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On May 02, 2017 at 17:28:06

dconnor Posted:
What is the main
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On Apr 27, 2017 at 18:52:02

Trafford Posted:
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On Apr 27, 2017 at 10:42:50

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On Mar 28, 2017 at 12:42:33

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Review: My First Day With Vonage, Excellent!
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On The Line Online
The Spread Of Broadband Means That The Internet Is Poised To Revolutionise The Telecommunications Market, Says Victor Keegan


March 26, 2004

By Victor Keegan

British Telecom's price-cutting skirmish with Carphone Warehouse and other rivals is, in every sense, a phoney war.

It's not just that the cuts are not always what they seem (such as trading possible lower call charges for a higher rental), but that they are also obscuring some interesting things that are happening behind the smokescreens.

Not to beat about the bush telegraph, the telecoms industry is about to be turned inside out by a new technology that has been around for years but has suddenly reached take-off - voice over internet protocol (VOIP).

This is a way of routing telephone calls over the internet (instead of over copper cables or a cellphone) in which the extra transmission costs are next to nothing.

Until recently, progress had been held back by the poor quality of calls and the fact that those at either end of each call needed to be at a computer, connected to the internet, to make it work.

All that is changing very fast. The number of people switching to broadband (which facilitates high-quality sound) has hugely increased the amount of potential customers.

An emerging industry, including the likes of Microsoft and Cisco, has agreed a common standard (akin to the mobile industry adopting GSM years ago), although Skype, the London-based start-up that claims 8m downloads of its free Voip software, is on a different standard.

One of the drawbacks of Voip - including the Skype model - has been that it needs two people to be sitting in front of their computers to function properly.

This makes it great for internal corporate communications, or for late-night geeks, but not so good for ordinary punters who are either at the end of the local loop from their telephone exchange or using a mobile phone.

All that is changing fast as operators, including BT, begin to offer home phones that look like ordinary phones but are actually VOIP.

So if, for example, you are ringing Australia, the call will be routed over the internet for next to nothing until it gets to Australia, where its final lap will be charged at the cost of a local call.

If you have a cellphone or personal digital assistant (PDA) that can hook up to a local wi-fi (local wireless network), you can go all the way on VOIP, squeezing your traditional telephone company out of the picture almost completely.

Small wonder, then, that telephone companies are trying to get in on the act as quickly as they can, because some analysts think that the advent of Voip could be the biggest threat to BT's monopoly since privatisation.

This week, a House of Commons select committee found that BT's 70% monopoly of domestic calls was "unacceptable".
If this is true then, for once, MPs need do nothing about it - except sit back and watch internet telephony do the job of cutting BT down to size without governmental interference.

Internet phoning is already happening in Japan, where usage has exploded from next to nothing to five million people over the past year or so. The result has been claimed savings of up to 80% on telephone bills.

It is also beginning to take off in a big way in the US, where companies such as Vonage are offering low monthly subscriptions and almost unlimited free calls.

A company in France is reported to be offering multi-channel TV, 1MB of broadband and ten hours of free Voip calls for €30 per month.

A number of fledgling Voip companies in the UK - not including BT - recently joined together to form a trade association, ITSPA (Internet Telephony Service Providers Association), to push their cause, and several overseas companies, especially from the US, are expected to begin a British invasion later this year.

In other words, internet telephony could emerge as the unexpected "killer application" for broadband - indeed, it could generate a virtuous spiral. If the cost of telephone calls is kept low, that could provide a big incentive for poorer people to think about getting broadband - thereby helping to bridge the broadband digital divide.

And if internet telephoning sweeps all before it, think of what we could do with all the redundant telephone exchanges that will be lying around - like converting them into dwellings.



 
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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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