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Truphone lands a hefty blow for VoIP

In a legal case that could have a profound affect on the UK mobile industry, T-Mobile was yesterday ordered to route calls over VoIP company Truphone's low-cost service

Making cheap calls over the Internet using your mobile phone and VoIP software is Truphone's business, and while most UK network operators don't object to people blabbering over Truphone's service, this wasn't possible on the T-Mobile network. Truphone subsequently took T-Mobile to court, accusing the network of "preventing the launch of the Truphone service" and "abusing its dominant position" by not routing calls to Truphone users.

In an unexpected interim judgement, Deputy High Court Judge Robin Knowles QC yesterday instructed T-Mobile to route calls to Truphone numbers by Monday 23 July, so it can provide its service while the case is heard. According to Truphone, this is the first time interim relief has been awarded against a mobile network operator under the Competition Act.

The implications of this ruling could have a profound effect, as Truphone CEO James Tagg (pictured) pointed out in a press release. "The injunction is good news not only for Truphone but for every company trying to develop Internet-era services and for every consumer wanting freedom of choice and lower prices. We are determined to bring better-value mobile calls, text messages and other innovative services to mobile phone users, and it's right that we should not be prevented from doing so."

It's important to point out that this isn't a final ruling and although the first battle has been won, the war is far from over. Truphone now has to take T-Mobile to court for a full hearing of the case and if Truphone loses, the injuction would be lifted and it would probably be blocked once more. Of course, you might be wondering, does it matter if only one network blocks Truphone? Well, yes it does.

If VoIP services on mobile phones are going to succeed and we're all going to be calling each other for free, the networks have to allow it. If one network is allowed to say no, then the service becomes almost pointless, as you won't be able to contact anyone on that particular network. More importantly, all the other networks will be able to prevent VoIP applications as well -- none of them want to allow VoIP, but they have been wary of banning it. So the ruling in this case could be a landmark one, as it will potentially create a legal precedent regarding VoIP services on mobile networks. Definitely something to keep an eye on if you value cheap mobile calls. -Andrew Lim