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Johanne Torres[October 25, 2004]

Tom’s VoIP to Speak Chinese, Maybe?


Tom Skype -- the new joint venture from Hong Kong, China-based Web site operator Tom Online Inc., and Luxembourg-based Skype Technologies SA (news - alert) -- seems to be causing some controversy. The Chinese version of the Skype VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol - define - news - alert) application and service will not be offering Chinese users the ability to call land lines and mobile phones until perhaps next year.

Mixed messages have emerged from China about the service. Tom Online Inc.’s subsidiaries, Tom Skype and PCHome Online Inc., have described the technology differently. Tom Skype says it is a communication tool and instant messaging (IM) service. When Skype announced the launch of a bundled app with PCHome Online Inc. three months ago, however, the company called the product Internet telephony software.

This new VoIP bundled offering from the two companies is a rarity, since such technologies and the Internet are so heavily regulated in China. It will be intriguing to see how Internet telephony services survive with such government control over telecommunication service efforts of this kind. There have even been arrests by the Chinese police of citizens who have tried to offer VoIP illegally in the country. A Chinese daily reported on a case in which a Chinese man was sentenced to serve a term of at least five years for committing this crime.

Skype is widely used as a peer-to-peer (define - news- alert) telephony application allowing users to make voice calls using VoIP to other Internet users for free or, through the SkypeOut service, to land lines and wireless phones. Skype software as well as Tom Skype are downloadable online and are compatible with Windows, Pocket PC, Linux and Mac OS.

Tom Online Inc. operates one of the most successful Internet portals in China, offering SMS, MMS and WAP, and wireless interactive voice response services (IVR services)—through its recent acquisition of Wu Ji Network.

Johanne Torres is contributing editor for TMCnet.com and Internet Telephony magazine. Previously, she was assistant editor for EContent magazine in Connecticut. She can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]


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