Verso Technologies has announced its first major deal for its Internet filtering technology — in China. Verso is best known for its high-profile promises to block Skype VoIP traffic, which have raised a few eyebrows, and very little take-up, in the U.S. and Europe. However, clearly this is exactly what the unidentified Chinese mobile carrier wants to do, according to Verso’s press release:
“The trial is representative of the significant opportunities for Verso’s products in the Chinese market, where VoIP is highly regulated and the use of Skype software has been deemed illegal,” said Yves Desmet, senior vice president, worldwide sales, Verso Technologies. “More and more countries are following China’s direction in evaluating the risks associated with the growing popularity of P2P communication such as Skype, due to intense security concerns with the use of this medium for unlawful purposes and its impact on carriers’ revenues and the bottlenecks their networks are experiencing. We believe that this is just the beginning of a tremendous opportunity for Verso.”
VoIP from non-official operators is potentially illegal in China, at least for now, and major telecom operators there have been blocking Skype with some success. But I am not sure Verso’s Desmet is correct in saying “ the use of Skype software has been deemed illegal” . I can find no reference to substantiate that. Is Verso being misleading by saying that, and using phrases such as “intense security concerns with the use of this medium for unlawful purposes” to make it sound like Skype and its ilk are a hotbed of triad and Al Qaeda activity?
More generally, when Verso talks of “security concerns” it’s talking about blocking viruses, illegal content (P2P files etc) and other unwanted nasties, as well as recently aired fears that Skype may have security holes allowing hackers to carry data anonymously. But of course in China “security” carries an extra connotation. VoIP, unlike ordinary telecommunicatons, is hard to monitor, eavesdrop and tap. Is Verso helping China to limit free speech? (No, says Verso, in a piece on Slyck by Thomas Mennecke.)
I’m not quite clear about why a mobile operator would be that interested in this technology. I suppose we’re talking about people using Skype and such like over mobile networks. Still, what is clear is that Verso sees this as the thin end of a big, lucrative wedge:
“We are seeing broad applicability for this type of solution on a global basis by the service provider community, as these potential customers look to preserve and maintain security, comply with regulations, improve their revenue opportunities and optimize their network.”