Internet is the future of voice communication

David Canton - For the London Free Press - October 19, 2005 Read this on Canoe

EBay's recent purchase of Skype, a popular voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) service provider, shows the Internet is the future of voice communication.

VoIP refers to telephone calls made over the Internet. Traditional telephone service is on the way out.

Skype, started in 2002 by the creators of the Kazaa file-sharing program to provide free computer-to-computer voice calls over the Internet, has 57 million customers and gets about 150,000 new users a day, most in Europe and Asia.

Skype also allows -- for a modest fee -- calling to and from people using traditional phones. Other VoIP services such as Vonage allow calling using a normal phone.

EBay purchased Skype for $2.6 billion US with the promise of an additional $1.5 billion US based on future performance.

EBay plans to use Skype software to provide free web telephone calls during its auctions.

Skype will continue to offer its existing services plus the services provided through EBay.

Critics have argued EBay paid far too much for Skype, but EBay's decision is consistent with recent activities of other Net-oriented businesses.

Microsoft recently bought Teleo, a small Internet calling company, to incorporate its technology into MSN Messenger. Microsoft also partnered with Qwest Communications International to improve VoIP services for commercial customers and with Sylantro Systems to develop enhanced software for VoIP servers and providers.

Yahoo Inc. purchased Skype's rival Dialpad Communications. Google and AOL have both created their own Net phone services. Google Talk allows voice communication and AOL has TotalTalk Net phone service.

These transactions signal a shift toward Internet-based voice communications versus traditional phone services.

Companies investing in VoIP will also profit from the exponential growth of its residential use. In 2004, there were 4.8 million residential VoIP subscribers. ISupply, an international electronics research firm, predicts that will rise to 197 million by 2010.

Telephia, a performance measurement provider for the mobile industry, found 53 per cent of households using Internet phone services have disconnected their landline phones, using VoIP only.

The advantages of VoIP in cost, features and flexibility compared to land-line phones are compelling. While there are issues with 911 abilities, the industry and the CRTC are sorting those out.

The future of voice is changing -- whether we migrate to VoIP using our traditional handsets or make our VoIP calls on our computers, PDAs or smartphones.

GeneralDavid CantonVoIP