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VoIP: The Next Phone or Just Plain Phoney?

By Jack Kapica     Apr 22, 2005 in Technology
Digital Journal — In the spring of 2002, in a swank and highly wired conference room, Bell Canada rolled out its first full-fledged line of telephones that use the Internet, and the executives showing off the phones were thrilled. The technology was sexy, the handsets were shiny and new, and the Bell brass strutted about secure in the knowledge that they were being revolutionary — well, as revolutionary as a marketing manager in a grey business suit can be.
One of them leaned towards me. “We’re no longer a telephone company,” he said with gravitas. “We’re an IP company.”
That sealed it: At some point in the future, we’re going to have to retrain our mothers on how to use the telephone. If Bell, one of the most conservative corporations crashing about in the high-tech thicket, switches to Internet protocol, then we’ll all eventually change too.
Still, no one in Bell’s conference room repeated the executive’s boast. That kind of statement suggests the kind of dramatic change that would surely cause shareholders to stampede — this was, after all, early in 2002, a scant year after the high-tech bubble had burst.
Despite the slick syntax, the man was right that adopting Internet telephones is a revolution. Like many other telcos, Bell Canada has been quietly turning away from its ancient core business — the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) or, in the vernacular, plain old telephone system (POTS) — to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) for some years. Suddenly, companies with names that sound strange when attached to telephone services (Vonage, Primus, Call-Net and others) have been clamouring for our attention and money, groping for a share of what they’re betting will be a runaway market.
Industry pundits are saying that 2005 will be the year of VoIP. But is it worth all the hyped-up headlines?

This article is part of Digital Journal's Spring 2005 issue. To read the rest of this story, pick up your copy in bookstores across Canada or the United States!
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