Ofcom has announced that from 8 September 2008, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services that allow users to make calls to normal national phone numbers must also have the ability to connect to 999 and 112.

The move, says Ofcom, is to save consumers having to waste valuable seconds locating an ordinary landline or mobile phone when they need to contact emergency services.

"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", said Ofcom chief executive, Ed Richards.

However not all companies will be forced to change next September. VoIP providers that only offer calls over the Internet, usually to users with the same VoIP product, and providers that only allow users to receive calls from normal phone numbers are unaffected by the new rules.

Additionally services that only allow users to call international numbers and Click to Call services, where users can only call a pre-selected number or limited set of numbers, are also excluded.

The new rules follow research, where Ofcom found that as many as 78% of VoIP users who cannot currently use their service to call 999 or 112 either thought an emergency call was possible, or did not know whether or not this was the case.