Callserve Communications Ltd Friday launched what it claims is Europe’s first voice over internet protocol (VoIP) telephony service aimed at consumers. The idea is to provide a high quality, low cost international telephony service, but questions have been raised about how well the service will be able to perform and how cheap it actually will […]
Callserve Communications Ltd Friday launched what it claims is Europe’s first voice over internet protocol (VoIP) telephony service aimed at consumers. The idea is to provide a high quality, low cost international telephony service, but questions have been raised about how well the service will be able to perform and how cheap it actually will be.
Callserve boasts that its PC-to-phone service can provide voice calls up to 60% cheaper than British Telecommunications Plc, and that it will charge only 3 pence ($0.05) per minute for calls from the UK to the US, against BT’s 20 pence ($0.33) rate. But users will also be paying per minute to dial up their internet service provider, at between 1 and 4 pence per minute. Although this combined price is still cheaper than BT, there are several international call providers that offer prices of 3 pence per minute for the same call via telephone and code-prefix access. Similarly, some carriers advertise rates of 5 pence per minute from the UK to Australia, whereas Callserve offers 7 pence, before dialup costs are taken into consideration.
The reason for this could perhaps be the way the system works. Users download client software for free, which they can then use to dial the required number. Voice data travels over the internet only as far as Callserve’s gateway servers in London’s Docklands, after which they are transferred to the regular telephony network before going to, say, New York. As more gateways are added to Callserve’s service, the distance a conversation travels on the internet will grow longer and prices should drop, said Callserve. This will also allow PC-to-PC VoIP. The first gateways are planned for Paris, Frankfurt and a handful of other European cities shortly.
It is also uncertain how well the system will be able to cope with great demand. Implementation director Martin Beard admitted that the system would not be able to cope with a massive influx of new users. It appears that the company is keen to be first to market with a VoIP product. It reckons its software will be pre-installed on two million new PCs by Christmas, but has yet to finalize deals with any manufacturers.
In addition to the consumer market place, which is the firm’s main target, Callserve hopes to sell to businesses that conduct business over the web. The VoIP service could replace call me buttons on a web site with options for customers to talk directly to sales or support hotlines via their PCs, with the company picking up the bill (for Callserve’s service, at any rate).
Callserve is a London-based firm, less than a year old, founded by Richard Kuttner, a former media executive, and Paul Duffy, former IT consultant with 20 years in the business.