Primus announces national VoIP phone services

Primus Telecommunications Canada Inc. on Thursday extended the reach of voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology to Canadian residents and small office/home office (SOHO) users with its new TalkBroadband offering — an alternative to traditional telephone services, the company said.

The Toronto-based competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) said TalkBroadband essentially enables voice calling over customers’ existing high-speed cable and DSL connections. Users can expect virtually the same telephone service and features they would normally receive from the likes of Bell Canada and Telus Corp., such as caller ID, voice mail, call waiting and star-codes, but the service will shave approximately 25 per cent off monthly phone bills, according to Ted Chislett, president of Primus Canada.

“Canadians have had little choice for service in Canada,” Chislett told reporters during a TalkBroadband media briefing Thursday. “Today with TalkBroadband, customers now have that choice. This is Canada’s first national high-speed Internet-based residential and SOHO phone service. It is easy to install and works like a normal telephone line.”

The service includes the TalkBroadband device and power cable, which plugs into the user’s cable or DSL modem WAN port. Installation can take up to three minutes, said Matt Stein, director of technology and services planning for Primus Canada, after which calls can be made and received as normal.

Immediately available in seven Canadian cities including Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and Hamilton, Ont., users can select an area code and seven-digit number corresponding to one of the seven locations and literally take that number with them wherever they travel or relocate.

For example, if a TalkBroadband customer in Montreal with a local 519 telephone number travels to Toronto, he or she can bring the Primus device along and send and receive calls to and from Montreal incurring no long distance charges.

While the lower monthly fees (rates start at $19.95 per month for residential users and $29.95 per month for SOHO) and cheap long distance may attract usage, there are concerns with reliability issues of cable and DSL Internet connections. Primus’ Chislett explained that all service level agreements and guarantees are subject to the deal made with the user’s ISP. However, according to Roberta Fox, president of Markham, Ont.-based Fox Group Consulting, with the average consumer ISP, there is no SLA.

“There is still a tremendous problem with cable,” Fox told IT World Canada. Fox Group also runs a VoIP system but has found in its own experience that cable is rendered virtually “unusable” after 4:00 p.m. as shared bandwidth drops.

“Our experience tells us that you need at least 100KB of reliable bandwidth per channel to have VoIP work well,” Fox explained. “Is the technology there? Absolutely. Are the networks there? Not yet. I think there is going to be some pockets of use for (TalkBroadband). I think it is going to be a good thing if you as a customer are willing to pay the price in terms of performance.”

The TalkBroadband service from Primus Canada is available now. At launch, services including e-911 were not available but Primus assured it will be offered soon.

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