The UK should adopt a light touch when it comes to regulating VoIP services according the newly-formed Internet Telephony Service Providers Association (ITSPA). The organisation is lobbying Ofcom, the DTI and other government bodies to ensure that VoIP gets a fair chance to succeed in the UK.

ITSPA’s spokesman Kim Thesiger said that until a month ago, Ofcom had not been aware of the issues surrounding VoIP. “The only people who had been talking to Ofcom previously were from BT,” he said. He said that the FCC in the US had set the pace in showing how the VoIP industry could be lightly regulated and ITSPA was calling for the same approach in the UK.

Thesiger said that the association was hoping to drive the UK market forward to the same sort of level as the Japanese market. “There are five million VoIP phones in Japan. In the UK, they are virtually non-existent. We want to develop the regulatory structure to ensure that sort of success over here.

The association is calling for the development of a Code of Conduct that suppliers would conform to as a first step towards widespread acceptance. Thesiger said that such a code would be released within six weeks. It is also working with similar bodies in Europe and with the EU for a European-wide approach to the issue.

ITSAP has been set up by a group of 13 UK companies, ranging in size from established Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and existing telecoms companies. Thesiger admitted that none of the big equipment vendors such as Cisco or 3Com had joined the association but said that was being addressed and some vendors should join shortly.

He added that the development of SIP meant that VoIP was now a genuinely viable alternative for the delivery of voice services. He expected ITSPA to be concerned mainly with promoting VoIP to consumers and small businesses although that was mainly because there were many larger businesses already interested in running voice over existing IP networks.