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Government bans Internet overseas calls

Bangkok (Mizzima) – The Burmese Telecommunication and Communication Ministry has issued a directive banning the use of the Internet for ‘voice over Internet protocol’ (VOIP) overseas calls.

The directive, dated March 2, 2011, was issued by Managing Director Tint Lwin of Myanmar Communication, Post and Telegraph Corporation, saying that overseas calls made through VOIPs such as Skype, Gtalk, Pfingo and VZO are incurring losses to government revenue.

internet-ygnIt was unclear what penalty would apply for people using such services or how the use of the services would be monitored.

The directive was sent to the chairman of Myanmar Info-Tech Corp. Ltd., which controls all Public Access Centres (PAC), or Internet cafes, across the country. The corporation reissued the directive and circulated it on March 10.

Internet cafe operators told Mizzima that Skype and Pfingo VOIP services are used most for making overseas calls by Burmese Internet users.

The overseas call charges (international direct dialing, or IDD) by government-run Myanmar Communication are too expensive for many users, and it must also be paid in Foreign Exchange Certificate (FEC). The calls made over VOIP are only a fraction of the cost.

The overseas call (IDD) rate is FEC 4.5 (about 4,000 kyat; US$ 4) to the USA for the first minute; FEC 1.4 for Thailand (about 1,000 kyat). VOIP calls costs about 100 kyat (US$ 12 cents) per minute to the USA and 50 kyat (US$ 6 cents) per minute to Thailand.

The government sold pre-paid GSM SIM cards with cheaper call rates last year, and it was popular among the pubic. Since then, the government has stopped or restricted the sale of SIM cards since the November 2010 general election.

Internet café owners told Mizzima that they have not yet received any official communication about the ban.

There are two public Internet service providers (ISP) in Burma: Yadanapon Teleport and Myanmar Post and Telegraph (MPT).

The new directive will not affect a revenue loss for Internet café operators but only affect Internet users, an Internet café operator in Ahlone Township told Mizzima.

‘If they cannot make oversea calls through these VOIP services, they will instead use the Gtalk and Skype computer to computer service by making a pre-appointment with their friend or family members, since they will not be able to call directly to their phone’, said a café operator.

‘They must wait until their party is online. The internet connection is too slow here, so it will cause more inconveniences and difficulties for our customers’, he said.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 17 March 2011 11:06 )  

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