in Nepal Announce Crackdown on Illegal VoIP Gateways

January 12, 2017

While voice over IP (VoIP) becomes more feature rich and widespread in the United States and many other western countries, it’s easy to forget that the technology remains illegal or heavily restricted in many parts of the world in an effort to protect (or maintain government monopolies) on existing national telecommunications networks.

One such country that has placed restrictions on VoIP service and VoIP use is Nepal, where the government-controlled Nepal Telecommunication Corporation (NTC) remains the dominant telecom provider. While calls through Skype (News - Alert) or other over-the-top services are legal, they are taxed, and any service provider that wishes to offer VoIP services must first obtain a service provider license from the NTA (News - Alert) (Nepal Telecommunication Authority). Legal VoIP calls must then be routed through NTC before they reach their endpoint. There has been a proliferation recently of companies that skip this final step in order to avoid paying taxes or obtaining licenses by routing calls from data centers directly to illegal VoIP providers. Frequently, violators operate what’s known as illegal “call bypass centers.”

In some cases, illegal VoIP providers use a VoIP GSM gateway to divert international incoming calls from the official gateway by using SIM cards. The call is transferred to telecom subscribers through a GSM SIM card, according to a Himalayan News Service article.  The ISD displays a personal caller identity on the receiver’s mobile phone set.

In recent years, the Central Investigation Bureau of Nepal Police has been cracking down on illegal VoIP gateways and fining those found guilty of operating them. According to CIB, 141 people, including 31 foreigners, were arrested under “Operation Voice Fox” in the past seven years and charged under the Telecommunications Act-1997.

“As per laws, any person who intentionally causes adverse effect, damage or any other loss to the telecommunication structure of the country is liable to a fine equal to the loss or five years in jail or both,” according to the Himalayan News Service. “The VoIP racketeers are in firing line of CIB. SP Meera Chaudhary said CIB officials also seized 22,136 SIM cards of various telecom service providers and a huge cache of hi-tech equipment used for operating illegal call bypass centers.”

In many cases, violators were found to have been blocking telecom service providers’ legal VoIP gateways to bypass incoming international calls, which causes revenue losses to authorized telecom companies in the country. Overall, the Central Investigation Bureau said it has claimed over Rs 11.68 billion ($107 million) in compensation from illegal VoIP operators, and has arrested a number of repeat violators. 

Edited by Alicia Young
Article comments powered by Disqus