Ecademy Wifi and Wireless Trusted Network

Ecademy Wifi and Wireless Trusted Network

Last night (23rd March 2005) there was a meeting of the Wireless section of Ecademy which was all about VoIP with presentations from Vonage UK and Gossiptel.

It will be interesting to see how well Vonage do in the UK as the European telecoms model is different from that in the US, especially regarding termination charges (i.e. in the UK you cant escape them). However they do have an interesting story and are coming out with some interesting devices (WiFi handsets, video sets etc). Vonage offer a residential service at £9.99 per month for unlimited calls to the UK and Irelend, and £18.99 for the business service which includes a fax line. You can buy extra services like virtual phone numbers, soft phone support and fax service.

Gossiptel are concentrating on the so called prosumer (i.e. high level consumer) but it's basically a SIP service like Vonage with a web based configuration system. The basic service is free, but you pay for PSTN calls, then you can get some pre-paid services (World 500 and World Unlimited for £9.99 and £19.98 respectively). With the free service you get an inbound 0870 number (which in the UK is known as a non-geographic national rate number i.e. Gossiptel receive revenue when people call it). The World plans give you the same features but you can also choose a geographic number (i.e. 01/02 number ranges). Call pricing outside your call plans is charged at 1.5p pm for World services and 2.5p pm for the free service. Gossiptel don't care how you access the service and can use any SIP compliant phone (soft or hard) and they'll even support multiple end-devices (so you could have a phone at home and the office and they'll both ring when a call comes in). There was a brief mention of ITSPA (though this was glanced upon due to time constraints, Gossiptel were founders of ITSPA).

VoIP hasn't really taken off in the UK, ITSPA say there are about 10 - 15,000 users (maybe that means users of ITSPA members), Wanadoo probably have near enough double that themselves. Of course it doesn't take any Skype users into account and currently Skype, Vonage or Wanadoo are not members. However CPS services have taken off in the UK.

CPS is carrier pre select, which allows a telephony customer to utilise another carrier for all their calls. There are quite a few CPS services including One.tel (who are owned by Centrica the gas utility), TalkTalk (from the Carphone Warehouse), SkyTalk (from BSkyB) and Tele2 (actually both of the last two are actually provided by THUS, but Sky/Tele2 handle all the customer side of things, THUS just provide the telco services).

Many of these are offering unlimited (UK) calls for under £10.00 a month, they are also offering cheap international/mobile calls and DSL bundles etc. Since it's carried over the PSTN, the customer knows they're getting good quality calls, none of the random quality associated with a VoIP which in reality is likely to be a VoDSL call (which really means consumer ADSL provided by BT whhich is 512K down 256K up at 50:1 contention with no QoS guarantees).

I asked the question "how were BT's 21 Century Network plans going to affect the VoIP providers?" and didn't really get any sensible responses. That's probably because people don't yet really understand the implications of them and how they make every UK Altnet and ISP a BT reseller.

BT are making major changes by introducing 21CN, it WILL be great for the consumer, IP into every exchange and probably every house, but it WILL also have a major effect on everyone else. For once in their life BT have got it right (in terms of what they're doing), as everything moves to IP, it doesn't really matter whether a call is local or long distance (in UK terms) so why charge for it, they'll bundle unlimited calls in with the line rental along with IP connectivity etc. By the time they roll-it out, they'll also have a full triple play including IPTV.

BT are stating they'll start rolling out by 2006 and turn off the PSTN by 2009, I'd guess those dates are pessimistic and the roll-out's already happening.

Watch out UK

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