Like the tide and King Canute, technology waits for no-one. Telecom, Voyager, and ICONZ have been running Internet telephony trials now for months on end and they are no closer to opening it up to the public, it seems, than they were months ago. Enter Internet Tele-phone Technology (ITT), a small but technically savvy company, and the Vox Box.
The Vox Box is not quite as seamless as the promised services from Telecom et al, but it is here now, it works and it’s cheap. Basically, you hook the Vox Box up to both your computer and your telephone. You log on to the Internet via your usual ISP. Then you surf over to the Global Gateway Group Web site and enter your account and PIN numbers. Then, voila, you pick up the telephone, dial an overseas number and start talking. The voice quality can be a bit dodgy, but certainly good enough for a intelligible conversation. However, the real winner is the cost. You can talk to someone in the US, regardless of the time of day, for 39 cents per minute (plus your regular ISP charge). The UK costs 57 cents per minute, while a call to Germany, for example, sets you back 71 cents per minute. The Vox Box itself costs $310 ex GST.
Guy King, a director of ITT, says he is not quite ready to distribute the Vox Box via resellers. “Although the technology is relatively straightforward, we’ve had problems in the past with resellers just selling the item with no support. Hence we end up with a heap of support calls. So we are handling sales ourselves until we come to an agreement with our channels.”
The reason that the Vox Box is stealing the march on the big guys is that the billing system is based on the model set up by the Global Exchange Carrier’s Global Gateway Group (GGG). The billing is handled locally by ITT and is standardised across the various nodes according to GGG protocols. Online access to account information is scheduled to start in the near future.
In fact, according to Mark Wierzbicki, communications product manager for Telecom XTRA, billing has been one of the major stumbling blocks for their Internet telephony trial. “The technology works fine, but it’s the surrounding infrastructure that still needs work,” says Wierzbicki. “We’ve had to extend the trial to iron out billing problems. We still need to ascertain how people will react to an integrated billing programme.” When asked when Telecom planned to go public with their service, Wierzbicki replied that “the rollout schedule will depend on competition as much as anything. If the competition offers something, we’ll revisit our timetable”.
Voyager, also running a trial, should be rolling out their programme in four to six weeks. Ozemail, Voyager’s Australian parent, has been offering the service in Australia for a couple of months now.
Although the Vox Box still requires a computer and Internet link, it does not require a full-duplex sound card nor a microphone and you can call to any phone connected to the PSTN. It is great for overseas calls, but domestic calls are not cost effective so far.
“We have a client, a freight forwarder, who has saved the price of the Vox Box in the first two weeks of operations,” says King.
“Plus we have a number of options for larger clients who might have more complex requirements.”
Although Internet telephony still hasn’t taken the world by storm, the convergence between voice and data is slowly gaining momentum.
Contact ITT at 0-9-575 2018.