Video-calling’s growth a threat to LDI operators

Published: May 14, 2014
Video-calling services would completely take over voice telephony in a couple of years, said a representatives of the LDI segment. PHOTO: FILE

Video-calling services would completely take over voice telephony in a couple of years, said a representatives of the LDI segment. PHOTO: FILE


With voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) clients Skype and Viber showing impressive growth, the Long Distance International (LDI) segment of the telecom industry expressed the need for regulating these services to avoid security threats.

Video-calling services – also referred to as over-the-top (OTT) services – would completely take over voice telephony in a couple of years, representatives of the LDI segment said in a recent interview with The Express Tribune while requesting not to be quoted. The government should regulate these services by asking them to host their servers in Pakistan to avoid trouble in the future, they said.

The OTT services are growing increasingly popular among the tech savvy youth of the country and widely used by expatriates due to their free nature – a challenge for the LDI operators whose revenues are shrinking with more people shifting to these services as opposed to conventional calls.

Pakistan’s total international telephony traffic is estimated at 4.5 billion minutes per month. About 550 million minutes are terminated by LDI operators while close to 1 billion minutes are smuggled in the country through grey channels that evade all taxes. The remaining 3 billion minutes are managed by OTT services – a strong indication of their rapid growth.

It is obvious that the LDI segment will have to bear the brunt of OTT growth as it directly affects the former’s revenues. The LDI officials, however, say they are not against these services.

“You can’t stop them, they are bound to grow,” said an official. “Once these services completely take over voice telephony, we, too, will modify our business model to benefit from them.”

So far Skype is the largest operator of voice service, the officials say, but it will soon be taken over by Viber, which mainly caters to mobile platform.

In light of these growth indicators, the officials suggested that these services should be regulated soon.

“The calls made through OTT can’t be traced, which is problematic from a security point of view,” the official said. The government should make sure these services comply with the local laws and the regulatory authorities, he said – something that was missing in the case of Youtube and, thus, led to its banning.

One cannot access the blasphemous material on Youtube when accessing it from Saudi Arabia because their government made sure the company registered locally, the official said, adding that Pakistan took no such preliminary measures. Pakistan, too, is a lucrative market for OTT services because of its huge population size (190 million), mostly young and having a high mobile teledensity, he said. These companies can’t afford to ignore such a market, he said.

It may be added here that the speakers at the Asia Internet Symposium 2014 – that also included Pakistan Telecommunication Authority Chairman Ismail Shah – had expressed concerns over internet security and said it should be taken seriously.

Last October, the Sindh government even sought to ban the use of Skype, Viber and Whatsapp for three months on account of security threats.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • youtubeadvocate
    May 14, 2014 - 9:42AM

    Since this article mentioned YouTube- OPEN IT.


  • May 14, 2014 - 11:20AM

    Whats next? they gonna say “EMAILS” are a threat…and gonna propose to ban them as well?.
    This caveman like mentality needs to be buried, embrace technology and move on..

    Net Neutrality needs to be taken very seriously, otherwise its gonna become a playground for oppressive regimes like North Korea.


  • PakScientist
    May 14, 2014 - 12:56PM

    A system is in Place that discourages your voice conversation on skype and viber, Because of intercepted and bad voice quality now days.


  • ICH Keh Khilaaf
    May 14, 2014 - 5:00PM

    LDI operators have formed a cartel called ICH and are making money without doing anything. PTCL does all the switching and all operators get a cut. Now they are trying to block Skype also. What a joke. How greedy can the LDI operators be.


  • May 15, 2014 - 1:44PM

    Hi everyone,
    Skype is, of course, the most well known service for calls online, supporting VoIP and video. But I’ve heard complains about the quality while calling. So I would highly recommend the service, which I’ve been usingn for a long time. It’s called
    Give it a try!


  • Butt
    May 16, 2014 - 5:07AM

    Poor LDI operators are making continuous Losses due to Grey traffic issues and internet penetration. Look at the performance of Wateen, Telecard, Worldcall, Pak datacom etc, all are going in huge losses only PTCL is surviving to some extent. Now Wateen and Worldcall are Foriegn investors in Pakistan, what will they ultimately do….. Sell off.
    Our Govt should support every stakeholder either big or small, it will enhance competition among the players and ultimately quality of services will be improved


  • May 20, 2014 - 4:51PM

    Of course OTT voip dialer apps are going to become threat to Voice services on the whole and additional features such as video calling, instant messaging at low cost are added advantage to Mobile VoIP. Anyways that was really nice information shared on this blog…Thanks for sharing it.


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