Voyager starts fax routing service over Net

Voyager has become the first local ISP to jump into the global fax market with the announcement of a service which automatically directs faxes across the Internet.

Voyager today becomes the first local ISP to jump into the global fax market, with the announcement of a service based on a $299 router which automatically directs faxes across the Internet, saving up to 50% over normal toll rates.

The Global Router, or "Grouter", has been developed by Voyager's 80% parent OzEmail under the code name “Fig Tree” and appears to be the precursor to a range of similar products and services, including Internet telephony solutions. It is available from Voyager's stand at this weekend's computer Expo in Auckland, and will also be sold through the Dick Smith's chain, with registration and $299 worth of Voyager fax call-time bundled into the price.

The router is a cellphone-sized box which sits between a fax machine (or fax modem) and telephone socket and briefly intercepts dialled numbers to determine whether the fax can be encrypted and sent over the Internet. If not, the fax call will proceed on the telephone network.

From December 15, the Voyager Fax service will be available in the Auckland, Hamilton, Napier, Palmerston North, Wellington or Christchurch local calling areas. It comes into play if the fax destination is any of those centres, plus 18 Australian cities, six major US cities, London, Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo, where fax nodes pass it on to the local PSTN. As fax nodes are established in other locations, the Global Router will be transparently updated with their addresses when it connects with the network.

"The beauty of this is that it's completely transparent -- customers don't have to change their behaviour at all," says Voyager head John O'Hara. "Our target market initially will be small to medium-sized businesses, which have been paying peak rates to send faxes during the working day. As an ISP, our off-peak time is during the day, so we can pass on those benefits."

Initially, per-minute rates for fax transmissions will be about half Telecom's peak rate, but O'Hara admits the cost sctructure of IP access leaves plenty of room for future reductions in case of competition. The IPass global roaming system also means that Voyager can pick up revenue from outsiders faxing into New Zealand. Voyager had 500 routers in stock as of last week, with another 5000 on order from Australia early next year.

Each purchaser will automatically register for Internet access with Voyager, thus bolstering the company's ISP customer base, which marketing manager Phill Dagger says has already been swelled by responses to the Voyager connectivity offer attached to the launch of NBR's Online Centre. The new fax business will mean an expansion in staff from 19 to 31 and a relocation to larger premises in the same building.

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