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Vodafone, Orange disable VoIP on Nokia N95
[April 20, 2007]

Vodafone, Orange disable VoIP on Nokia N95

(Total Telecom Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) U.K. mobile operators Vodafone and Orange are offering Nokia's new N95 handset to their customers, but only once the phone's VoIP capability has been disabled, it emerged this week.

Both operators released tight-lipped statements defending their positions after various news reports named and shamed them.

Vodafone pointed out that it does not always take the "vanilla" version of a device and added that it monitors customer feedback when deciding which features should be incorporated into handsets.

"It's important to note that we do not block VoIP - customers can download VoIP applications if they choose to do so or can use VoIP services via a laptop and data card," a spokesperson for the operator added.

Third party applications like Fring allow users to install and use VoIP clients on their handsets, but are not an integrated element of the device.

Orange said it is not company policy to remove VoIP functionality from devices.

"Orange was asked by Nokia whether they wanted the VoIP functionality switched on or off, and Orange selected off," a spokesperson said.

"It's clearly a defensive measure to protect their circuit switched voice model," said Matt Hatton, program manager, wireless research EMEA, at Yankee Group.

He said that mobile VoIP is potentially a horrendously disruptive model for the operators who don't want to become dumb pipes for other companies' services.

"With new cheaper flat-rate data tariffs, per-minute prices for voice would drop through the floor if subscribers were able to use their data services for voice calls," Hatton added.

"The idea that [mobile VoIP] technology isn't mature enough is a red herring - VoIP over mobile works," Hatton went on. "Operators just don't want it to... and with good reason. If the voice model is undermined it has the potential to bring the whole mobile market crashing down," he concluded.

Dean Bubley, founder of Disruptive Analysis said operators need to be more transparent about all types of policy regarding fixed and mobile services.

"What's not clear is whether the Orange & Voda folk have been so ham-fisted that they've blocked all 'naked SIP' capabilities or just the VoIP," said Bubley in his blog.

"They're being particularly stupid to cripple a phone and not be completely up-front about it," the analyst added, noting that the customer base for the N95 is likely to be tech-savvy.

"If you lie to them about the device's capabilities, or don't ensure that your sales staff and customer service reps know exactly what the modified functions and policies are, then you're going to irk an awful lot of customers," he warned.

Copyright 2007 Terrapinn Ltd

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