Big telcos close in on the Net

Deutsche Telekom is the first large telephone company to look seriously at providing voice services over the Internet.

According to reports, the German telephone giant is about to launch a pilot scheme with 1,000 customers. Unlike previous attempts at Internet telephony, users will not have to own or be seated at a PC, as the system will use the "T-Netcall" technology which, it is believed, will offer speech quality as good as an ordinary telephone.

Internet telephony can offer great savings over conventional services, placing even greater downward pressures on prices and profits for telephone operators, but offering great savings for consumers.

Deutsche Telekom's chairman, Ron Sommer, said: "There are huge opportunities for growth, particularly for the large telecommunications companies, because only they -- unlike small and medium sized companies -- are able to finance the necessary worldwide investment."

A spokesman for BT said: "We are actively looking at various Internet services...particularly services for corporate customers to, for example, offer extended functions to intranets for things like paging and downloading voicemail". BT does not see Internet telephony as being appropriate for the general public for voice communications because of the current limits to quality and reliability.