This morning BT launched a campaign to offer cable broadband users a Voice-over-IP (VoIP) service which allows voice calls to be made via the use of their broadband connection. As with most services being launched, this is not actually anything new in technology terms--VoIP is already in use by a small user group, but this is a move that could indicate the beginning of widescale individual VoIP deployment.
BT claims its Broadband Voice package will allow users to save up to 57% of calls to mobiles and 25% on daytime calls to UK landlines (compared to calling Vodafone mobiles in the evenings and local/national calls with Telewest Talk Evening & Weekends plans respectively) and cable users can now choose to call via BT through their cable lines. Users of this service will receive an adaptor to plug into their telephone line into which they plug their ordinary telephone.
This service is initially being targeted at areas with heavy NTL/Telewest cable broadband users but anyone is welcome to subscribe to the service as long as they have a compatible router and touch tone telephone. The adaptor required costs £60 but until the end of March, users can get it free (with a 12 month contract). The service costs £7.50 per month with free evening/weekend calls (up to an hour, subject to restrictions) with daytime calls at 3p/min (minimum charge applies). A free 0800 support line is provided to help users.
The quality of VoIP services has been rather disappointing so far as many companies try and cut costs by reducing the quality of the lines, but implemented properly, VoIP should present a clear alternative to traditional voice calls over the PSTN network. Users should therefore not be deterred from trying new VoIP services.
VoIP as a technology is going to drive down the cost of voice communications in the next couple of years as integration between IP and switched networked is becoming fuzzy. For BT's shareholders, the good news is that the company has realised this is the future of telecommunications, both within telco network and end user levels.
More information (and terms and conditions) available at http://www.bt.com/broadbandvoice [seb]
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