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Net Phones Taking Off in the Third World 173

dipfan writes "Internet telephone technology is surging in popularity and starting to make a big dent in telephone revenues in the Third World, for a simple reason: cost. A call from Honduras to the US over the net is just 5 or 10 cents a minute at an internet cafe, compared with $1+ a minute through a telco, reports the Washington Post, which compares the situation to the US where internet telephony "is used mostly by college students and geeks" who have the time and energy to install the software."
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Net Phones Taking Off in the Third World

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  • Bandwith (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BrianGa ( 536442 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @10:07AM (#3373236)
    Be careful of bandwith issues. Bandwidth will always be a problem. No matter how much bandwidth you add, no matter how big you make your highways, no matter how much oil you drill, people will always use as much as you make, even if it means wasting it or creating enough traffic to degrade the whole thing. There is no substitute for efficiency. A better license can compensate for inferior technology to only a minor degree.
    • Re:Bandwith (Score:2, Interesting)

      by duffbeer703 ( 177751 )
      Current market conditions do not support your assumptions.

      There is such a glut of bandwidth right now, telecom carriers do not anticipate adding additional fiber until 2010.
      • Re:Bandwith (Score:2, Interesting)

        This is bullsh*t. There is a HUGE glut of long haul fibre, but the metro areas are dying for more bandwidth. The congestion in places like NYC and DC is terrible. Does it matter if there's a glut of long haul fibre, if there is a "traffic jam" in your city?

        nortel / lucent / cisco are all selling metro optical gear a healthy pace. They are not selling any long haul fibre.

        The fibre "glut" is one of the biggest fallacies of the early 21st century.
        • Re:Bandwith (Score:3, Informative)

          by duffbeer703 ( 177751 )
          Not quite.

          The telecoms, in case you haven't noticed, are all in the process of going out of business. Industry giants like AT&T and Global Crossing are beginning the slow slide into bankruptcy and decline.

          Metro optical gear is selling like hotcakes because the equipment allows companies to maintain their network without paying a huge premium to an upstream provider. Why should a firm pay $6000/mo for a connection when you can buy a $50,000 laser that has no monthly cost?

          • A nitpick, but there's ALWAYS a monthly cost. Think "Hiring a Network Admin to maintain it."
            • Again, there's a lot of basic ignorance of all the business issues here on slashdot. The above poster has a clue.

              OM&P = Operations, Maintenance, and Provisioning. These issue are central to any techology that a Teleco buys / sells.

              Again Total cost != Price.

              Also, most places do not have the infrastructure to pay for the OM&P. That is why they will pay 6k a month for the service.

              Remember the CFO makes more techology decisions than the CIO / CTO.

              • This is true.

                But, optical networks remove alot of the overhead of frame-relay or atm links from big telecom companies.

                Once you install a short-haul optical networking or other wireless technology, it is just another link in your LAN or MAN. We've been running a pilot to link government agencies in the state capitol with good results (and low ongoing expenses)

                In a medium to large organization, the existing IT staff combined with a maintainence contract can handle most issues as they come up.

    • Latency (Score:2, Informative)

      by SloppyElvis ( 450156 )
      In my admittedly limited experience with internet telephony, I have found that latency has been more of a problem than bandwidth. Presumably, your cyber cafes or universities are going to have enough bandwidth to support people using the internet for telephone use. After all, file sharing consumes more bandwidth than streaming voice does, and practically every geek on campus has been exploiting that technology. Compression of telephone-range frequency is good, because the frequency range required is not broad in the general sense of the term. I'm not pretending to be an expert here, but this is the impression I have gathered from my readings (so flame it up, if you have to)

      However, IMHO, I have found it annoying to speak with people over the internet for the reason that the tempo of a conversation is often broken by having to wait for the person on the other side of the line to hear what you just said. I've taken this to be a latency-related issue, but hey I could be mistaken. At any rate, I'll stick with the telephone for now.
  • With enough upstream bandwidth not only will telcos be hurt but also content providers. You think the artificial 128k limit is there for any other reason? There is decades worth of dark fiber just laying in wait till the telcos and cable companies figure out how to charge you for it. The cost of the future infrastructure is mostly paid for though, they'll be sure to get their money back somehow.
    • Currently the cost of switching equipment to hook up that dark fiber is still outrageous. I may be able to get an unopened FORE Systems OC3 ATM card for my PC off of Ebay for $10, but the telco isn't going to get that price. They need port density, support, reliability, features, etc.

      Cisco, Lucent, Nortel, etc. equipment for high-speed fiber is EXPENSIVE.
      • I don't think it would be as expensive if the telcos were buying the equipment needed for the fiber laid. This is all about supply and demand. The telcos wanted to milk their customers, the networking hardware companies wanted to milk the telcos, and the rest of the industry is busy whacking off eachother in one furious circle jerk to bankruptcy. The markup on some of the cisco/juniper/etc switches is insane even including r&d. Look at cisco, how many people do they employ, 10's of thousands? There is 0 reason for that many people for a single sector tech company. Most of the cost of the gear is for admin assistants and junior web designers wasting away in some obscure psuedo-functionary justification for some hyper inflated budget.
    • You think the artificial 128k limit is there for any other reason?

      How much bandwidth do you think your cellphone is using? It's a lot less than 128K. The real issue limiting VoIP use is QoS, including latency.

      Now, video-phone technology is certainly being limited by the limits on upstream bandwidth. But the market for that has so far been pretty limited.

  • User demographics (Score:3, Insightful)

    by svindler ( 78075 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @10:08AM (#3373244) Homepage
    I use Yahoo! Messenger to talk to a friend in the US regularly.
    I "call" from Denmark, and he is not a college student.
    Does that mean Denmark is a third world country or is my friend a geek?
    • Well, that's a tough choice.

      You read slashdot, so your friend is by proxy somewhat likely to be a geek.

      And about the 3rd world part..

      Are you in Jutland or Sealand?

      -Dennis in Copenhagen
    • I use Yahoo Messenger to talk to friends in sweden and germany.... works great.

      I started using it as even though i have an acceptable /minute rate to europe (given that i only call once every few months) - one time I had difficulty getting the call to complete, so i called up the long distance op (00) and asked her to place the call for me as i couldnt get it to connect.

      Then I received my bill, over $2.50 /min. WHAT!! It was never that high before. I called them up and started bitching, er escalating the issue. It turns out that sice I called the op (00) and had "assistance" placing the call that the rate went through the roof. UNACCEPTABLE I told MCI - no way am I paying this. I told them that no matter what was I accepting the rates for this call as had they told me of the incredible increase I would not have made the call, further that if it had been a decent rate I would be happy to pay it - but since they were raping me for 2.5/min they could kiss my ass. and I want a refund on my bill.

      They agreed to give me the refund. FIVE TIMES. but they kept billing me for it - and never actually refunded me the amount. So I didnt pay them and switched to sprint - and make all my calls overseas via yahoo messenger.

      I used to work for a VOIP co, and know a lot of cheap VOIP methods etc... but nothing beats totally free Yahoo. and the quality is good enough, especially since its free....
  • Obvious (Score:2, Insightful)

    by morie ( 227571 )
    It is cheap, so who's going to use it first? People with little money! When I was a student, I always knew where to get my bargains as well (now my time is worth more than the discount I recieve), and most of these people have a lot less to spend!

    I am not particulary surprised at this.

    • Or people with lot of money that want to have even more money. Rich people don't get rich by spending. :)

    • When I was in Kiev - I used several VoIP - especially the options which dialed numbers in the US for almost free (AolPhone and another which I forget)

      Obviously they intenede to mke money on Ads - but the demographics - Third World Cafe users - probably aren't very promising to advertisers.\\This must explain the restructuring and otherwise discontinuation of those systems.

      In the US - most cellphones are National Plans with cheap rates at night - I presume the people who would have wanted to chat cheap here - just use their cells - I do.

  • Telephone Companies (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dead Penis Bird ( 524912 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @10:09AM (#3373261) Homepage
    And the telephone companies wonder why they are losing customers. They cannot compete against Internet telephony with regard to price. Why the telcos still charge those kind of rates always puzzled me, especially since calls are no routed by computers, at little cost.

    This is good for a lot of these countries, since families often have relatives scatteered around the globe, and can use a low cost method to stay in touch (besides written communication, of course).
    • I am disturbed by the serious lack of understanding of basic Telecom on Slashdot. Why do people pay for USD 20 + for basic service (dial tone) in the US? Simple. It works and is never down. You want 911 on a DSL line. No Way. I am not trusting my family's safety to some DSL line.

      3rd world countries are going to use the internet for phones, but it won't catch on a for a while (many many years) here in the US. The US is quality sensitive.

      How many people have tried to unplug your land line and have just a cell phone. It sucks, even in areas where coverage is good.

      Remember, the Telecom industry considers ethernet an immature techology.

      Telecoms are in trouble because the margins on Data products are a lot less than voice products. As they increased the mix of data products to stay competive, their margins went to the crapper.

      • How many people have tried to unplug your land line and have just a cell phone. It sucks, even in areas where coverage is good.

        I've done this and it doesn't suck at all. My coverage is great; I can make and take calls wherever I go. The quality of the line isn't that much different either.

        And no telemarketing calls.

        I'm glad I dropped my land line for a cell.

      • I've dropped my land line for a cell, and am thinking real hard about getting rid of that for pure VoIP when the (two-year) contract runs out in a few months -- I keep it turned off most of the time anyhow, as I hate getting calls when I'm trying to work. All I really need is an answering service and outgoing VoIP -- I always have bandwidth; need it for my work. (My reason for getting the cell phone in the first place was having a phone that wouldn't get a new number every time I moved, which I do about twice a year, sometimes more; VoIP does this just fine, and should be about half the price).

        I don't care about 911 -- never had to call it once, and I can't think of a plausible case where calling 911 and waiting/hoping for a useful response would be a better way to take care of my safety and that of those I live with than taking affirmative action anyhow. That is to say: if your family's safety depends on 911, your family isn't very safe.
    • by Nurlman ( 448649 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @10:52AM (#3373546)
      I don't know abotu Africa, but in a lot of developing countries, the state-owned telco monopoly is also the gatekeeper of internet connectivity.

      I've had personal experience with the Republic of Palau in the Western Pacific. Palau National Commuinications Corp. owns the phone system, and also runs Palaunet, the only ISP on the island. (Good luck getting another ISP in when PNCC owns the access to the lines.)

      Result: internet telephone calls are prohibited on Palaunet. (It's easy-- watch for bi-directional high-bandwitdth traffic, instead of uni-directional. So simultaneously uploading and downloading on a P2P will get your account a once-over, but that's life in the Third World.) Instead, you're forced to pay the egregiously expensive long distance voice rates.

      Internet telephony only works if you've got an open communications industry. That's not true in a lot of developing countries, where the Government is footing the bill for all infrastructure, and wants to keep control of it for economic or political reasons.
  • Speaking from personal experience, my stepfather (in Virginia) uses VoIP to talk to his brother in England. And it's not just because of cost (since both of them are senior-level managers at a telco and a hardware vendor, respectively), but also because most of the time, they're online and in front of their computers anyway.

  • Living in Germany and calling back home to my folks in Australia, I can substantially reduce my telephone costs from .80 Euro a minute to .05 Euro a minute simply by dialling a code to use a different operator (OneTel in this case)
    This is by no means a situation limited to my location, cheap providers of overseas calls exist all around the world. Having experimented with telephone calls over the internet, I found my current option to be far more practical (since I can use it from any landline) and convinient.

    All it takes is some quick research to find out the cheapest provider for your needs (a service a local computer mag kindly provides every fortnight)
  • So now everyone will have to face the reality that telephone service has been overcharging for years. Not only that but the internet can offer the same service for less money.

    Say bye bye telcos. I hope those third world countries really save enough money from these large first world corporations to make a quality lifestyle change. I hope they take this opportunity to manage their own services and dont let USA bully and sanction and threaten their way into corporate control of the new technologies there.
    • Re:ABOUT TIME (Score:5, Informative)

      by letxa2000 ( 215841 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @10:28AM (#3373395)
      Say bye bye telcos.

      That's what I've been saying for years. VoIP, while still definitely in its infancy, is just as much the future undoing of the LD industry as P2P is the undoing of the (current) music industry.

      I hope those third world countries really save enough money from these large first world corporations to make a quality lifestyle change. I hope they take this opportunity to manage their own services and dont let USA bully and sanction and threaten their way into corporate control of the new technologies there.

      I'm an American but currently live in Mexico. I don't know what you're talking about in terms of "these large first world corporations." If you are implying that American telco companies are robbing the poor in third world countries you are sadly mistaken--at least in Mexico.

      Mexico has a terrible telephone monopoly, "Telmex." It historically has terrible quality and their prices are outrageous. It costs about 80 cents per minute for me to call the U.S. but only about 15 or 20 to call from the U.S. to Mexico. And Telmex is entirely a Mexican monopoly.

      In fact, a few years ago the phone monopoly was "broken" by the Mexican government and competition was introduced. Both MCI and AT&T entered the market, and we even have competition in local service in many parts of Monterrey. However, Telmex is still the monopoly. Since most people get their phone lines with Telmex they generally get new subscribers to sign-up for their LD service. AT&T and MCI are at a distinct disadvantage and have even considered leaving the Mexican market because Telmex maintains its monopoly in fact, if not in law.

      As is usually the case, problems in the third world--political and economic--are NOT the fault of the U.S. or other first-world countries. They are almost always the fault of powers closer to home. In this case, telco providers in Latin America make a killing because they either have a government-mandated monopoly, or the government allows competition but silently supports the original monopoly by not encouraging the competition or forcing the monopoly to act in non-monopolistic ways.

      • Yeah I remember back in the mid 80's being in a Ford plant's telco/server room and asking my guide about a piece of equipment I had never seen before, turns out it was a piece of telco switching equipment, telmex was so bad that Ford had it's own private telephone co for talking to their mexican plants!
      • I concur. In Brasil, where I lived for a couple of years, there is a minimal presence of US telco companies. The big monopoly is TeleBras which charges outrageous fees to even hook a phone up to your house. In the US where we take cheap connection fees (I think it averages about $60.00 to run a phoneline to your house in most locals) we have no concept of what many people in the world are paying for phone service. If I remember correctly it was about the equivelant of $1000.00 us to have a phone line ran to your house in Brasil.

        It is ridiculous to blame first world telcos for prices when it is the local telcos giving the shaft to the local people.

    • While long distance carriers are already in trouble telcos that own the physical plant (the actual phone lines) are still in good shape. While their margins may shrink we still need them to maintain the plant.

      Smart telcos will stop differentiating between phone and data service and provide one pipe with a protocol that supports both high latency/high bandwidth applications like internet access and low latency/low bandwidth applications like telephony. DSL is already kinda like that, except that it is viewed as an add-on rather than an integral part of the service.

      The key part is integrated billing, where the bandwidth is not differentiated between data and phone services.
  • by petree ( 16551 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @10:13AM (#3373297) Journal
    It's about time we actually used this bandwidth towards something useful. This will most likely do one of two things:

    1) Decrease the costs of traditional telephone service because they will need to compete with net based services.

    2) Increase the costs associated with connections to the internet, because as people use more, the costs for everyone goes up.

    I'm not sure which will actually occur, but I bet with services such as this [] around, you'll see a lot of broadband companies upset because they will want their piece of the action. If the average user starts using his/her connection for phone services too instead of just downloading, why are people so confused when they hear about price increases such as this []. To me, it just makes sense, more people will use it for more things==service costs more to provide.

    Now I'm just waiting for some level of QOS to implemented world wide for this sort of thing, that way my phone call doesn't wait for your warez. Know what I mean?

  • 14c a minute here (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tanveer1979 ( 530624 )
    Here in India by telco its around 1$/min but on the net it is 14c and prices are dropping and soon may get to about 5c/min, I just hope quality improves :-)
    • Re:14c a minute here (Score:4, Interesting)

      by slykens ( 85844 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @10:56AM (#3373570)
      I have an office in India to which I deliver VoIP via a private network connection for call center use. I estimate our minimum per minute cost to be less than $0.01 including equipment and line charges. (Assuming 100% utilization, even if we come down to 40% utilization we're at $0.025/min)

      And on top of that our voice quality is US toll quality or better, even with the quater second delay. If it were not illegal I would interconnect to the Indian PSTN and sell a calling card using excess capacity on my system.

      It *is* possible for the telcos to embrace VoIP or a similar packet voice technology and integrate it into their SS7 or ISDN networks. Other than corruption of the PTTs I don't see why it isn't being done to lower costs and improve quality where appropriate.

      • The advantage that I see about commercial VoIP services is that the low rates are perfect for someone making calls TO the US. Whenever I see rate charts for International services to other countries, they are always very high (at least for India). They are about the same as what a good deal from a local long distance company provides. Is there a better service that gives better rates for calls going to other countries from the United States? I'm sure there is a way to set this up yourself instead of relying on those service providers.
  • hmmm.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bemis ( 29806 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @10:15AM (#3373306) Homepage
    seems odd that telco's would look at the popularity of "cheap" online alternatives and be upset, as opposed to altering their pricing schemes to be more appealing to "the populaces" ... ... just my two centabos.
    • seems odd that telco's would look at the popularity of "cheap" online alternatives and be upset, as opposed to altering their pricing schemes to be more appealing to "the populaces"

      For years, telcos in developing countries used international call charges as a sort of "tax" on emigrants. People would move out of the country, go live in the US or UK or Germany or wherever, earn a whole lot more money, and spend some of it calling their relatives left behind in the homeland. And then the exhorbitant settlement rate would funnel money back from overseas.

      Arguably, this is a good thing since it allows comparatively wealthy migrants to subsidize service to poor locals who would otherwise not be able to afford it. Of course, in practice the telcos are usually so incompetent that the money just gets wasted or disappears into various people's pockets.

      This changed a lot, of course, when the FCC unilaterally initiated settlement rate reform [] in 1998, one of the most brilliant pieces of public policy the US has ever pulled off. Now, the amount by which inbound callers can be gouged is strictly limited (hence the drastic decrease in international call costs that we've seen in the past few years).

      However, telcos are still free to gouge their own citizens, presumably carrying on the spirit of the earlier "tax" by indirectly siphoning away some of the money that these people's overseas relatives send home.

      Anyway, without the large sums received from hiked-up international call charges, many of these telcos would fall apart. In the current post-1998 climate, this might not be a bad thing - eliminating communications-cost friction certainly would bring about long-term productivity improvements in developing economies. But you can't expect the telcos to be excited about it.

  • but since a lot of third-world governments run both the ISPs AND Telcos ... how long before they realize that they are losing money?

    When they attempt to shut it down, will anything like Peek-a-booty [] be able to come to the rescue?

  • by pmancini ( 20121 ) <pmancini@yaho o . com> on Friday April 19, 2002 @10:18AM (#3373325) Homepage
    The Internet has really turned communication on its ear. I have a friend in the Ukraine that I chat with almost daily and every weekend we set up NetMeeting and have a video conference for a couple of hours. It costs neither of us any extra than what we already pay for our internet connection.

    In fact the connection we get with NetMeeting is by far more reliable than using phones! Phone calls are (in my experience) about 25% likely to be unusable. They are also quite expensive. Even researching the best "10-10" numbers gets you down to about $0.22US per minute. Calling from Ukraine to the US is extremely expensive.

    The Internet has made a lot of things possible that just 5 years ago were out of the hands of most people. The economy of calling that far and that cheap is amazing. When I was a kid I always wanted a video phone. The Web Cam is it.

    I think the effect of wireless communication and integrated web communication will stall the growth of physical phone lines and we will start to see them disappear in a few decades. It seems to fit the natural order of how technology progressess. With 3G coming to Sprint PCS phones this summer and all the other carriers later this year and next year I predict that even how we connect to the Internet on a daily basis will change. I see the majority of IP traffic coming from wireless devices rather than desktop computers in 5 years time.
    • too bad you use netmeeting...

      Youi shoud be using openphone. cross platform and uses the OpenH323 VoIP protocol that is supported by everything that is a true VoIP device or program. (Yes, I made a phone call with openphone over our companies phonesystem whis is a VoIP based system.. the Voice Server routed my call from my PC over the voice T1-s we have in place to a telephone in a office 75 miles from here. worked great.)

    • In fact the video conferencing on net meeting is far more stable than audio conferencing (when you'd think it'd be the other way round).
  • Ignoring the rest of the thrid world and concentrating on Africa a moment.

    If the usage of net-phones increases in Africa, and the previous story [] was also true - someone somewhere is going to end up paying more. Seems a loss-maker in the making for third-world ISPs.


    PS. This comment clearly side-steps many, many obvious points. (e.g. the super-poor countries with no network connectivity; countries where no-one who can afford a phone-call of any price, etc., etc.) Please don't just state the obvious in any reply.


  • by tomstdenis ( 446163 ) < minus punct> on Friday April 19, 2002 @10:23AM (#3373356) Homepage
    Telcos in Canada must be up for "five 9's" a year. Thats a law not just a slogan. ISPs do not. Its perfectly legal for an ISP to be up only twice a week for 45mins at a time.

    So the reason you pay 0.05$ a minute for a long distance call with your telco and next to nothing with an ISP [e.g. using some VoIP program] is because Telcos are reliable. I mean if I go and call a buddy in British Columbia I am fairly certain of a few things

    a) The call will go through
    b) The quality of the signal is consistent
    c) There is no lag or strong echoes

    If I call with an ISP I may not be able to reach him [e.g. local fiber problems.. stupid rogers], or my mic/speaker setup may sound too bad, or worse there may be annoying ping times.

    If all you want is an informal chat with a buddy then VoIP programs are ok. But if you need to conduct reliable communcation then telco's are about all you have to choose from.

    As towards third world countries perhaps the calls are so expensive because maintaining a relibable connection is costly.

    • Yes, this is true.

      As for more third-world countries and the like... let me assure you....

      Okay, I live in Costa Rica. It's not even third world.. but my internet connection here is more reliable than my phone connection.

    • As towards third world countries perhaps the calls are so expensive because maintaining a relibable connection is costly.

      Except in the worst third-world countries (which are technically, "fourth" and "fifth" world countries!), the technology is the same as that found in the U.S.

      The difference is they have crashing monopolies and there is a cultural tendency in Latin America to steal every last "peso" you can. The owners of the telcos pay top government officials so they won't regulate the telcos, and the telco owners and top government officials earn major bucks at the expense of the phone-using public.

      That's why calls are so expensive in Latin America, not because it is any harder to maintain a reliable connection.

    • The telco here in Guyana has no such QoS requirements. At the moment, their cellular network is SO oversubscribed that it is all but impossible to make or receive a cellular call after about 2pm.

      This telco charges me about US$2.50 (that's two and a half dollars) at peak time to call Ireland. Net2Phone or Go2Call (I have accounts with both) connect me to Ireland for US$0.04 (four CENTS) a minute.

      No contest.

  • Don't forget Monday were SlashDot [] had an article about a hardware VoIP unit. You just plug the unit into your DSL or cable modem and your set. For $20 a month you can have 500 minutes of long distance, or $40 a month and you get unlimited long distance.

    As an aside: I have mine on order, I should be getting the unit today. I checked my web interface and saw that I have had 3 telemarketer calls to my new number. A number which I have yet to be give out.
    • i gotta say, that's a lot of freaking time on the phone there. talking for 500 minutes per month, ld on the phone? for personal home use? wow. that's over 8 hours.

      i gave up oon long distance after getting slammed by the phone companies (sprint, at&t). i currently have no long distance on the phone, and use a 20$ 500 minute calling card from sam's club to make a long distance phone call. portable minutes too (yeah, yeah, the pay phones jack on additional charges, but it's still portable.)

      personally i kinda like using voip to some degree (quick chats to family/friends), but it's a matter of a square peg through a round hole. ip isn't the be all end all. everyone is jumping on some HUGE internet hype and trying to put every service over ip. microsoft might have said it best when they said that IP may not be the best protocol for distributed applications.

      • Much as I like IP, it's a really bad protocol for stuff that requires real time delivery for proper quality.

        OTOH, while IP may not be the *best* protocol for distributed apps, how many people use it directly? You work with something that sits on top of it, some communications layer designed for distributed work...say ACE [] and similar things. Generally distributed apps don't require real-time response, so it's not the end of the world if something takes a bit to go across the pipe.
      • 500 minutes is a LOT?

        That's a little over 16 minutes a day.
  • I have come to the conclusion that the telecom companies in the US are fighting a losing battle -- trying desperately to milk the last dollars out of a market and hoping that people don't have enough information to know that they're getting cheated royally.

    Seriously, I get offers for long-distance in the mail for 7 cents a minute, or maybe 15 cents per minute "anytime", and they're trying to make it sound like they're doing me a favor. Then, when I decide that I'll go with a company like bigzoo [] for my long-distance needs, then they tack on some very dubious "taxes" and "surcharges" onto my bill to recoup their losses. I mean, I have to pay, not to have a long distance carrier! Is this fraud or what?

    The telecom companies know that they're fighting a losing battle. It would be nice if they got on board and tried to lead the technology revolution, instead of getting dragged behind it. But that's asking a little too much of them, I guess. In the meantime, let them get screwed for promulgating such a stupid business model -- preying on people's ignorance.

    Well, all the better for students and the less priviliged people around the world. Hopefully, at least in this aspect, the internet will set them free.
    • then they tack on some very dubious "taxes" and "surcharges" onto my bill to recoup their losses

      I had this same issue with Verizon. I recently switched to AT&T calling cards that I got from from a warehouse club. Costco and Sams each have similar plans, Costco is MCI or Sprint, Sams is AT&T. Anyway I pay only .034/minute with absolutely no surchages, taxes, fees and limits, I can use them anywhere and they are rechargable via CC at the same rate.
      This is much better then the .05 I was paying with MCI home service that after fees, taxes and other mysterious sucharges averaged out to over .15/minute.

      To the point. After cancelling my MCI LD service on my line, I started getting extra charges by Verizon. $5/month for an interstate access fee, described via a customer service rep as "a fee authorized by the FCC that we charge because we [Verizon] are an interstate provider" and another fee for not having a LD provider, this was described as "a fee to block long distance calls, which could be avoided if I choose Verizon as my in-state LD provider" which in fact, has a higher per minute rate then my AT&T access card.
      These are added to the growing list of monthly charges that I also pay for being unlisted and unpublished, tone dialing, the ability to cancel call waiting, access to run lines via public "right-of-way" which happens to run past underground on MY PROPERTY (so I pay them to let them use my yard) and whatever else they decide to add.
      You can not win when it comes to the phone company.
      Sorry for the rant, the more I thought about this the more angry I got.
  • I wonder if in a few years, when internet telephony takes off here in the States, we'll see the telco's trying to push new legislation to ban or regulate it to make up for their lack of flexible business model.

    You know, like the RIAA is doing? Gee, don't try to embrace new technology and make money off of it, just buy some legislation to make sure you may remain entrenched in your old ways...

    • If the telcos were smarter ... they would have been working on this since PGPhone and Net2Phone.

      Fast forward a few years, I could see an "Internet Appliance" (I hate that term), being a phone hooked up to the net through a native ethernet connector, having its own IPv6 address. This address would correlate to a phone, regardless of who it is. This way, you buy a phone, you already have a number. Plug and play sort of thing. THEN it would be accepted by the masses, when you don't need alot of equipment/knowledge to set it up.

      The current Telcos will either embrace new technologies, and become ISPs ... or, as you said, become like the **AA's of the world.

  • pgpfone (Score:2, Interesting)

    by u01000101 ( 574295 )
    I use pgpfone [], and I'm pretty happy with it. It's windows-only, but this drawback pales in front of the advantage of having a snooper-proof connection; I don't discuss state-secrets over it - I don't evan know *any* state-secret - but I grin each time I hear about "internet wiretapping" and "more powers to the cops"...
  • Something that people need to consider is power. Don't forget that fiber cannot carry a charge, and therefore must be connected to powered equipment, unlike land lines. Not everyone has UPS equipment, generators, etc., and businesses (and some residents) need assurance of service in outages.

  • i've set it up for my mom, grandma, sister, and uncle.........and myself.....lots of free calls being a poor, geeky college kid doens't leave much money for family communication, the dorm is too small, i want to go home..........i also want to take the 10mb connection with me!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    'internet telephony "is used mostly by college students and geeks"'

  • I've just come back from spending a month in Nepal, a very poor country with limited telecommunications facilities.

    In the larger cities (Kathmandu, Pokhara) you could call the UK over the internet for about 25-50Rs/minute. Using a traditional phone line costs 125-200Rs/minute. When I was there 10 years previous it was US$5/min!

    The exchange rate is something like 72Rs to US$1.

    The costs are differences aren't as much as this posting said, but it's still quite a saving.

    Personally I shopped around for a cheap real phone call (125-150Rs/min) as the quality was so much better.
  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @10:51AM (#3373535) Homepage

    I work on voice over IP telephony products, and I think that the market is ready to switch (pun intended).

    SME's are figuring out that they can use their DSL lines to make net calls and video conferencing, and they're starting to ask (big time) exactly why they're paying per minute to make voice calls. And telcos are listening, and worrying.

    There is a huge demand at the low end for true all-in-one products that encorporate an ethernet switch, DSL uplinks, a firewall and web server, handle IP-to-IP calls as well as IP-TDM, TWIF, ISDN (yuk), voicemail, door answer, that come with web browsing hardware phones and PC softphones and value added applications like videoconferencing. You would not believe the amount of software and hardware that we have in our current product; think 128Mb RAM, 128Mb compact flash, a 10 GB hard drive and a PCB that would make your head spin, in what's traditionally been a market for small (embedded devices.

    And we're not developing this stuff simply because it's fun; there's a real demand from SME's for it. Initially we intended selling these boxes at retail (unheard of for a full featured telecomms switch); we've backed off from that now, simply because telco's are so keen to sell them as part of packages, because they know that if they don't, we will sell them at retail, and they'll lose a stack of voice money.

    Note that the features that we enjoy today on residential lines - caller ID, call waiting, three party, callback - all came out of SME private branch exchanges. Telcos just realised that they could make extra money selling them to residential customers as well. They'll dig their heels in (hard) to stop us moving from TDM calls to VoiP, but - bearing in mind that once your call hits the local exchange, it hops to an IP backbone anyway - they can't hold out forever. Sooner or later, a residential provider will crack and start offering realistic VoiP to the home, and then all the rulebooks get ripped up. Roll on the day!

    • Uh, of course, I blinked and missed that residential VoiP is already here []. Yeee ha!

      The TWIF-IP [] adaptor bundled with this service supports two analog 'phones. Whee. Now picture one that'll talk to any DSL or cable uplink, has a 10/100 switched hub supporting 8 IP devices ('phones, PC's, NAS) with a DHCP server built in, that supports 6 analog devices ('phone, fax, trunks), any number of PC screenphones, that has a fully featured call control that provides any service you could imagine (and quite a few that you've never dreamed of), stores 10Gb of voicemail, and supports full RAS services (i.e. you can dial in to your home, then hop out from there, like a mini-ISP), all with a multi-lingual web based front end that you can access locally or remotely over IP or diallup. You want one? You know you do. ;-) You can't get one yet at retail, but give us another 18 months for the telco's to saturate their SME's with these [], and you might see a version hitting retail.

    • In the US voip is not moving at all at the enterprise level. The carriers got freaked out about started dropping their rates to prevent voip from being used for toll by pass domesticly. It does not provide a cost savings for corporations. If you notices Cisco's story on voip has changed, they are saying that you can reduce staff by having one common network with voice and data, you can reduce head count. There is no mention of the toll by pass.

      Currently medium and larger companies have the ability to negoitate better rates then the residential rates. This is pretty key for preventing/slowing the deployment of voip.

      The only easy savings that you can incurr from voip is conference calls. Most of the conference calling services are .17/min/line in the US. Pretty expensive. Using things like netmeeting or conference bridging features in voip systems you can significantly reduce this cost.

      While in tech circles there is demand for voip, nobody (finance, etc) cares about this technology. These people are just looking at bottom line cost.
        • In the US voip is not moving at all at the enterprise level. The carriers got freaked out about started dropping their rates to prevent voip from being used for toll by pass domesticly. It does not provide a cost savings for corporations

        True. Sorry, when I said SME, I really meant Small enterprise, actually down at the mom and pop corner store (or gas station) level. There's a huge market down in the sub ten lines, and that's also where the customers live who don't really want a service contract, and are prepared to try out new solutions if it'll save then a few bucks a month. But you're right, VoiP is being used (today) as part of packages to preserve call revenue. Give it a year though.

    • Care to define what a SME is?
  • by PiotrK ( 16050 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @10:51AM (#3373536) Homepage
    Speak Freely is a program that allows two or more people to conduct a real-time voice conference over the Internet or any other TCP/IP network. It supports a variety of compression protocols, such as GSM, ADPCM, LPC, and LPC-10. The cryptography-enabled version includes IDEA, DES, and limited PGP encryption capabilities for protecting the privacy of important voice conversations. []
  • by fruey ( 563914 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @10:59AM (#3373585) Homepage Journal
    All VoIP termination is illegal in Morocco. You are forced in as many ways as possible to not use VoIP over your Internet connection. H323 I think is blocked already, or has been and was removed afterwards.

    VoIP termination is certainly illegal. Even though the phone company, who also have a monopoly on bandwidth, make money whatever you do. They're getting local call rates (Billed at $2 an hour inc taxes), bandwidth money from the ISP, and they still don't want to lose the international telephony deals, where they make ridiculous amounts of money.

    All over Europe, telcos don't want to lose lucrative internation traffic. Real third world countries (rather than emerging economies) have neither enough bandwidth nor the latency required to provide adequate VoIP anyway.

    However bandwidth in Morocco is pretty good. Check out for a site hosted in Morocco with high visits and reasonable serving of pages.

  • I've been playing with this recently using Linphone, a SIP client which works nicely, but...

    Trouble is, I have a dynamic IP, and I haven't yet found a SIP address registry that works with linphone, and it's a bit of a pain to set up a routine to post my current IP to a webpage form (since I know my non-geek friends won't know what to do with it).

    Has anybody found a registry that plays friendly with linphone?

  • Has anyone found a cheap way to call the Turks & Caicos (British West Indies)? The local Cable and Wireless has a perfect monopoly, being on an island and all. The internet phone services are still pretty pricey.

    I suppose it's fitting that it's $0.05/minute to the third-world, and $0.50 to an island of luxury villas...
  • This is embarrasing. Is the US ahead of other nations in any field now? I've been hoping for some access faster than 56k for a few years now, and I'm hearing that third-world countries can get voIP? Grrrrr.
  • Specifically Southwestern Bell.

    I can go on and on, but I'll tell you this: I do not have a phone at home anymore, and I have long since abandonded my much loved 5 static ips and dsl as well, in favor of dynamic-only port-80 blocked sometimes-slower-than-M$-fixes-security-holes cable modem.

    And I'm MUCH happier.

    I will never in my life use SWBell's services. If I am running from rabbid wolverines and my only chance of survival is to purchase SWBell local phone service, I'd rather dive into a swimming pool filled with double-edged razor blades, followed by having my face eaten off by said wolverines.

    I only make calls through dialpad [], ($9.99 a month for 400 minutes). That's all my long distance AND all local calls. No incoming calls. My wife has gotten use to it. Sure beats $50/month for voice mail/caller id/call waiting/call waiting caller id/caller id call waiting calling/made up services to charge you extra in hopes you won't notice (slamming & cramming)/to just look at the caller id, and ignore the call.

    Yeah, maybe it's a pain in the butt to connect the handset [] everytime I need to make a call (that's what wireless+laptop is for), and 911 isn't supported (that's what cell phones are for). But at 2.5 cents a minute, (and best of all NO SWBell), I see no comparison. People just page me, and I call them back. It's a plus, because none of our friends/family have to use long distance to get a hold of us either.

    Oh yeah, and no spam calls/wrong numbers either...

    I haven't tried this [] out yet, but it allows you to connect a regular (cordless) phone to your computer, eliminating the wire-fumbling.

  • South Africa (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hasie ( 316698 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @11:13AM (#3373654)
    Here in South Africa we have a statutory telecommunications monopoly. That means that by law nobody but our telecoms monopoly is allowed to provide telecoms resources. This has led to incredibly high costs with a 24% increase in local call rates earlier this year, for example. Our data rates were (and probably still are) among the top ten most expensive in the world in US dollar terms despite the fact that all expenses are in Rand (a weak currency).

    This means that something like a net phone is a revelation in terms of cost. I have a friend who has been talking to his brother in Germany with a net phone for a while now. The only problem is that this is illegal because ISPs are not allowed to carry voice traffic! In fact the telecoms monopoly tried to destroy ISPs by citing a law that states that nobody is allowed to resell bandwidth. Fortunately the lost the case, but it was touch and go for a while.

    My greatest sadness is that new technologies promise so much for countries like ours, but our government makes horrible mistakes like legislating a monopoly. If we can just learn to embrace new technologies and learn from trends round the world, we can rapidly pull ourselves to the front out of the mire we are in at the moment.

  • Here is what I want:

    I want a service which will let me make phone calls to real phone numbers over my high speed broadband connection, using my existing telephone equipment (rj-11 cordless phone, etc.)

    In addition, I would like to be able to recieve calls on it, using a number which would be free for people who live close to me to call.

    Does such a service exist? I don't use my phone very often, and hate paying Verizon every month. I have a cable modem which usually gets very high thruput.

    • I have not seen a cable modem telephone from these people, but I believe that Grande Communications [] offers that in some parts of Austin (bundled with broadband and cable channels). I can't see on the web page where it explicitly says that you don't need the old twisted pair wire, just your cable co-ax, but my understanding from talking to someone who was about to get it was that there was an rj-11 connector on the cable modem, or maybe on a separate box connected to the cable modem, with an rj-11 connector.

      But the service doesn't seem all that cheap. I fail to see what AT&T, SBC, or any of these other people can't give me minimal local service for $8 to $16 a month. It seems to me that's what it should cost by now.

    • You don't need rj-11. You need a good net connection (check out wireless), and a good voice connection.

      Seriously, I pay the same amount as a voice line for a phone that has a number not where I live, but where the people who call me live, and free long distance anywhere in the US, free roaming (but no service outside of cities, but still everywhere I travel) I get caller id, unlisted number, and voicemail included, all of which are extra charge for a regular phone.

      I don't care who provides my service (though if I have a choice I will choose someone who isn't lobbying goverment for laws I don't like) I care that I get good service. One number to call that always reaches me is nice. (I do not always answer the phone).

  • by Typingsux ( 65623 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @11:34AM (#3373791)
    I am calling and paying 3.99 a minute to speak to a girl I don't know, but she tells me I'm her boyfriend. Yea. That's it.

  • I live in Jamaica and am able to call my mother in Canada very cheaply ($0.08 a minute up to a maximum of $2.50 per call).

    Depending on which country you're in YMMV, but I have found that using the canada direct service is fairly reliable and cheap. Basically you call 1-800-222-0016, and that gets you a line in canada, from there you can just use a calling card to place the call. So basically the call isn't going to cost more than a call within canada.

    THe cool thing is seeing on the phone bill $50-60 in savings on a call that costs $2.50

  • Cayman Islands Phone (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Technician ( 215283 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @12:00PM (#3373952)
    The Cayman Islands has a phone monopoly protected by the government. I lived there for 3 years. In US dollars it was close to 1.50 per minute to call the US. We quickly learned to send our relatives money and have them call us at .30 - .50 per minute. The Cayman Islands likes to brag about being upscale by having the highest number of fax machines per capita. The reason for the large number of fax machines is due to the cost of a phone call. Nobody calls the states to get put into voice mail hell. They send a fax instead. Now that internet has reached the islands, I expect e-mail to replace fax unless spam gets too expensive to receive. Long distance charges are a good fax spam filter.

    (begin RANT) Even 800 consumer service numbers are billed. I picked up my first copy of Windows 95 upgrade while there. (it was a few years ago) After installing it, it couldn't find the CD drive it was installed from, the modem, or the sound card. At 1.50 per minute for service, I simply chose to wipe the drive and recover the old OS from backups. I finaly upgraded after I returned to the US. An hour on the phone would have cost about what the upgrade cost. Dialup internet was about .30 per minute US. TOS prevented voice over internet. Needless to say very little browsing was done. Eudora was popular as the only client on many machines as a cheaper fax alternative. Connections were just long enough to send/receive mail. I never composed online. You can check out the current rates and terms of service at The prices are not US dollars. 1.25 US will buy one CI dollar.(/RANT)
    • I just surfed over there and checked the rates.
      More current info may be useful. Here is what I found.

      10 hrs/mo is $17
      20 hrs is $27
      30 is $36
      50 is $50
      unlimited is $79
      For all plans there is an additional $35 setup fee plus additional charges on all except unlimited plan.

      ISDN is avaliable in a 10 hr and 20 hr/mo package.

      Rates are in CI dollars. These rates are the Dial up rates. Would you pay over $100.00 US per month for unlimited dial up?

      I also think they have some serious bandwidth problems. Surfing to is like surfing into most .edu domains.
  • I used to use dialpad when it was free, it wasn't too bad with dsl, but still you had to pretend it was a radio with a 2 second lag in it, when talking. Otherwise it sounded choppy and you would talk over each other and break up. Now adays i just get the 3.5 cent/min calling card from Costco. Just over two dollars per hour, and you don't have to pretend the people you are talking to are orbitting the moon.
  • Since everybody's posting their ideas for future phones, here's what I want:

    I want my computer to be a single point of access to phones. I want it to automatically choose the cheapest method for me, whether it is a local call over standard phones, VoIP, or something else.

    There has to be some hardware involved, for instance, I guess I need a card that is capable of making a call over the classical phone lines. Could a modem be used for this?

    Then I could have a single front-end in my house, for example, I'øø have a Bluetooth access point, connected to the computer. Then I have a Bluetooth headset lying around. If I put it on, there is voise recognition, so that I can say "call ma", and if the cheapest call to ma happens to be a local telephone call, the computer will use the telephone card to make that call. If it happens to be VoIP, it makes a VoIP call, if I have to call on her cell phone, it dials that number.

    This "while-we're-waiting-for-VoIP" card that I have in mind, anybody know if that's easy to make?

    • Its what service you have. Calling ma may be a free telco call, but if you pay $40/month for the line, and only use it to talk to ma, for 10 minutes a month, you are paying far more than to pay $.50/minute for the most expensive voip line which is otherwise you cheapest alternative. (costs made up)

      The problem is you have to know at the start of the month. I don't know who I'm calling 30 days from now. It dad suddenly has a heart attack I'll probably be on the phone with mom for hours and I'm better off with a telco line, but normally I don't talk that much so I'm better off without. Good luck finding a comptuer that can perdict the future.

  • Damn... I have to pay 10 cents a minute to call (via telco) the next state which is only a few miles away. But I can cut the middle-man and call the drug smuggler directly in Honduras for the same price! Mmmmmmm.... technology...
  • by Mike Hicks ( 244 ) <> on Friday April 19, 2002 @12:24PM (#3374131) Homepage Journal
    I recently read a short article that was written by a Jamaican back in 1995 or 1996. It discussed the availability of e-mail in Jamaica at the time. It turned out that e-mail was mostly being used to contact people outside of the region, and it wasn't being used to communicate locally.

    I just wonder if this technology would do anything to foster local communities, rather than just connecting people over great distances. Certainly, talking to a relative who is away is important, but it's important to look at what can be done to improve the local infrastructure as well.
  • Please don't use the term "Third World." It has roots in the 19th century racism and is derogatory at best. It refers to the time when Europe colonized much of Africa, Asia, and South America, and thought of the natives as little more than slaves or animals. A more accurate and humanizing term is "developing countries."

    Also, for what it's worth, technically Europe is the "First World," and North America is the "Second World" or New World.
    • No, you're completely fucking wrong. _Third World_ was coined in the 1950's by French demographer Alfred Sauvy. Whilst you may like to think that it's some evil fucking white hooded prison yard racist type thing, it isn't.

      The term was an analogy comparing pre-industrial nations pre-Revolutionary France. Pre revolutionary France was the Third Estate -- a downtrodden shithole of poverty, hence the Third Fucking World.

      Read up on the fucking etymology of this shit before you assume far too much.

    • A more accurate definition [] of the origins of the term Third World:

      THIRD WORLD -- the economically underdeveloped countries of Asia, Africa, Oceania, and Latin America, considered as an entity with common characteristics, such as poverty, high birthrates, and economic dependence on the advanced countries. The French demographer Alfred Sauvy coined the expression ("tiers monde" in French) in 1952 by analogy with the "third estate," the commoners of France before and during the French Revolution-as opposed to priests and nobles, comprising the first and second estates respectively. Like the third estate, wrote Sauvy, the third world is nothing, and it "wants to be something." The term therefore implies that the third world is exploited, much as the third estate was exploited, and that, like the third estate its destiny is a revolutionary one. It conveys as well a second idea, also discussed by Sauvy, that of non-alignment, for the third world belongs neither to the industrialized capitalist world nor to the industrialized Communist bloc. The expression third world was used at the 1955 conference of Afro-Asian countries held in Bandung, Indonesia. In 1956 a group of social scientists associated with Sauvy's National Institute of Demographic Studies, in Paris, published a book called Le Tiers-Monde. Three years later, the French economist Francois Perroux launched a new journal, on problems of underdevelopment, with the same title. By the end of the 1950's the term was frequently employed in the French media to refer to the underdeveloped countries of Asia, Africa, Oceania, and Latin America.
    • I have always thought that "Third World" is a term coined during the Cold War, when a huge lot of countries which did not want to be aligned either with US-led or with USSR-led countries started a real movement, championed by India, if I am not wrong.

      This was happening in the sixties, when all these countries were immersed in de-colonisation processes. Sadly, what they have in common today is mainly their poverty (but not all of them!).

      In this context, the "First World" were the US allies, while the "Second World" were the Communist countries.
  • by Webmoth ( 75878 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @12:53PM (#3374323) Homepage
    Here in the U.S. internet telephony will probably take quite a while to catch on. Why? Because landline rates are cheap (at least compared to the rest of the world). Also, the quality of American landlines tends to be high, at least better than internet telephony.

    So why is it so cheap? Because of the large installed base. The most expensive part of the infrastructure -- the copper "last mile" -- is already in place, and has been for nearly a hundred years. For the most part, that copper is already paid for. Plus, there is a lot of competition.

    By sake of example, my long distance carrier, Opex [], charges me $0.045/min for interstate and $0.09/min for intrastate calls. International rates are reasonable.

    In third world countries, there isn't a very large installed base. The cost of installing new copper is high, and in many cases equipment is still being paid off. Plus, many countries have telco monopolies that charge whatever they feel like. So naturally, people will turn to promising alternatives such as internet telephony. When I was in Guatemala two years ago, it seemed there were more cell phones than landline phones. Cell towers were everywhere, it seemed. (On a side note, I walked thru a village where the houses were mud huts with no running water... but they had TV's and cell phones... priorities???)

    Summarizing: U.S. landlines are higher quality than internet telephony and at reasonable cost; 3rd world landlines low quality high cost; might as well try VOIP.
  • Zambian Cellphones (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ahoehn ( 301327 )
    Four weeks ago I was in zambia, and met the looseing major presidential canadate in the most recent election. When I asked him what his plans were now, he said that since looseing the election he's been getting in wireless communications. He proceded to gush about the benefits of cell phones and how zambia was deepley in need of a rural cellular network. It was a bit etherial to be hearing this in the midst of a country where starvation is not uncommon.

  • Funny, the way that the 3rd world is leading the charge in this particular area of new technology: VoIP.

    It reminds of what was going on back in the early 1990s, when cell phone markets in India and other countries were booming, largely because cell phones provided so much more reliable service than the creating infrastructure of their land line telephone system.

    I've heard that the cell phone business in many African countries is still lucrative, screwy government policies notwithstanding.

  • by rbreve ( 94225 )
    I am from Honduras, there is a law here that says that Hondutel (the only goverment telecom company) is the only one that can regulate international calls. Internet cafes can sell internet access, but they cannot sell phone calls, most of them are charging for phone calls not internet access, they could me banned and closed.

    This is a monopoly created by the government.

    There have been cases in which some people install a satellite link between honduras and the USA, install local telephone lines in Honduras, and sell phone cards in the states.

    The long distance called would only costs the local call price (2 cents a minute plus the satellite link) and you could charge 40cents a minute for a long distance call from USA to Honduras. So you only need 20 local telephones lines and a satellite link to make a lot of money (if you dont get caught)

    You can make up to 1 million dollars in 6 months..

    Sorry for my english...

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.