Esat BT plans consumer VoIP offering for October


30 Jul 2004

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Having already implemented the first phase of its voice-over internet protocol (VoIP) offering for corporate customers with multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) network technology, Esat BT is planning to introduce VoIP services to its 10,000 DSL customers in October, siliconrepublic.com has learned.

We have also learned that the company is looking at introducing specific DSL, Wi-Fi and VoIP bundles before Christmas.

Esat BT chief executive Bill Murphy (pictured) told siliconrepublic.com that the company is anxious to usher in the final arrival of converged solutions and is at present actively trying to establish Wi-Fi roaming agreements with other hotspot providers such as Bitbuzz, O2 and Eircom.

Earlier this week Esat BT announced plans to consolidate its Wi-Fi subscription pagkages into a single, new €40 monthly subscription tariff that reduces the cost by 70pc.

Challenged on the fact that this could be construed as a move by Esat BT to clear the decks for additional offerings to Wi-Fi, Murphy agreed. “Broadband is gradually becoming all-pervasive. What’s critical to that is to have a strategy for people to communicate voice or data wherever they are. The big thing for a mobile worker who gets to a location is that they don’t want to spend lots of money but simply to get online. Corporate workers want a cap on the price of that service. €40 is a good product pricepoint.

“In the Autumn you are going to see a lot of developments in terms of Esat BT blending the wireless and fixed world at home and on the move. We want to give them VoIP as well. People sitting at their PCs at home or out and about will want to make phone calls while they work. We see this as a wonderful opportunity to forward the convergence agenda,” Murphy said.

At present in the UK, BT OpenZone is currently striving to forge roaming agreements with other providers such as T-Mobile, which has 500 hotspots across the UK. BT already has a roaming agreement with The Cloud, the UK’s largest Wi-Fi network with over 4,000 hotspots.

Murphy explained: “We’ve taken a proactive stance to see if we can create roaming agreements with other providers. We’ll wait and see. There are some providers that are being very proprietary about roaming. We have reached out to other providers and we’ll wait and see. Looking at the example of The Cloud in the UK and the inspired work that they have done I am confident a roaming agreement can be concluded before the year is out.”

Emer Kennedy, VoIP product manager at Esat BT, told siliconrepublic.com that the first VoIP applications available to Esat BT’s 10,000 DSL customers will be ready to go for a tentative target of October, but could possibly be delayed to November.

“We are preparing a hosted voice platform that would allow people to make lower cost calls over their PC, local area network or on a traditional phone wired to the service. Users of the service could call one another on the Esat BT network or could break out into the traditional PSTN network,” Kennedy explained.

Kennedy told siliconrepublic.com that the third phase of Esat BT’s VoIP rollout will involve SMEs. “Because corporate players can have high quality levels on MPLS networks we were able to immediately hit that market with offerings. Because the 10,000 DSL residential users are likely to use VoIP for personal reasons, we felt that SMEs with DSL connections will need to have a stringent standard of quality for business calls over VoIP and we’ll need to put in place service level agreements and that takes time. We estimate our first SME VoIP products will be ready for the market in January,” she said.

By John Kennedy