Mass-market Internet telephony may finally be a reality across Australia with the launch of a new "internet phone" claimed to be as simple to use and reliable as a traditional landline phone.
The new VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone from iiNet is aimed at households that want an extra phone line. Called iinetphone, it will be available bundled with iiphone and iibroadband2 at no extra charge.
Calls made from one iinetphone to another are free, all local calls are 10 cents untimed, as are calls from one capital city to another. Mobile calls are 29 cents per minute and 1300 numbers are 20 cents untimed. iiNet supplies an online calculator to determine the charges for international calls.
The VoIP modem is manufactured by Belkin and resold by iiNet in an exclusive deal.
"With the new modems from Belkin you can plug any ordinary phone into it and all the conversion is done internally so it's fairly simple to operate," said iiNet's Greg Bader.
The VoIP phones also come with voicemail and sequential ring tones -- you can have both the traditional and the VoIP phones ringing and the call will be diverted to whichever phone is picked up.
"Another attractive aspect of the iinetphone is that it is always difficult to look after our regional customers as much as we can our metro ones, but this phone enables someone in Broome to call a capital city at a much cheaper rate than they would be able to over a traditional phone line," said Bader.
The strategic move into VoIP fits in with their business plan, according to Bader.
"There are a number of reasons why we've gone down this path. The key one being that it is in line with our bigger ULL (Unbundled Local Loop) strategy and Voice over IP is an incremental product that is easy for us to implement," he said.
"But it will be a difficult thing for people to get their head around and I think that initially it will be somewhat of a niche, but I believe the world is turning towards VoIP-type telephony."
Bader said that although free VoIP solutions have their place, iiNet wanted to provide a fully compliant and reliable product.
"We want to be simple, attractive, and reliable," he said.
"You can receive calls on it. You can make calls on it. You can call people on VoIP phones and off VoIP. The call costs are all clearly laid out. We've worked closely with various regulators to make sure they are comfortable. We support 1300 numbers and emergency services."
Bader said that, unlike the free consumer VoIP calls, iiNet can assure call quality.
"The minimum broadband plan that we bundle the iinetphone with is 1.5MB, which is the fastest that Telstra and Optus currently offer," he said.
The Belkin modem also has its own inbuilt Quality Of Service (QOS).
"The main key to QOS, especially in regard to VoIP, is that you need the available bandwidth. Our own DSLAMs have very big pipes with up to 800/900Kbps upload speeds. This goes a long way towards mitigating issues that people can have with VoIP quality," Bader said.
iiNet plans to extend the offer to New Zealand by the end of the year.
The company has announced a record profit of $18.8 million for this year ending June 30. The result includes four months of contribution from OzEmail which was acquired on March 1 2005.