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CallServe launches Net telephony service

Into shark-filled waters, probably...

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New UK company CallServe is about to launch what it calls the first commercial Internet telephony service in Europe. It says it will offer higher quality than has previously been the case, and at "rates vastly lower than those of conventional telecom suppliers", quoting 3p per minute to the USA "compared with BT's 20p". It would perhaps have been better had the rate quoted been closer to the rate actually obtainable with normal BT discounts. CallServe seems to be pitched at consumers rather than businesses, so will find itself in competition with cut-throat pricing from the many pre-paid card services. Another problem will be that many potential CallServe customers will already using Internet telephony without paying any fees beyond the cost of accessing their ISP. At the launch on Friday, MORI presented some data about Internet access in the UK and made some highly optimistic estimates of take-up for such a paid service ("Eight-in-ten Internet users think they would benefit from Internet telephony" and "If 40 per cent of current British Internet users were to adopt CallServe, they would have 4.2 million users."). It does seem more likely that "students and teenagers" will use email or free Internet telephony services rather than subscribe to CallServe. A £20 credit or debit card deposit is required, which sounds like a capital way of financing the development. CallServe hope that OEMs will bundle the service, but no deals have yet been inked although announcements are expected in the next two weeks. The minimum PC spec will not be problematical for new kit, but the majority of the installed base will have PCs below the minimum recommended - and most would need to buy microphones or headsets. The software can also be downloaded. What CallServe cannot control - and the stumbling block with existing services - is Internet network congestion. It remains to be seen whether CallServe has indeed found a way of significantly improving the quality of Internet voice. ®

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