30 September 1999
In the first half of 1999, Autorité de régulation des télécommunications (ART) initiated discussions on Internet telephony via a call for comments which dealt with technical, economic and regulatory aspects.
ART received 29 responses to its call for comments, primarily from operators and telecommunications industry representatives.
In summary, the contributions stated the following:
Review and prospects
The development of telephony services using the IP protocol will require major investments to implement, especially for providing interconnection and interoperability with the switched telephone network. This is why, to date, voice transfer on IP is still very limited on the consumer market.
In the short term, it appears that IP voice services offerings will focus on the corporate market.
As the IP protocol is deployed on public and private networks, voice services should develop within multimedia multi-service offers. Savings made on networks will make possible major decreases in voice communication costs, bringing tariffs close to or equal to the marginal cost. The value chain, a priori fragmented, could be concentrated in the hands of a few players.
In the near term, compared with traditional telephone terminals, the cost of IP terminals remains high. Uncertainties on service quality, interconnection and interoperability also remain. Therefore, standardisation concerns will be one of the keys to the success of this technology.
Main opinions expressed in the public call for comments
- As regards rules and regulation:
1 – The measures chosen in various countries must be as similar as possible. In the long run, the solutions chosen must be harmonised, at least on the European scale.
2 – Regulations should remain neutral as regards the types of infrastructures and technologies and the same regime associating the rights and responsibilities must be applied to substitutable services, such as IP telephony and voice telephony. The rights and responsibilities of the various players must be, as a general rule, proportionate to investments. The regimes of public networks must converge, independently of the type of content (public communication or private correspondence).
3 – As regards the appearance of new services such as IP telephony, the main goal of regulation will be to favour durable emergence, while avoiding temporary price reductions which would cause market imbalances.
- As regards the regime of IP voice services
4 - Certain contributors highlight the importance of extending the principles of interconnection currently applied to voice to data because of their structuring character to the public service offer.
The promotion of interconnection standards ensuring interoperability of IP voice equipment and with the switched network, as well as service quality criteria, is a very important consideration.
5 – The allocation of numbering resources identifying IP voice customers in the national plans offers interesting prospects. In this area as well, number portability seems essential.
- As regards the deployment of IP voice services
6 – The parameters affecting the quality of service of the networks crossed must be well known, both by the end consumer and by the operators of the interconnected networks.
7 – The absence of directories is for companies a major difficulty which the creation of the universal directory will not resolve: players demand a link between the telephone number, geographical address, e-mail address, location, etc.
These results were presented to those having contributed to the consultation on 27 September 1999 by Jean-Michel Hubert, chairman of ART.
Non-confidential contributions received via e-mail, accompanied with a summary and "key messages taken from the contributions"