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Barbados Publishes VoIP Policy

by Amanda Banks,, London

22 August 2007

The Barbados Telecommunications Unit has published the country's new Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Policy, which describes the terms and outlines the techniques involved in VoIP technologies, as well as defining the conditions for use in the country, as set out by the Telecommunications Unit in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Development.

According to a Telecommunications official, as the VoIP is a rapidly changing technology, “the policy will be kept under constant review and is subject to change from time to time”.

VoIP is a generic term, generally describing a multitude of standards which enable smart devices and computer networks to carry multiple forms of multimedia, including two-way voice, videoconferencing, text and documents.

Common terms referring to VoIP are Internet Telephony, Internet Protocol (IP) Telephony, Broadband Telephony and Voice over Broadband.

VoIP is a departure from the traditional Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), owned and operated by local and international carriers. The legacy PSTN is based on circuit switched, Time Division Multiplexed (TDM) connections, offering what is sometimes called Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS).

Unlike the PSTN, VoIP connections are routed by the underlying IP network using the best means possible at that particular moment. It is therefore possible to experience lower quality of service if and when network congestion or unreliability is encountered. Thus, the quality of the call will be a function of the quality of the underlying network. For example, VoIP calls made over a low-bandwidth, consumer grade, “Best Efforts” Internet connection will be of poorer quality than those made over an organization's LAN and/or WAN.

As it is possible to connect VoIP networks to the Barbados PSTN, which is a regulated network, VoIP services themselves must be regulated with regard to these interconnections. This is to prevent illegal bypass of International Carriers into the Barbados PSTN by unlicensed carriers, and to ensure quality of service for customers.

Setting out the regulatory framework for the operation of VoIP in Barbados, the Telecommunications Unit said that "it is incumbent on regulators and policy makers to ensure that there is a market place which provides the greatest consumer choice, quality and protection, while at the same time ensuring the opportunity for operators, small or large, to work in a fair competitive environment and have the opportunity to achieve a reasonable rate of return on investments, innovations and efficiencies".

The regulatory framework takes a "technology neutral" position, encouraging service and equipment providers to innovate, using the best technologies available as they evolve. The framework also aims to be “light-handed”, and will be reviewed as required as VoIP technologies and services, and the marketplace, evolve over time.

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