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In The Forum:
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Topic:
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Vonage Customer Review: One month with Vonage, and...
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Shhhh -- just don't call it the V word


Vonage In Print News



October 20, 2005

By CATHERINE MCLEAN

It may just be the four-letter word of the telephone industry.

While Voip (voice over Internet protocol) is the technical term for the latest generation of phone services, many companies are refusing to use it in their marketing. Bell Canada, Shaw Communications Inc. and others favour more generic, less technophile names such as digital voice, digital phone, or Internet phone.

This new application has proven a boon for many early adopters, saving them money on communications. It's based on IP technology, which sends voice and data together in packets over networks. That means calls aren't restricted to phone lines any more, allowing new players such as cable companies to break into the phone market.

So what's wrong with VoIP?

The issue lies partly with the technology's early roots. Although most people have only recently started hearing about VoIP, it's actually about a decade old. In the 1990s, calls were first made over the Internet via personal computers. But the technology did not gain popularity because of issues such as poor sound quality and delays associated with this type of calling.

VoIP has since evolved and is no longer just used between computers. Many companies offer this service over their own networks. And the latest Voip adapters for homes and offices have their own battery backup power so the phone line doesn't instantly go dead if the building's power is out. However, these significant improvements in the technology itself haven't stopped telcos and cable companies from distancing themselves from the term VoIP.

"The last three years or so, it's all been about fixing those problems and making voice work over a packet network so that shouldn't be a stigma any more, but it certainly hangs out there," says Jon Arnold, of IP consultant J Arnold & Associates.

"Because Voip still has some negative connotations, it's also viewed as a second-rate service," he said. Cable companies in particular don't want to call it VoIP, he adds, "because if they're going to be in the voice business, they only want to do it as a primary line service."

And then there's the question of how many non-techie consumers actually know what Voip is. Buying phone service has become so complicated that Bell Canada has a glossary on its website for terms that describe its new digital voice service, while cable companies such as Rogers Communications Inc. and Shaw have on-line question-and-answer sections regarding their services.

At Rogers, they use the term home phone. That's because Rogers found that consumers thought of Voip as making calls over the Internet, whereas the Rogers phone service goes over its secure cable network, according to spokeswoman Taanta Gupta.

Shaw, another new entrant in the Canadian phone market, named its service digital phone. Shaw president Peter Bissonnette shudders when he hears the Voip word. "VoIP means I have to have a computer," he said in a recent interview.

With last month's Voip launch, Bell also steered clear of the term and called its new service Bell Digital Voice. There was limited awareness of Voip in the marketplace earlier this year when Bell was doing research to prepare for the launch, and the company wanted to keep things simple for its customers, according to spokesman Paolo Pasquini.

Not everyone is turned off by VoIP, though. Upstart Vonage Canada Inc. is one of the providers openly embracing the term. In its TV advertising, Vonage Canada, which offers a phone service over any high-speed Internet connection, is encouraging customers to "VoIP."

The difference between Vonage Canada's Voip service and cable companies such as Shaw's offerings is that it doesn't go over its own network.

Vonage Canada is using the term Voip as it tries to differentiate itself from bigger cable and phone rivals, president Bill Rainey said.

He wants to make it part of everyday vocabulary, like iPod for digital music players or Xerox for photocopiers.

"We said here's an opportunity for us to take something completely different and turn Voip into a word," Mr. Rainey said. "We believe we've made good inroads . . ."

Time will tell what words make it into the popular lexicon. In the meantime, it could prove to be a confusing period for consumers as many carriers refer to VoIP services as anything but.

A Voip by any other name ...

Companies trying to attract new customers are avoiding use of the term Voip (voice over Internet protocol) in their marketing and are adopting more generic, less technophile names.

'VoIP means I have to have a computer.'

3.8 million

Predicted number of homes that cable companies will have signed up for home phone subscribers by the end of 2009, a 27% share of the market.

90%

Percentage of new system sales that IP-telephony products will represent by 2010.




 
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†AK and HI residents pay $29.95 shipping. ††Limited time offer. Valid for residents of the United States (&DC), 18 years or older, who open new accounts. Offer good while supplies last and only on new account activations. One kit per account/household. Offer cannot be combined with any other discounts, promotions or plans and is not applicable to past purchases. Good while supplies last. Allow up to 2 weeks for shipping. Other restrictions may apply.

1Unlimited calling and other services for all residential plans are based on normal residential, personal, non-commercial use. A combination of factors is used to determine abnormal use, including but not limited to: the number of unique numbers called, calls forwarded, minutes used and other factors. Subject to our Reasonable Use Policy and Terms of Service.

2Shipping and activation fees waived with 1-year agreement. An Early Termination Fee (with periodic pro-rated reductions) applies if service is terminated before the end of the first 12 months. Additional restrictions may apply. See Terms of Service for details.

HIGH SPEED INTERNET REQUIRED. †VALID FOR NEW LINES ONLY. RATES EXCLUDE INTERNET SERVICE, SURCHARGES, FEES AND TAXES. DEVICE MAY BE REFURBISHED. If you subscribe to plans with monthly minutes allotments, all call minutes placed from both from your home and registered ExtensionsTM phones will count toward your monthly minutes allotment. ExtensionsTM calls made from mobiles use airtime and may incur surcharges, depending on your mobile plan. Alarms, TTY and other systems may not be compatible. Vonage 911 service operates differently than traditional 911. See www.vonage.com/911 for details.

** Certain call types excluded.

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