Published on January 2nd, 2007 | by Babar Bhatti36
VOIP in Pakistan: Free Calls to Pakistan a reality?
I see some interesting developments for free or cheap calls to and from Pakistan using Voice over Internet Protocol – i.e. Internet Telephony. This is in parallel to new services (Rebetel and FreeCallPlanet for instance) in US and Europe which allow international calls through mobile phones for the price of regular domestic calls. For a recap of Pakistan’s VOIP situation see my previous posts about free calls to Pakistan and Skype. Also see this post from KO for historical background.
In 2006 there was a lot of turbulence around VOIP in Pakistan. The policy of PTA towards VOIP has never been clear. Some companies in Pakistan – Braintel for instance – have started offering services but they are under the threat of violation of current policies. Some companies are using VOIP to route calls from Pakistan to abroad – that is they provide you a Pakistan number which rings on your US phone – for a monthly fee of $30-50. In future there may be a possibility of a package for calling Pakistan for $10/month flat from FreeCallPlanet.
PTA raided many illegal gateways and claimed that such “grey telephony” setups were costing it millions of rupees. There was an unfortunate incidentas well in which a software startup in Islamabad was wrongly accused of using VOIP termination and its innocent CEO was jailed for many days. This caused a lot of uproar from Pakistan Software professionals and organization.
As a response to all that PTA has made this announcement on its site:
The main issue here is the termination fee – the amount PTCL wants to get for routing the call through its infrastructure (PSTN). This is the reason why international calls to Pakistan are still so expensive as compared with calls to US or Europe etc. That is why Pakistan does not show up on FuturePhone (not in service anymore) list of countries where you can call for the price of a domestic call from the US. By the way Etisalat has been doing the same thing in UAE and has blocked Skype there. It is high time that PTA fixes this mess by opening up VOIP and allows free market competition to roll in.