Telecom promises to embrace Internet telephony

Telecom intends taking an “if you can’t beat them, join them” approach to telephony on the Net, according to plans outlined by the telco’s Internet services head, Chris Tyler, yesterday.

Speaking at the launch of Xtra (http://www.xtra.co.nz), Telecom’s Web site and Internet connection service, Tyler described telephony as the Net’s killer application. “Telephony over the Internet is a reality and we embrace it,” says Tyler.

Telecom seems to find nothing threatening about the potential for huge numbers of Internet users to begin using the worldwide network for making international calls at local call prices, plus the cost of their Net connection. “There’s a lot of investment going into Internet telephony,” Tyler says, and combined with other means of Net communications, including email and FTP, it will be one of the major drivers of Internet use.

Telecom’s attitude is in sharp contrast to telcos in the US, where America's Carriers Telecommunication Association (ACTA), an industry body representing 130 long-distance phone companies, is lobbying the government to regulate Internet telephony. However, their fears of lost revenue may take some time to be realised since despite the money being spent on developing Net telephony tools, the technology is still far from ready for a mass market.

A major issue is the incompatibility of many of the products so far available, although more than 100 Internet telephony vendors, led by Microsoft and Intel, have announced plans to support industry standards for voice over the Internet to relieve some of the interoperability headaches.

The vendors say they will deliver a new common implementation later this year based on International Telecommunications Union (ITU) standards and Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) specifications.

Aside from signalling Telecom’s intention to promote Internet telephony, Tyler talked about further Internet services the telco plans to deliver. Among them:

--A Web site hosting and design service;

--Intranet and data warehousing services;

--An extension of its fledgling online commerce service - which initially merely enables credit card purchases of Xtra merchandise - to other merchants with payment via the Telecom billing system.

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