Seven of Japan's ISPs to roll out IP telephony services

Seven of Japan's major Internet service providers (ISPs), with a total of more than two million broadband Internet subscribers,...

Seven of Japan's major Internet service providers (ISPs), with a total of more than two million broadband Internet subscribers, are expected to start Internet Protocol (IP) telephony trials in December, hoping to commercialise the services by the second quarter of next year.

As the Japanese government decided to distribute 11-digit dial-up numbers starting with 050 for IP networks as early as this month, the ISPs plan to provide 050 telephone numbers, which allow users to receive incoming calls from fixed-line users.

Four ISPs, KDDI, NEC, Japan Telecom and Matsushita, which formed a consortium to promote broadband Internet businesses in June, have reached an agreement to allow their IP telephony users to call each other's customers.

KDDI is expected to be the first to start a trial service for asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) and fibre to the home users in December, and NEC, Japan Telecom and Matsushita will follow by the first quarter next year.

KDDI's 1,000 trial members will be able to call other IP telephony users for free, and be charged ¥8.5 (four pence) per three minutes for a domestic fixed-line call and ¥10 to ¥40 per minute for an international fixed-line call.

A monthly fee of ¥390 and the rental fees, ranging from ¥190 to ¥500 for a modem or an adaptor, are free during the trial, which ends in March.

Consortium members plan to commercialise their services by April with different price rates, but intend to allow IP telephony users to call within the four ISPs for free, said KDDI spokesman Fumiyoshi Kitayama.

Japan's largest ISP, Nifty, which is owned by Fujitsu, NTT and Sony, will each start offering subscribers a trial IP telephony service next month. As soon as all three companies are in the service, they will jointly allow each ISP member to communicate with each other via voice over IP (VoIP) networks.

For the trial, each will collect about 10,000 ADSL users and allow them to call subscribers to all three ISPs and fixed-line users in Japan for free, said Nifty spokesman Takashi Sugiyama.

The three companies hope to switch the trial to a commercial service by the second quarter of next year. Price rates will vary for the three ISPs.

While KDDI, NEC, Japan Telecom and Matsushita said they hope to expand their IP telephony connectivity outside the consortium in the future, Fujitsu's Nifty, NTT and Sony also intend to approach other ISPs.

Yahoo! Japan has been offering a commercial IP telephony service for its ADSL subscribers since April through its subsidiary BB Technologies. The service also allows users to call fixed-line users in Japan and overseas and other Yahoo! Japan members. BB Technologies is also applying for 050 numbers.

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