Telia holds Skype hostage, may block VoIP in Sweden

Skype(s msft) may be blocked for use by a wireless provider in the very country one of its founders,Niklas Zennström, is from. Sweden’s Telia is reportedly considering a block on Skype’s mobile video and VoIP services later this year unless customers pay an additional usage charge. The situation has some Telia customers incensed enough that they’ve created a protest page on Facebook.

Last month, Telia spokesperson, Charlotte Züger, provided the first hint of the possible Skype block, speaking to Sveriges Radio: “It’s going to mean that there will be service plans where it’s not included so it won’t work. I believe, quite simply, that we need to be able to get paid for our various services no matter what, as different service plans include different things.” Such actions would likely apply to all other mobile VoIP services, as Telia would defend against losing voice plan revenues.

Telia appears committed to this path as I found this official Telia customer service response to the situation from April 19, translated from Swedish via Google Translate:

“Telia fully supports an open Internet that is accessible to all. Our customers will have the opportunity to use services of their choice, wherever they are, with high quality.

Our customers can now use mobile IP telephony and will continue to do so. Depending on your needs, you as the customer continued to be able to choose a subscription where mobile VoIP is included or choose a subscription which is not included and therefore need not pay for it. We will also launch an additional service for mobile VoIP to the consumer when the need arises.”

The response jives with other reports that a fee for mobile VoIP will only be charged to new customers while existing customers will be grandfathered in and allowed to use Skype at no extra charge. Leave Telia and come back however, and you may be blocked from Skype unless you want to pony up an additional fee, reportedly around 6 Euros a month.

As operator revenues get squeezed by third-party services — both free and paid — this situation is more likely going to get worse before it gets better. And it also raises questions on net neutrality for mobiles, something that will become increasingly important as the world population shifts online activities from fixed lines to mobile. Interestingly, Telia was the first carrier to roll out an LTE network back in 2009; could this be a sign of things to come for other 4G networks around the world? Let’s hope not.