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The Internet

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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  • by linzeal ( 197905 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @10:08AM (#3373241) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • 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).
  • 14c a minute here (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tanveer1979 ( 530624 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @10:13AM (#3373300) Homepage Journal
    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 :-)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Re:Bandwith (Score:2, Interesting)

    by duffbeer703 ( 177751 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @10:20AM (#3373339)
    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.
  • by tomstdenis ( 446163 ) <> 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.

  • pgpfone (Score:2, Interesting)

    by u01000101 ( 574295 ) <> on Friday April 19, 2002 @10:32AM (#3373418) Homepage
    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"...
  • Re:Bandwith (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AnyLoveIsGoodLove ( 194208 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @10:33AM (#3373421)
    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.
  • by Jacer ( 574383 ) on Friday April 19, 2002 @10:35AM (#3373439) Homepage
    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 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!

  • 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. []
  • 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.

  • by ogreinside ( 223917 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {ynnivliame}> on Friday April 19, 2002 @11:11AM (#3373646) Journal
    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.

  • 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)
  • by KjetilK ( 186133 ) <> on Friday April 19, 2002 @12:14PM (#3374068) Homepage Journal
    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?

  • 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.
  • Zambian Cellphones (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ahoehn ( 301327 ) <andrew AT hoe DOT hn> on Friday April 19, 2002 @01:51PM (#3374767) Homepage
    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.

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