Telcos paranoid about losing out to VoIP

By Sarah Falson

COOLUM, Qld: Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) penetration continues to grow but not at the rate initially expected, according to an expert who addressed Mediaconnect’s Kickstart Forum at the Hyatt Regency in Coolum on Sunday.

“There are currently 3.5 million broadband subscribers in Australia, with only 20,000 with MyNetFone VoIP subscriptions,” said MyNetFone technical director, Rene Sugo.

“The growth potential is enormous, but in our eyes the mass market has been moving slowly.”

VoIP’s crawling take-up is due to a number of factors, including confidence, technical fear and money, said Sugo.

“We’re seeing barriers in the consumer market because there isn’t a general understanding of the technology. If you start a conversation with someone about VoIP, it’s generally a long conversation,” he said.

According to Sugo, the essence of VoIP is extremely interactive, meaning consumers who fear technology along with slow adopters are loath to subscribe.

Furthermore, even though Skype, for instance, is free to download, VoIP still costs money to set-up.

“If you don’t want to use Skype you can buy an ATA device, for approximately $100, or you can get a free one bundled with a contract, but then you’re locked in to that contract,” said Sugo.

“But even so, VoIP still saves you money.”

According to Sugo, retail staff should not focus on the set-up costs but instead they should sell the outcome.

On the other hand, the barrier affecting VoIP take-up in the SOHO/SME market is different, with businesses rejecting the technology because it doesn’t allow them to keep their established phone numbers.

MyNetPhone will soon offer its subscribers the option to transfer existing phone numbers to VoIP accounts, like mobile phone carriers have been able to do for some time. Initially this will be offered to businesses, with consumers likely to follow.

“People know phone numbers. If the business has been around for a while, changing their phone number could loose them business. Businesses are worried about keeping their customers happy. Number portability will be coming within the next year.”

According to Sugo, businesses with up to two phone lines can save $1000 a year on phone calls by switching to VoIP.

But the slow take-up of VoIP is also a fault of its enemies, who are the traditional phone line carriers, said Sugo.

“Traditional telcos are offering very aggressive lock-in deals to consumers and businesses which sows that there are paranoid. Telcos are especially paranoid about losing-out in the high-end of town – the businesses,” he said.

“Telcos are now locking in business customers with ultra-low deals that last for three to five years.”

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