PC-to-phone service provides 'free' transatlantic phone calls

US-based company Go2Call is using the Internet to offer "free" transatlantic calls from the UK, writes Caroline Davis

US-based company Go2Call is using the Internet to offer "free" transatlantic calls from the UK, writes Caroline Davis

The PC-to-telephone service allows calls to be made from anywhere in the world to the UK, US, Ireland, Germany and Canada. The only cost to the user is that of the Internet connection.

"The quality of the call is similar to that of a mobile phone and DSL users say they can't hear any difference from a traditional phoneline," said Jeff Stevenson, Go2Call's vice president of marketing.

However, he admits that connection speeds, the service provider connection and the amount of Internet traffic can all affect the quality. To decrease degradation, Go2Call connects directly into the Internet backbone.

Peter Hall, principal consultant at Ovum, said, "Delay is a big factor when using the public Internet. A 150ms delay can significantly impact on the quality of the call. For enterprises, it isn't just about making low-cost calls, it's about converging voice and data networks. The quality of service is much more important for a corporate."

The Go2Call system uses a server-side technology, which places most of the strain on the server rather than the user's PC. All that is required on the PC side is a downloaded, thin Java applet which grabs the audio signal and forwards it to the server. The only hardware needed is a Pentium MMX-capable PC with sound card, microphone and speaker and at least a 28.8kbps connection to the Internet.

The idea of Web-based telephony is not new and it has long been touted as the future of telecommunications and a threat to the established telecommunications companies. Hall believes that in the long-term IP (Internet Protocol) will be the basis for all telecommunications services, but he said it will be 10 to 15 years before 80% of world traffic is carried on it.

Microsoft's MSN Messenger service also offers free PC-to-phone calls from the UK to the US.

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