According to an article in Mathaba, at least one country, Saudi Arabia, is using packet sniffing technology from Narus to identify (and possibly block) VoIP traffic on their telephone system. 

In some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, regulations protect a phone company’s revenues, prohibiting customers from saving money by making phone calls using any service other than the national carrier, Saudi Telecom, based in Riyadh. Skype  users there have gleefully flouted those regulations, paying cheap local tariffs to access the Internet and use it for their calls, instead of directly using Saudi Telecom’s expensive long-distance and international calling services.

…a seven-year-old Mountain View, Calif., company, Narus Inc., has devised a way for telephone companies to detect data packets belonging to VoIP applications and block the calls. For example, now when someone in Riyadh clicks on Skype ‘s “call” button, Narus’s software, installed on the carrier’s network, swoops into action. It analyzes the packets flowing across the network, notices what protocols they adhere to, and flags the call as VoIP. In most cases, it can even identify the specific software being used, such as Skype ‘s.

In this Narus press release in April, we see that it does look like the Saudi’s intend to block VoIP calls to convert them normal telecom revenue:

Narus…announced that it was selected by Saudi Telecom…to provide Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) detection services. By employing Narus’ VoIP detection application, Saudi Telecom has recovered revenue that would otherwise be lost through unregulated VoIP traffic.

The Narus IP Platform captures and analyzes all VoIP traffic in the Saudi Telecom network; the VoIP detection application identifies and blocks traffic destined for unregistered international VoIP gateways thus enforcing that traffic must be directed through regulated, tariffed gateways. Narus is the leading choice for managing IP services in the Middle East largely because of its ability to successfully address critical business issues like VoIP detection in real-time. Narus’ Partner, Giza Systems, deployed and configured the Narus IP Platform for VoIP detection at Saudi Telecom.

Mathaba article here.

Alex Eckelberry
(Thanks Jarrett)