IPspeak launches 'mass market' VoIP

IPspeak offers Internet telephony with a start-up fee of just £50, but admits that voice over IP is still not a match for traditional telecoms

IPspeak launched what it claims is Britain's first "integrated VoIP package" for individual users this week.

For £50, buyers get a VoIP handset that plugs into a PC or laptop, the necessary software to get it up and running, and ten dollars worth of call time. They can then use the service to call any landline or mobile number worldwide, or to make free calls to any other IPspeak customer.

IPspeak's service sounds similar to those already on offer from companies such as Skype, which was set up by the founders of Kazaa. But Peter Walker, chairman of IPspeak, insists that his company is different because it treats VoIP as a complement to traditional telephony services rather than as a replacement.

"Some VoIP operators such as Skype have gone down the route of offering the world for very little, in the apparent believe that the Internet soon will be the main transport mechanism for voice calls," Walker said. "We're more realistic about our product, which should be used as an extra piece of equipment for a PC."

While calls between IPspeak users will travel over the Internet, a call to a landline will have to travel over a telco's PSTN network. IPspeak has a deal with US company IPN Communications which means that its users' calls will be transferred to a telephone system in Los Angeles before being routed to their destination.

Walker said this set-up means that it won't face a massive cost when its users want to call non-VoIP lines. A call to a UK or a US line will cost a customer 2.2p per minute, compared to 3.9p per minute to Australia, 8.4p per minute to Russia and 26p per minute to India.

So far, IPspeak has 2,000 units in the UK.