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Let your PC do the diallingMay 18 2002

  1. 4,330 Posts.
    http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/05/17/1021544063485.html
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    Let your PC do the diallingMay 18 2002
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    Do you want to make telephone calls from your PC? Telstra and Microsoft are betting that you do. Dan Kaufman reports.
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    The idea of using a desktop PC to make telephone calls over the Internet has never really taken off in the public imagination. Despite the promise of cheaper - if not free - interstate and international calls, and the fact that the technology has been available for quite some time, the vast majority of consumers still prefer to use a traditional telephone handset to make calls over the standard network.
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    Undeterred by this, Telstra and Microsoft have launched a four-month trial that will allow 3000 broadband users to make telephone calls from their PC to virtually any telephone in the world through the use of Microsoft's Messenger software. Don't expect a free ride, however - users of the Telstra Internet Calling Trial service will need to open a pre-paid credit card account with Telstra and pay "competitive" rates. For all calls in Australia, for example, regardless of whether they're local or STD, the rate is 40 cents for the first five minutes and 12 cents per minute after that.
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    Stuart Lee, Telstra Retail's executive director, voice and commercial, says it wasn't viable for Telstra to provide the service free and that it had to find a way of charging customers.
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    "What's been difficult for us to date with calls from the computer over the Internet was that we had to have a way of identifying the calling customer so that we could form a billing relationship - that's been the difficult part of this PC-to-phone calling," he says. "I guess there would be those in the community who would assume that we should be able to provide that free; well, that's not really a sensible business proposition because every time we terminate a call, whether it's over a VodaPhone mobile or BT's network in the UK, we have to pay that network operator a direct variable cost for the minutes of use on that network.
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    Now, we need a way to recover that cost from the caller."
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    While it's obviously yet to be seen whether the trial will be a success, elecommunications consultant Paul Budde remains sceptical.
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    "I don't think it'll work in that particular way," he says. "The key reason for VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) is the lower cost. Now if you take that out of the equation, in other words if your normal costs are the same price as the VOIP costs over your PC, then you won't see that happening. Furthermore, in the past five years, telephone charges have dropped to such an extent that there's no incentive any more for customers to do it. It's too little, too late.
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    "The other thing is that by having to go through a Microsoft program you immediately take out the majority of the market - you know, you'll always have the buffs who'll continue to use it but ordinary households or businesses are not going to use it (over a telephone handset). It's a gimmicky thing. It has failed in the past and it hasn't been successful anywhere in the world."
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    But Kevin McGregor, manager of Microsoft's network solutions group, says the service is about adding extra features for PC users rather than trying to eliminate the telephone handset altogether.
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    "By no means is this meant to replace the existing telephony system," he says. "What we are doing is trying to provide a richer user experience. Just say you're on an e-commerce site and you're trying to book your next holiday and there's a phone number on that Web page. So, without getting up or away from your desktop, you can make a phone call to that company."
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