Ofcom Confirms VoIP Providers Must Provide Access to 999 and 112

Ofcom has confirmed that from 8th September 2008, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services that allow users to make calls to normal national phone numbers must also have the ability to connect to 999 and 112.

Ofcom wants to ensure that users of mainstream VoIP services are not put in danger as a result of trying to call 999 or 112 using a service that does not offer them access. If consumers had to then locate an ordinary landline or mobile phone, they might face a delay of seconds or even minutes in getting through to the emergency services, which could prove critical.

The new rules follow research, where Ofcom found that as many as 78% of VoIP users who cannot currently use their service to call 999 or 112 either thought an emergency call was possible, or did not know whether or not this was the case.

Ofcom has decided to take action to protect consumers in this critical area amid increasing use of VoIP services and a trend for these services to look and feel more like traditional fixed and mobile phone services.

Richard Bligh at network services company Gamma Telecom said, “We’re fine with this announcement because firstly we comply and its one of our competitive USP’s and secondly it’s the right thing to do for business end users. There’s enough confusion for the end user around, without ‘Can I call 999?’ being part of the supplier short listing process.”

The new rules will apply to:-

– “VoIP out” providers, which allow users to make calls to normal phone numbers but not receive them.

– “Two-way VoIP” providers, which allow users to make and receive calls to and from normal phone numbers.

VoIP providers that only offer calls over the Internet, usually to users with the same VoIP product, and providers that only allow users to receive calls from normal phone numbers are unaffected by the new rules.

Services that only allow users to call international numbers and Click to Call services, where users can only call a pre-selected number or limited set of numbers, are also excluded.

Ofcom Chief Executive, Ed Richards said “As new voice services develop and become more mainstream, regulation must evolve too. In the future, consumers will be confident that if they can make calls to ordinary national numbers using their VoIP service then they will be able to call 999 or 112 in an emergency”.

The full statement can be found at:-
http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/voip/voipstatement/