back to article France demands Skype register as telco

The French telecommunications regulator ARCEP has turned a critical eye on Microsoft's Skype and decided – more than a decade after the service was created – that it should register as a communications operator. ARCEP believes the service is eluding “the duties and obligations” of a telecommunications operator, and according …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This could easily result in Skype removing any company presence from French territory. So that'll be bye-bye to Skype In/Out numbers in France, and so forth.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Skype could easily get such numbers via other carriers like Colt, etc.

      1. chrisf1

        I doubt it. The issue here is offering for the sale in the market - there is no provision or exclusion in the EU directives for resellers or systems integrators. If a member state has provisions that require notification of operation and fees then not doing so is illegal (but may be either civil or criminal). Real fun starts if anyone tries a cease and desist and which other MS are watching.

        I suspect its not a tax either - as Skype profits in France would already be covered (or not) and not changed by this but the administrative fee that Member States can set to allow operation for any electronic communication or network service in the EU. It can be disproportionate as it is allowed to be a small percentage of revenue rather than profit- not sure of the exact fees structure in France any more.

        Interception and emergency call support (as well as power over the line too) are generally part of each member states general authorisation for public telephony operators. Definitions of public vary but as Skype offers paid for services to the general public and connects to POTS it will probably be covered as an electronic communication service and therefore subject to any required notification and fees structure - the higher requirements for public or POTS competitive systems will depend on the exact wording of France's general authorisation.

        BEREC and all the National Regulators have had long discussions over whether VOIP is subject to their overview and, despite the fact that the directives are explicit on voice services, they have tended to have a hands off approach for those that were self provisioned, closed user groups and similar and where they are unlikley to be used as a primary phone and picked up for emergency services. The growing tendency for default hand set support, telephone number connections and chargeable services as well as regulated operators concerns would suggest this will be watched in all of the EU 27 with interest.

        1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

          @chrisf1: I think you nailed it.

          I suspect regulators see a repeat of the PayPal model which established banking services without the need for a banking license, and there is massive pressure on improving intercept capability on VoIP. The problem I see is that governments have burned the trust of their population they would use those powers wisely - you need not look any further than the fact that none of the so-called "short", "emergency" measures for anti-terror have ever been rolled back and re-examined for deficiencies - deficiencies that the average citizen had to allow for as it was all "very urgent".

          It'll be interesting to watch..

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      FOSS alternatives for Skype replacement en francais?

      This should be an interesting case to watch. Anyone already switched from Skype to a FOSS option?

      ... or Google Hangouts etc... ...and care to share their experiences....?

      1. Bill the Sys Admin
        Thumb Up

        Re: FOSS alternatives for Skype replacement en francais?

        I switched over to hangouts for video to family abroad. Means we can get free group video calls. Everyone on G+ then just take it from there. Quite easy and really good. Skype is good, just it means other program on the machine etc. G+ is in the browser less clutter in my opinion.

        Also used to use Skype for speaking to a couple of mates while gaming. But recently I set up a ventrillo server on my VPS and we use that. Doesn’t use as much resources while gaming so we prefer it. And it provides a stable connection to chat.

        Have not really missed it to be honest.

  2. Will Godfrey Silver badge


    .. have found a new trough.

    That's all.

  3. graeme leggett

    Follow the money?

    I can understand that the French might want Skype to register so they can exert regulatory control over the telecoms - more so if it helps protect the consumer, but relying on Skype for emergency calls...?

    Some licence costs would not be unreasonable but as Skype runs over the internets the provision of the bytes has already been paid for by the ISP or telcos and they got the money from the end-user in some form anyhow. Paying twice over is a bit like the post office making you put a stamp on the envelope and then asking you to pay extra to put a letter in the envelope.

    What's the French telcos' position - do they see it as competition. I know here BT have SmartTalk so you can make a smartphone call over an internet connection but pay at your home phoneline rates.

    1. gerdesj Silver badge

      Re: Follow the money?

      >Paying twice over is a bit like the post office making you put a stamp on the envelope and then asking you to pay extra to put a letter in the envelope.

      Charging your postman to use the roads via road tax might be another analogy instead ...

      1. Andraž 'ruskie' Levstik

        Re: Follow the money?

        Erm... they do here. They pay yearly road tax along with MOT just like everyone else.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Follow the money?

      Suppose you got rid of your home phone because you had skype

      You dial 999/211/911 and get told "tough - it looks like a phone, works like a phone but we can't be bothered providing non-revenue services".

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Re: Follow the money?

        They support emergency calls in 4 countries, even if it's with caveats.

      2. John Hughes

        Re: Follow the money?

        Maybe you should be dialing 112 instead of 211?

      3. chrisf1

        Re: Follow the money?

        The generic issue for VoIP (no idea where Skype is at with the normal best efforts solutions to these problems) with a gateway to the telephone system is that without an additional input the system will call and locate you to the emergency operator as being at the location of the gateway. This has been a particular concern for domestic sales aimed at replacements to the normal POTS (plain old telephone) and there have been reported incidents in some countries of emergency services being routed to the wrong state.

        It also the reason most offices have emergency red phones on the wall and VoIP in the lift is a bad idea as the corporate exchange may be somewhere else entirely.

        Any know state of the art here as to best efforts solutions? I'm a little out of date.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Follow the money?

      "What's the French telcos' position - do they see it as competition."

      Yes. But the French government are probably more interested in spreading their red tape and indulging in their control freak fantasies. There's no prospect that this would benefit French consumers, there's no prospect it will really help fight terrorism or crime, and the money raised will be infinitesimal (even assuming Skype make a profit).

      I'd suggest the motives for this are purely the desire to spread a thick, treacly layer of bureaucracy on everything, particularly if they are foreign owned, with a side order of pandering to France Telecom, all facilitated by graduates of the Ecole Polytechnique.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Follow the money?

        @ledswinger "help fight terrorism or crime". Even if I might agree, don't you think copy pasting "fight terrorism" into every second sentence has become "freak fantasies" too.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: Follow the money?@AC 13:25

          If you want a response you'll need to be clearer, because I don't follow what you're saying. Reads like you've got the wrong end of the stick, but who knows, other than you?

  4. Glen Turner 666

    Skype is a phone company

    > but relying on Skype for emergency calls...?

    Here's the thing -- the emergency services call taker doesn't get to decide what technology the call maker used. They can hardly say "hang up and ring back on a real phone". As for tracing and interception, if those don't work for Skype then that's where the criminal activity moves to.

    1. Franklin

      Re: Skype is a phone company

      "As for tracing and interception, if those don't work for Skype then that's where the criminal activity moves to."

      Well, sure, if by "criminal activity" you mean "talking." Seems to me that real criminal activity is going to involve goings-on in the real world as well, and there's still plenty of opportunity to nab the crims there.

      But of course, defining "criminal activity" as "talking" is certainly...convenient for governments who want to control what people talk about.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. TheVogon

        Re: Skype is a phone company

        We just need Zfone for Skype. Then no more government snooping.

    2. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: Skype is a phone company

      If you dial 112, the telco will route the call to your local emergency call centre. Dial 112 on Skype and it won't have a clue where to route the call. If it ends up in Luxembourg rather than South London, it isn't going to be much use.

  5. JassMan

    The french may have some strange ideas at times

    but you have to admit that with the convergence of telecoms and IP, taxing Skype the same as all other telecom operators makes a lot of sense. In my holiday home in France I have a FreeBox and the telephone is a VOIP service provided by the box. Sort of like Skype without the out of sync pictures. The best bit is that "free" calls to mobiles are bundled in with the adsl line.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: The french may have some strange ideas at times

      It's not "free" at all.

      Someone has to pay. In this case, either *you* via subscription to the infrastructure service or *you* via paid services from your provider that cover the "free bundling" of ... whatever.

      The fact that the idea of "taxation" emerges from bureauseptic's head like feces emerges from a ruminant whenever he hears "free" doesn't make taxing moral nor does it mean that double taxation is not being performed (or even triple taxation, after all there already is hidden taxation via inflation. Printing money is not "free" except for the one who prints it, n'est-ce pas Monsieur Hollande?)

      (I remember an article in 'The Economist' in the good old Clinton/DotCom-Bubble days where the adventurous thesis was advanced that Skype would destroy the existing telecom providers. The thought occurred to me that the writers must think that Skype was magically running via ansible)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The french may have some strange ideas at times

        Skype did not destroy telecom providers - it made them adjust, follow up, switch to VoIP, and provide free calls national, international, landlines and cell phones. And those who could not adjust were indeed gobbled up by bigger ones.

        And at least, like you say, It's clear that those telecom providers' "free" calls are paid for by the subscription. How are Skype's paid for, since there's no subscription needed? Obviously, they did not get paid enough money, since they got sold. So nowadays, does it come from the sales of Windows? Or from the Xboxes?

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: The french may have some strange ideas at times

          >How are Skype's paid for, since there's no subscription needed? Obviously, they did not get paid enough money, since they got sold.

          In 2010 Skype was generating a profit on revenues of USD 860m [1] and a report indicate that for FY2012 Skype revenues to Microsoft were USD 749m [2]. As for where this revenue comes from then this article [3] gives an indication. Obviously, like many major internet companies they have consumed significant amounts of venture capital, on which they are expected to make a return, Microsoft's offer represented a good return on investment so it was accepted.


          [2] ]


    2. RISC OS

      Re: The french may have some strange ideas at times

      What strange ideas would they be?

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: The french may have some strange ideas at times

      The issue isn't taxing Skype but getting them to provide some standard telco services such as the handling of emergency calls.

      Whilst the French may seem to have some strange ideas, we should remember that they are far better than the UK at protecting their interests.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Time for these P2P decentralized networks!

    If there is no central operator, there is nobody to tax! And nobody to ask for wiretaps!

    Down with the oppressors! (AC, natch)

  7. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Ridiculous parochial attitude

    France should ban Skype from being used by anybody outside France, and arrest anybody who works for Skype if they fly over France and sue banks that sell Skype minutes

    Or do they not do gambling?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It is quaint how politicians still delude themselves that they have any control whatsoever.

    The India guy saying that they will deal with it in their next bill or sessions or whatever....

    Ok buddy, you get around to it when you're free and by then we will have moved to the next provider...

    Its right up there with the (mainly british) view that if you make something illegal it magically stops over night.

  9. Jan Hargreaves

    Wish Skype would just die. It's horrible.

    - The call/video qaulity is pathetic (epecially for the bandwith it uses).

    - The rates are extortionate.

    - The application GUI is disgusting. You can't even exit the program from the menu (how stupid is that).

    - It eats your connection and makes browsing, VOIP calls, and other uses slow or unusable.

    - Oh and it's responsible for killing MSN messenger on Friday (except in China).


    1. John Tserkezis

      Wish Skype would just die. It's horrible.

      That's nice, but without offering an alternative is akin to saying "The water in this third world country is horrible, so we'll just outright stop its supply".

      Yeah, that'll fix things.

      1. Jan Hargreaves

        You act like skype is the only thing in the world that makes calls. You are trolling or what?

        There are PLENTY of programs/alternatives that offer what it does. It seems to do everything it attempts very badly. Can't think why anyone would defend it honestly.

        Those two (Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis) have been responsible for some awful software over the years... Anyone remember the failure that was Joost? Kazaa was equally awful.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          You were asked for alternatives and gave none. Maybe you know of some that others don't ? If you put some down here then, if they really are better, then that would lead to some people on here leaving Skype ... which is what you apparently want. I, for one, would be interested in alternatives, on Linux, and on hearing of others experiences with them. Tried Ekigaphone ages ago and wasn't impressed at all.

          Of course if you just don't give any, then you're a troll.

          1. Jan Hargreaves

            I wasn't asked to give alternatives though. And I intentionally didn't give any examples because sometimes you can end up sounding like a car salesman or employee of said company. Since you are now asking specifically though, I'll bite.

            I use for sip calling. It's actually brilliant. A tenner of credit every 120 days and you get 120 days of free calls to about 30 countries. The tenner of credits is still good after that has expired. I've been using it since 2003. You used to be able to get London numbers through them, but you can pick them up for a couple of bucks a month from or just get an 056 number for free if you don't mind that prefix.

            With SIP you only need 64kbps for a voice call, and there is no leeching of your bandwidth or CPU. I prefer a hardware device for calls so I have a phone that I can use even if my pc is shutdown. They have a crappy client, which works fine mind you, but you can use ANYTHING you want by just plugging in the settings (unlike Skype). We're even setting up a proper answering machine service on our server to handle calls for our company now.

            For chat I use - again there are plenty of alternatives and I have several accounts of several protocols running there (different clients use different protocols).

            Skype is the horsemeat equivalent of a juicy aussie steak.

            1. Hans 1

              Skype ? LOL

              I have a freebox, like the bloke above, and it is amazing. Not only do I get a bluray player, 250gb harddrive, 100+ TV channels with recording, vlc support for viewing on the PC, I also get this "phone" service. Call all French landlines and mobile numbers for free, unlimited number of times, calls cut off after 1 hour, but I can dial again. I can also call 40 countries, landlines only (except us and canada where I can call mobiles as well), same duration. Also have sip credentials to use that service wherever I am, so I can use that to call when I am out of the country via Wifi ... On my mobile, I am on a 17 euro/month contract with Free mobile, unlimited data, same calls as above unlimited, call duration is 1 hour also.

              Who needs Skype in France anyway?

              BTW, Skype used to kill my Xorg server every now and then ... until I dumped it. For vid conferencing, you can use a multitude of stuff ... ichat on an ancient ISDN line beats skype, anytime.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              @Jan Hargreaves

              So, how many Euros per post are the frogs paying you?

              1. Jan Hargreaves

                Re: @Jan Hargreaves

                About as much as Microsoft are paying you I would imagine...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Now that it's owned by Microsoft who have some of the best codecs and UI experiences on the planet i'm sure that will be fixed soon. It's also being linked to Lync / Office 365 soon :-)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Two rules of the world

    1. Large corporations don't pay (much) tax

    2. Politicians like to implement new taxes

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Two rules of the world

      And the result of that is:

      1) The general public pays these new taxes

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Two rules of the world

      1 + 2 = Politicians don't like to implement (much) tax on Large corporations. Fixed it for you.

    3. Tom 13

      Re: Two rules of the world

      Let me fix that for you:

      1. Large corporations don't pay (much) tax

      1. Large corporations don't pay any taxes, although they will collect them for politicians after an appropriate mark up.

      2. Politicians like to implement new taxes, they just don't want to be responsible for collecting them from you.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Wrong end of stick lads.

    The possiblity of collecting some tax Euro's from Skype will of course be welcomed by the struggling French economy, but I imagine this has a lot more to do with French internal security.

    France has long been a home for north African immigrants, not in the least a large contingent from former colony Algeria.

    The troubles in the French banlieus were all over the news a few years back, and it is suspected by French intelligence that in a number of these suburbs foreign insurgents are gaining influence and in fact are responsible for running cells of troublemakers. Some of these banlieus haf effectively become a no go zone for law enforcement.

    So I suspect that they suspect Skype is being used to facilitate communications between these groups and between the groups and their handlers. So French law enforcement and intelligence would like to have the possibility the use the rather large operating freedoms French law when monitoring telco's to extend to Skype. Skype would have to register as a French telco, and subsequently be required to operate under French telco rules.

    Black Choppers, obviously.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wrong end of stick lads.

      "the struggling French economy". Might be good when using the world "struggling" to remember that it applies not only to the EU but very much to the USA too. Skype is not that popular among telcos in any part of the world for reasons not to hard to understand. If China starts to have issues with Skype, which would not surprise me, it could not be due to a struggling economy, go and figure.

      As far as "French internal security" is concerned I think you can, again, skip the "French" and make the scope a bit larger like "the international security against terrorism" or something.

  12. Wrong ended schtick

    Is it not illegal to encrypt

    (Avoiding locally approved interception) yet allow uncontrolled plain text access to each node doing the routing in foreign jurisdictions?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is it not illegal to encrypt

      No, it's not illegal to encrypt.

  13. 1052-STATE

    lots of dropped calls these days

    Jan H: Agree. Skype /used/ to be good with decent call quality though.

    I too noticed you can no longer exit from the menu! That's just since MS bought Skype. "Go figure" - they even oppose their own sacrosanct UI Guidelines on the desktop these days too.

    Service has been shoddy in the last six months or so. Line quality often so poor you have to redial (it's digital though! no analogue excuse here!) and calls >20mins get mysteriously dropped at least 70% of the time for me. If you owned Skype and wanted to game it a bit for more profit (having paid $8.5 BILLION for the company), why not drop some calls now and then... /cynicism

    That said, I still prefer a bit of hardship via Skype versus the rates I /used/ to pay for international calls from the likes of BT/AT&T.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: lots of dropped calls these days

      Yup, same here. I never actually knew Skype had a "reconnect" feature until it started to randomly drop calls..

      Time to set up my own FreePBX, I think. I talked to our telco about SIP/analogue integration (since they offer a service that uses SIP to hit our office), but unsurprisingly they do not allow SIP-to-SIP connections. Which means we simply buy desk phones which are multi-account capable - I have seen there are even ones with a video display but as I haven't looked into this technology I don't know if this is a standard (otherwise it's pointless). Oh well, when I find the time..

      It's a bit of a shame, though, I just found this Logitech device that would have worked well on the office TV..

  14. despun


    1. The french state comprises world class control freaks.

    2. They hate MS. ( Not for the reasons you or I might, but because they are American and successful )

    1. midcapwarrior

      Re: figures

      "They hate MS. ( Not for the reasons you or I might, but because they are American and successful )"

      Nope, those are the same reasons you hate them.

  15. justin_venus
    Thumb Up

    GOOD IDEA. Making Skype "be a telco" will force them to... be a telco!

    This is a good idea.

    It will actually wake Skype up and make them a full part of the telecomms infrastructure. It will accelerate the demise of regular telephony. No bad thing.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    P2P at (further) risk

    It's the thin end of a wedge for even more draconian laws. Skype, for the most part is P2P. Skype's centralised services I am sure are not critical to the making and receiving of calls.

    Taxes/rules imposed on Skype will inevitably get passed on to the consumer. This will just mean people move to another, probably FOSS, P2P based service.

    So the issue the 'authorities' don't yet realise they have is not with Skype but with P2P. And once they realise that, they will concoct some law that effectively makes the use of P2P illegal without some sort of centralised tracking.

  17. sniperpaddy

    Bye Bye Net Neutrality

    Classifying internet comms as standardized telecoms is the start of the slippery slope to bypass net neutrality.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lawful v. unlawful interception

    Lawful: our state spies on the people

    Lawful: our state spies on other states

    Unlawful: the people spy on our state

    Unlawful: other states spy on our state (we can do fuck all about that, so let's pretend it doesn't exist).

  19. LaunchpadBS

    Feed the needy

    The eurocrats who refuse to work for a living still need that hand out from somewhere

  20. Longrod_von_Hugendong

    Why dont Skype (M$)...

    Declare war in France - problem solved.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why dont Skype (M$)...

      They would first have to restart the white flag factory..

  21. Clyde

    real reason

    "and implement lawful interception of calls."

    And that's where the real driver comes from.

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