BT plans to extend its hosted VoIP service from the UK to Ireland, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands this year, it announced at the CeBIT trade show in Hannover.
BT will offer two VoIP products; a fully hosted multimedia service, called MM VoIP, which gives multimedia communications using Cisco Systems IP phones, and BT VoIP Port which lets companies gain some of the benefits of IP without having to throw out their legacy TDM (time division multiplexer) PBXs (private branch exchanges) and handsets.
MM VoIP, as an IP service, does not need a PBX system. It offers services such as video telephony, where a camera on the phone captures video and displays it on the desktop, plus access to shared databases over screens on the handsets.
The Abbey is already using the MM VoIP service on 9,500 phones in 750 branches, and is a good example of what can be done, said BT Global Services head of hosted IP telephony John Blake.
It has not completely switched, still having some PBX offices, but will soon change to a completely IP network, he said.
The Abbey contract, signed in February 2003, is worth £125m over five years.
BT VoIP is more of a starter product, for companies that are not ready to go the full way down the IP path, and want to continue using existing equipment, either as part of a migration to IP or as a test run of the technology, Blake said.
Both products include a 24-hour, seven-day support service. VoIP is moving from being a cobbled-together, low-quality technology that companies and individuals managed for themselves, to a business where quality of service and management matter, and companies are willing to pay for that.
If BT can encourage customers to move from a system where they pay for a 25Kbit voice call to a 384Kbit video call, VoIP is obviously a good move, he said.
On the customer side, video calls cut down on the need for travel, and are good for building relationships with customers and suppliers, he added.
BT has chosen Ireland, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands because there is demand in those markets and because it already has networks there.
Ireland and Spain will have access by the middle of the year, while Germany and the Netherlands will follow later in the year.
Pricing for MM VoIP will be in the region of €8 to €13 a user per month, with an initial set-up fee for each user and call charges on top.
In the UK the set up fee is £20, and prices in other markets will be similar. There are, however, discounts of up to 40% available depending on the company.
Handsets are still expensive, starting at £100 a piece, but that will fall as they become commoditised.
Gillian Law writes for IDG News Service