UK businesses considering a move to voice-over-IP (VoIP) services now have more choice, following product announcements this week from Cable & Wireless and COLT Telecom.
Colt announced on Thursday that it is offering a flat-rate VoIP service, called COLT IP Voice, to firms across Europe. Companies who sign up will pay a standard fee of €24.50 (£17) per user per month for calls to all major European countries, not including to mobiles. They would also be charged €20 per user per month for handset hire and other features.
COLT claims that IP Voice will allow businesses to save money — 20 percent on average, it estimates — as they would no longer need to maintain a traditional PBX system to handle telephone calls. Calls will instead be routed straight from COLT's network onto a company LAN, and then to a user — who could be at their desk PC or connected via an IP phone or a softphone application on a laptop.
COLT is just the latest European telecoms operator to make a move in the VoIP space, amid concern that Internet telephony will have a massive negative impact on the voice revenues that telcos have typically enjoyed.
Cable & Wireless launched its first business VoIP service last year, and on Monday it announced new details of its offering, now dubbed Intelligent Voice.
C&W is now offering a range of different VoIP products, which it says reflect the fact that different businesses will have different needs. Some will want a hosted VoIP service, like Colt's IP Voice, while others will want to keep using their PBX — perhaps if they've only recently bought it — but also get some VoIP services. Others would be ready to replace all their existing telephone systems with a full VoIP system which they host themselves.
Richard Baker, head of voice at Cable & Wireless, said that the savings that are possible from VoIP will depend on a company's internal infrastructure, but suggested that a 25 percent saving was typical.
Baker was also bullish about C&W's VoIP ambitions.
"The VoIP market is very interesting, with 16 million deployments worldwide. For Cable & Wireless, we have very aggressive plans for business customers in the UK," said Baker.
"We have a clear mandate to win customers, and we're looking to take market share from BT," Baker added.