Is Skype a telecoms operator? Belgian court re-ignites an old debate


Virtually ever since Skype was launched in 2003 telecoms operators across Europe have argued that the company should be governed by the same laws they have to work under.

The argument has been re-ignited recently after the Microsoft-owned Skype was summoned to court after refusing to pass on customer information to aid a criminal investigation. This follows are similar process last year when Skype refused to pass information onto French authorities.

In most European countries telecoms operators are required by law to pass on certain information if requested to do so.

What is Skype?

The descriptions on the Skype website are very broad and look to position Skype in a unique market place. It stays clear of declaring itself as any sort of communications company, and instead advertises it’s functionality as a way to improve the way you work and organise your life.

Where the current confusion lies is obviously in the fact that in addition to video calls and online chat, you can call most mobiles and landlines at relatively cheap rates.

Microsoft describes Skype as being a ‘software company’ rather than a telecoms operator, and since Skype was born in the Internet age it has so far been able to walk a very blurry line.

The rapid emergence of Skype worldwide has lead to an influx of similar new software start-ups including Facebook-owned WhatsApp and Viber, both of which operate in very similar ways. WhatsApp is even now on the verge of launching their very own online calling service. Naturally both these companies have / will also insist they are not a telecoms operator.

If the Belgian court does indeed rule against Skype it will surely lead to major changes in the way these companies operate.

(Image from Skype, credit website)




George Cotter

George Cotter is the Head of Marketing for Core Telecom and all brands which operate on the network. These include 08Direct, 03NumberShop and 0800NumberShop. You can find him on and Twitter.

All stories by: George Cotter

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