Brits Prepare for VOIP Deluge
U.K. telecom regulator Office of Communications (Ofcom) effectively gave the green light to voice-over-broadband competition today by ruling that service providers could provide geographic numbers (ones with area codes) to VOIP customers (see Ofcom Speaks Out On VOIP).
The regulator believes VOIP will benefit users from both a service and cost perspective, and that an increasingly competitive wholesale market and the relatively cheap cost of entry for startups should ensure a "wide range of providers."
Ofcom also believes that providing geographic numbers for VOIP will also boost competition, as it will make it easier for users to switch from their current telephony provider and retain their number. The regulator has also created a new, non-geographic code, 056, specifically for VOIP.
Making geographic numbers available is a massive boost for the voice-over-broadband sector, reckons operator Inclarity plc, which markets its VOIP service through resellers (see Inclarity Claims VOIP Success and Saiph Takes VOIP to SMEs). Its research shows that 85 percent of business users would not use a voice-over-broadband service unless geographic numbers were available (see Inclarity Comments on UK VOIP Reg Move).
And the Internet Telephony Service Providers Association (ITSPA), which represents a number of U.K. competitive service providers and ISPs, also welcomed Ofcom's news, saying that it removed "many of the uncertainties" for Internet telephony services.
In a prepared statement, ITSPA founder member Eli Katz said the move would provide "a solid interim framework for the development of the next generation of the new Internet telephony services. All the key issues we called for have been delivered," he added, though some issues around number portability, especially the cost to the VOIP service provider, still needed work.
Ofcom's announcement looks certain to herald an entry into the U.K. market by VOIP powerhouse Vonage Holdings Corp., which has shaken up the US voice market in the past year (see Vonage Reaches 200,000 Lines and Vonage Dials Up $105M ). Earlier this year it announced its intention to bring its brand across the Atlantic during the fourth quarter of 2004 (see Vonage Plans Q4 Launch in UK).
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading