Village Makes Every Call a Local Call
a New Alternative
by Jim Bray
Reaching out and touching
people far away is about to undergo a transformation.
Thanks to the Internet,
businesses (and, down the road, consumers) now have the ability to transmit
their phone calls across the globe without (technically) paying long distance
How? Since the Internet
considers the world as one big local area, it costs no more to surf a
site in Hong Kong than it does to visit one in downtown Calgary. Transmitting
your phone calls over the Internet as well, therefore, means you can phone
"free" to wherever you like.
area code" has opened up a new opportunity for telecommunications
companies, whereby they can offer a "one stop telecommunications
solution" providing local and long distance telephone calls - and
full Internet access - using the Internet as the transmission medium.
is basically an enhanced type of "Computer Telephony," the fledgling
service with which PC users can yak across the miles via a hardware/software
solution they build into their computers - except that this new wrinkle
doesn't necessarily require the customer's phone to be plugged into a
Routing your voice
through cyberspace requires that it be digitized, which Computer Telephony
usually accomplishes inside the PC, via (depending upon the system) a
special interface card and related software. PC phoning technology also
requires "dialer" software and a microphone/speaker (or headset)
setup. The "enhanced" Internet service uses the same type of
digitization and "un-digitization," but lets you use a relatively
conventional "Internet" phone as well as a computer.
To the user, the technology
should be virtually seamless and invisible, with access to the "'Netphone
network" only requiring the addition of a one-number prefix (like
dialing "9" to get an outside line from an office building).
When you pick up the
receiver and stab at the keys to phone somebody, your call is routed through
the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) as it is normally with "The
Phone Company," except that it goes to the "'Netphone company"
and is redirected through a "Gateway" into the virtual world.
Another gateway tosses the ball back to the PSTN at the other end and
the call is received normally.
How much will it
cost? According to Network 1, an Alberta company that's hoping to offer
the service in Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver later this year, the basic
plan will start at about $30Cdn per line per month. The tab includes unlimited
calling to other customers of the "'Netphone company" and up
to 500 minutes per month of calls to people outside the network; calls
over that limit will cost between five and 10 cents per minute.
The flat rate includes
unlimited Internet access.
While $30 per month
may seem a little dear, it's actually quite competitive for long distance
calling and Internet access - and when you factor in the local service,
it could be quite attractive. In comparison, one of the "conventional"
long distance carriers in Canada, advertises a $25Cdn a month deal that
includes unlimited Internet access - though it neglects to mention in
the ads the "per minute" long distance calling charge over and
above the flat rate. And of course there's no local calling service in
The main catch with
"'Net Phoning's" flat rate is that the "unlimited"
calls may be restricted to other customers of that particular provider,
which limits the audience substantially.
On the other hand,
companies with widely separated offices could find this flat rate calling
powerfully attractive: if all offices use the same provider, they can
call each other all they want - and surf to their heart's content - for
a virtual song.
And that could be
good news for companies concerned with their bottom line.