UK telecom incumbent, BT, have released a Voice over IP (VoIP) service that they have labelled Broadband Voice. Aimed exclusively at residential customers with broadband connections, whether they be ADSL’s supplied or wholesaled by BT or cable connections, and it is designed to take the puff out of the sales of the cable providers triple-play.
The initial offering has been designed to appeal. Until 31 March 2004, customers are given a free telephone adapter, which looks like a Cisco AT-186, free service features and free evening & weekend calls, all for £7.50 (~$13, ~€11) per month, provided that you sign up for a twelve-month contract. We feel the 12-month commitment customer have to give is partially due to paying back the equipment, but is far more likely to be about BT making an early move in VoIP and trying to capture customers before competition starts.
The move to offer VoIP has surprise many observes as well as, it appears, BT themselves. When we contacted the “dedicated” Broadband Voice phone line, we were connected to the normal Broadband support line as the “dedicated line hasn’t been set up yet”. We later learnt that the service was going to be launched a week before, on the 1.Dec.03, but had to be postponed due to it not being ready. When explaining that the Web site wasn’t able to take orders currently, we were told “Problem with the site – it’s chaos here”. Only one person at the call centre had been trained and not exactly thoroughly; 1/2 day yesterday, 2 hrs the day before.
Voice over IP is now commonplace in the corporate sector, but clearly BT aren’t try to assist SME to take advantage of this. Business customers are not able to sign up for the service, but this isn’t exactly clearly signposted, being that it is only mentioned once, as item four in the terms and conditions.
The reality is that BT doesn’t really want this to be popular, as it will take away large amount of income for them; it’s a defensive move.