Free voice calls for all

Never mind free local calls, Slingshot is considering making all phone calls free under unbundling

Forget free local calls — Annette Presley, co-founder of Slingshot and CallPlus, says once unbundling is introduced she’ll be offering free voice calls.

CallPlus currently offers its iTalk service as a “best efforts second line” says Presley. But it would be able to offer much greater quality of service if it controlled the equipment in the network.

“And then, why on earth would we charge $40 a month and then charge again for calling?” Instead, Presley floated the idea of a $10 flat monthly fee, with calls to any part of the world being unmetered.

“I was in Hong Kong not long ago and there we had access to true broadband. It’s an eye-opening experience.”

Presley says the service on offer included unlimited voice calls, more TV channels than she had time to watch, broadband services including in-home wireless and a host of other offers.

“That’s the kind of thing we’ll be doing here in New Zealand once we’ve got access to the copper.”

She says these kinds of services will make the old Kiwi Share redundant and still ensure customers get more choice and better service.

CallPlus isn’t resting on its laurels now the government has decided to regulate Telecom further, she says. Instead, it’s pressing on with its WiMax rollout in Northland and trialling TV over broadband with an eye to commercial tests before Christmas.

“We’ll offer TV and movies on demand as well as broadband and voice.”

Presley is still working with the Commerce Commission, Ihug and Telecom over access to an “unconstrained bitstream” service which Ihug and CallPlus have called for

“Telecom says it can’t technically offer it, that the service just isn’t available. We don’t believe them.” Telecom launched unconstrained broadband in 1999 with its original JetStream service, albeit with a traffic limit of around 500MB a month.

Since then the company has offered newer services, but at much slower speeds. Initially, JetStream Starter was counted as a broadband service despite being only 128kbit/s. Unconstrained service runs at whatever speed the user’s line can carry, limited only by technical issues. For some users, that meant speeds of up to 6Mbit/s download and 600kbit/s up were common. Today, Telecom is still offering the original JetStream service but isn’t advertising it on its website any longer. Instead, the fastest plan available is 3.5Mbit/s download with 512kbit/s up.

“How can they offer the plan themselves but not make it available to ISPs as part of the unbundled bitstream service?” says Presley.

The government’s review of the telecommunications regime will see unconstrained bitstream offered as an entry level service once the new Telecommunications Act is introduced early next year.

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