China may ban Skype with new rules

'Not blocked in China' now, says Skype, but declines to comment on future

China may soon ban Skype, the government's official newspaper said today, potentially putting the popular Internet chat and phone service in the same boat as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

According to the People's Daily, Chinese authorities have said that only China Telecom and China Unicom will be allowed to provide Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services to customers.

Both China Telecom and China Unicom -- the former is the largest land-line telephone company in the country, the latter is the nation's second-largest 3G mobile carrier -- are state controlled.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), which published the ruling earlier this month, has not set a timetable for implementing the new VoIP restrictions.

When it does, Skype will probably be barred. "[This] is expected to make services like Skype unavailable in the country," the Communist Party's official paper said.

Since 2007, Skype has partnered with Chinese mobile Internet carrier TOM Online to offer a Chinese-language version of its client software. The joint TOM-Skype site was still available Thursday to users outside of China.

Today, Skype declined to comment on whether the firm's service would be blocked in the future, but said that TOM Online remained available.

"Skype is not blocked in China," a company spokesman said in an e-mail reply to questions.

According to media reports from several news services, including the Associated Press and AFP (Agence France-Presse), MIIT has also set up a telephone hotline to take reports of VoIP violations, telling citizens that it is waging a "campaign to crack down on illegal Voice over Internet Protocol phone services."

Earlier today, Skype revamped its iOS application for the iPhone and iPod Touch to let users make VoIP calls over 3G networks.

China Unicom, one of the two companies that will be allowed to offer VoIP service under the new rules, is Apple's exclusive carrier partner in China.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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