Woosh cracks voice problem

Two years to the day after announcing voice, Woosh delivers a service that it hopes will be the start of something big

Woosh’s voice service has finally launched, nearly two years after originally intended, and COO Rich Cane is touting the service as being one of the first in the world.

Woosh is delivering its voice service as a separate channel from its broadband data service — quite a different model from the VoIP service originally envisioned.

Problems with Woosh’s technology partner, IP Wireless, meant voice wasn’t delivered by Christmas 2003, as hoped, or even by 2004, but Cane is confident that the new service will deliver a credible voice service. “Quality of service has been uppermost in our minds when developing the service,” he says.

Cane says separating out voice packets from the general flow of data across Woosh’s network means he is able to give priority to voice packets, ensuring minimal latency and jitter. “Otherwise you’d get delays, you’d get ghosting and the service just wouldn’t be there.”

Because of the back-end technology Woosh is using, Cane says the voice service is only the start of Woosh’s new found capability.

“Games, video, anything real time can now be prioritised and delivered accordingly. And it’s not just service that can be delivered that’s important. We can also pinpoint packets based on applications running and deliver data accordingly.”

Woosh will also soon be able to drop “garbage” data as it sees fit, Cane says.

“So we’re talking about viruses, about port scanning, spyware, anything that typically gets through to the user and takes up bandwidth that they don’t know about. Most users whose machines are infected with some kind of malicious code don’t know their machines are infected, but their connection is slowed right down because of all the extra traffic.”

Woosh’s upcoming network upgrade to HSPDA standard should mean the company can offer faster broadband data speeds as well. Currently Woosh offers 250kbit/s but Cane says the company will be able to offer a sustainable, rather than burstable, 500kbit/s and 1Mbit/s in the months ahead.

Woosh’s pricing plan doesn’t differentiate between commercial and residential users.

Existing Woosh customers can upgrade their connections for $99, which includes the softphone software, headset and gateway device, or for $10 can buy the softphone and headset only. New customers will pay $199 in addition to the modem.

Monthly charges for the service vary depending on the user’s data plan, but range from $20 a month to $25 a month. Woosh customers don’t need to pay Telecom’s line rental charges, currently around $40 a month.

All local calls will be free for both residential and small business users as will calls to other Woosh customers in the same region. Calls to other landlines anywhere in New Zealand or in any of the top 35 international destinations will cost a flat ten cents per minute.

Interestingly, calls to mobile phones in other countries will be up to a quarter the price of calls to mobile phones in New Zealand. Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Ernie Newman says this demonstrates clearly how high the price is that Vodafone and Telecom charge for mobile termination in New Zealand.

“The fact that calls from the Woosh network to mobiles in New Zealand will be 45 cents a minute — more than four times the cost of calls to mobiles in Europe — shows the disgraceful prices that Telecom Mobile and Vodafone are inflicting on New Zealand users for accepting calls into their networks,” he says.

“This again underlines the need for strong intervention by the Commerce Commission to bring the regulatory gaming by these companies, and this extortionate pricing, to an end.”

Newman welcomes Woosh’s entry into the voice call market, saying the new pricing model is “excellent” and hoping the service does well.

Woosh also now faces having to pay Telecom a share of the cost of providing the Telecommunications Share Obligation, formerly the Kiwi Share.

Telecom and the government negotiated the TSO in secret after the introduction of industry specific legislation in 2000 and any network operator that has an interconnection agreement with Telecom and provides both voice and data will be held liable for a portion of the cost of connecting customers who are deemed to be “commercially non-viable”. The current Minister of Communications, David Cunliffe, has said he is unhappy with the idea of charging competitors without making the TSO process more transparent and, potentially, opening it up to competitive bids and will be looking more closely at the issue should Labour retain power after the election.

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