The UK’s telecommunications watchdog Ofcom ruled this week that VoIP providers must allow access to emergency telephone numbers 999 and 112. The decision comes after a consultation process which began in July of this year.

Ofcom is very strict on the issue of access to emergency numbers. Mobile phones must be able to make calls to the emergency services on any available mobile network, without unlocking the keypad and without calling credit. This is all to ensure that in a moment of crisis any phone can be used to contact the emergency services as quickly as possible.

Earlier in the year Ofcom carried out some research that found 78% of VoIP users who could not call the emergency services on 999 or 112 were actually under the impression that they could! Due to this and the potential implications, Ofcom confirmed that any VoIP services which allow outgoing calls to be made to normal fixed line telephones will need to make sure that they comply with the regulations. VoIP operators that only allow phone calls to be made to other VoIP users are excluded from this obligation.

Ofcom Chief Executive, Ed Richards said, ”As new voice services develop and become more mainstream, regulation must evolve too. In the future, consumers will be confident that if they can make calls to ordinary national numbers using their VoIP service then they will be able to call 999 or 112 in an emergency”.