Skype is still legal in China

Skype’s Chinese partner is backing the internet based calling company, claiming that it complies with the country’s law.

The TOM group has come to its cousin’s defence as China moves to crackdown on illegal internet telephone providers, which could complicate Skype’s operations in the country.

“The operation of Skype in China is compliant with local laws and regulations,” a TOM Group spokeswoman told Reuters. “Currently, it is business as usual while service provision stays normal.”

The VoIP wars began back in December when head honchos at the Ministry of Information and Industry Technology decided to outlaw companies providing these service, apart from those provided by China Telecom and China Unicom. It decided to do this for two reasons. Firstly to ensure its own national companies stayed coushty and secondly because these companies, which are state owned, are easy to regulate and monitor. In contrast Skype calls are encrypted making it hard for authorities to snoop.

And this encryption has also caused trouble over in India, which is also keeping a beady eye on the company. Similarly to the problems going on with Blackberrys, Indian authorities are concerned that the service poses a snooping difficulty for the domestic intelligence services because its services are encrypted. It says that any company providing telecom services in India must make those communications available to Indian security services.

We contacted Skype to find out to see what it had to say on all this malarkey. It told us: “Users in China currently can access Skype via TOM Online, our majority JV partner.

“TOM Online offers local versions of Skype for Windows, MAC as well as mobile platforms such as Symbian and Windows Mobile. More details can be found at skype.tom.com. Users can also get the Skype for iPhone app, but it is an older version and we are in the process of working with TOM to provide the latest version.”

However it said that it would not speculate on China’s policies and its future actions regarding the availability of Skype in this region.  Nor would it comment on any Indian legal issues. We asked what these may be but at the time of publishing Skype wasn’t feeling very chatty. ,