Ihug to join voice over IP push

The voice over IP (VoIP) market is heating up. National Internet service provider Ihug is launching an IP phone service for its existing customers on March 1.

Ihug (The Internet Group) director Nick Wood agrees that while he has expressed doubts about the viability of IP telephony in the past, he says the company has developed a way of making it work. "Instead of using the Internet, where you have very little control, to deliver the product, we have developed a structure that can use Internet applications and protocols but remain separate and controllable."

Technically, it's an IP-delivered solution, but less "jerry-rigged" than IP calling platforms to date, he says. "That way, you get a quality product -- there's no discernible difference between our product and calling through, say, Telecom. Except that it uses about a sixth of the bandwidth and costs a lot less."

Meanwhile, Voyager New Zealand has launched phone cards to raise awareness and use of its VoIP system. Voyager Phone product manager Greg Hanham says voice sales have risen 2000 per cent since October last year when Voyager began to push the product. Voice quality has been improved by the use of satellite links and a large "pipe" into Australia, with priority being given to voice packets over the Voyager network. Voyager's $11 million investment in connectivity via the Southern Cross direct cable link will ensure Voyager has the bandwidth it needs for the next 30 years, he says.

Clear is still quite some way from offering IP telephony commercially, says marketing communications manager Ross Inglis, "but IP is definitely our future". An internal IP backbone trial will finish in April, to be followed by a commercial trial before any timing decisions are made. Telecom has dropped its IP plans for now.

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