Rostelecom opens tender for cross-network Skype-style OTT communications service

Russian state operator Rostelecom is reportedly working on a rival to over-the-top (OTT) communications services such as Skype, with a service designed to work on any operator's mobile network in the country.

According to Vedomosti, Rostelecom has issued a tender covering the creation of a new web portal and mobile apps that would allow customers to make calls and send messages over the Internet regardless of which mobile or fixed-line service they subscribe to.

A company representative confirmed the plans to the publication, noting that the service would become part of existing subscribers' bundles. The ability to access the service across other carriers' networks will be a key element in the service, the spokesperson said, adding that users will also be able to tie their existing home phone number to the service, giving it added mobility, or get a new landline number from which to access the service.

Unlike Skype, this service will be paid-for rather than free. The plan is to roll it out from June, starting in 16 Russian cities. Rival MTS already offers such a product.

Recent years have seen a trend of carriers offering over-the-top (OTT) services to rival those of operations such as Microsoft's Skype and Facebook's WhatsApp, which seriously threaten their revenues.

Telefonica's Tu Go, for example, also allows people to use their existing O2 mobile service on a range of devices, including desktops and tablets. This leaves the carrier in control of the phone number and billing arrangement.

Others, such as Orange with its Libon service, are trying to offer a more straightforward Skype competitor with a distinct brand, free basic functionality and paid-for call minutes to standard phone numbers.

According to Vedomosti, Rostelecom's application will work on iOS devices running at least version 8 of the Apple operating system, and Google Android devices on version 4 or above. Features will include the standard line-up of voice, instant messaging, call history, contact management and presence, the tender notice suggested.

For more:
- see this Vedomosti report (in Russian)

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