Voyager sets VOIP course

Voyager is gearing up to heavily promote its hitherto languishing Voyager Phone voice-over-IP product - pushing what it claims are the lowest prices in the market. The company also regards what some observers have seen as its major drawback - the lack of an interconnection deal with Telecom - as a key advantage.

Voyager is gearing up to heavily promote its hitherto languishing Voyager Phone voice–over-IP product – pushing what it claims are the lowest prices in the market.

The company also regards what some observers have seen as its major drawback – the lack of an interconnection deal with Telecom – as a key advantage.

"We would not be able to offer 10 cents a minute national calls if we were interconnecting with Clear or Telecom," says Voyager's general manager Brent Smith.

Smith says the major disadvantage of the Voyager system – the need for customers to dial into a switch and enter a PIN number before dialling their destination number – has been overcome with a revamp that began last October.

While the company's old analog VIN nodes still require manual PIN entry, new digital VINs can be programmed to recognise all the numbers a customer may call from and automatically make the call. Business PABXes can also be set up to divert directly into the Voyager phone network,

The company has only four VINs in place, covering the Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton and Christchurch local calling areas. If a customer wants to make a call between those areas, he or she dials into a VIN and the call is forwarded via IP to the other city and then connected as a local call via the Telecom network. Smith says 15 new nodes are soon to be installed, and points to New South Wales, where there are 40 nodes, as an example of the eventual level of coverage planned here.

The company began eating its own dogfood late last year by effectively disconnecting from the Telecom network for distance calls. Voyager staff cannot make a Telecom toll call from the company's offices.

International calls are terminated via a network being developed by OzEmail subsidiary Interline. In the US, Australia and parts of Asia, all calls go via VOIP gateways run in partnership with ISPs wholly or partly owned by OzEmail. In other territories calls are terminated through conventional refile agreements or a mix of refile and VOIP gateways.

"Where we have a true dedicated VOIP connection we are unbelievably competitive," says Smith. "We can really mix it with the big guys."

Current prices listed on the Voyager Phone Website are 28 cents a minute for calls to the UK and most of the US, 39 cents to Ireland, 55 cents a minute to France and the Netherlands, and $1.50 or more to the Pacific Islands

Smith says Interline is negotiating with OzEmail's new owner, MCI WorldCom, to become a refile service – or calltime wholesaler – itself, in order to increase the range of its offerings.

Meanwhile the company has released new Voyager phone cards with 12-digit PIN numbers that can be used for calling. Point of sale promotional material has been distributed to retailers and the company has devised discount schemes for business users.

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