Two Vancouver-based companies have signed a licensing agreement to offer Web-to-telephone services to business customers, but one industry analyst says the market for such things is not the lucrative area that it was five years ago.
Vocalscape Communications Inc., the creator of voice-over-IP (VoIP) software such as its Web-to-phone Eyefon 2.0, began licensing its Eyefon software to Dial Net Inc., a telephony products manufacturer, in January. Eyefon uses the open systems II.323 protocol stack to leverage VoIP network infrastructures for Web-to-telephone communications.
“You have an end user that’s sitting out on the Internet somewhere and he clicks on a phone button or he uses another tool that we provide to our private-label Eyefon client, which is called the Virtual Telephone Booth. They put this on their Web site and it allows their clients to input a number on a Web site, talk into their microphone on their PC and have that call actually transmitted to a traditional telephone,” said Erik Lagerway, president of Vocalscape.
But his company is not a hardware manufacturer or VoIP provider, so it licenses its software products to companies like Dial Net, which has paid a one-time licensing fee and will pay a fee every time Eyefon 2.0 is downloaded from the Vocalscape site. Other similar agreements exist with other companies, Lagerway said.
Until the deal with Vocalscape, Dial Net has specialized in phone-to-phone technologies, but is now entering the PC-to-phone arena with the incorporation of Eyefon, said Spencer Williams, managing director of Dial Net.
“We realize that there’s a big market for PC-to-phone calls, but the PC clients in the past have actually been pretty bad and not delivered good quality on the call,” Williams said. The technology has matured and the quality of PC-to-phone calls is much better now, he said.
According to Iain Grant, managing director of Brockville, Ont.-based The Yankee Group in Canada, there is a market for VoIP services in the large corporate market, but in the mass market, the reality is that the market is much smaller than it would have been five years ago. Telephone calls are much cheaper than they were in the mid-1990s, so the need for something like Web-to-telephone products is much smaller.
“Five years ago, telecommunications were quite expensive and [a call] that is now costing five cents a minute may have cost 30 cents a minute,” Grant said. “The economics of long distance (had) people…constantly striving to cut their long-distance costs. Now, for most corporations, it’s pretty near free. For consumers, after you pay $20, you can talk for as long as you want, so the entire economic incentive to search out other ways of communicating to save money is gone.”
The driving force for VoIP is multimedia functions, something that the traditional telephone does not have, he said.
The main reason why someone would want to use a Web-to-phone technology is because the user is already on the Internet and is conducting an e-business transaction, Spencer said. When completing the order, the user can click on a button to talk to an agent and initiate a voice chat to discuss details or to complete the transaction.
Dial Net is primarily targeting the business-to-business market. Pricing has not yet been set. For more information, visit Vocalscape at www.vocalscape.com and Dial Net at www.dialdigital.com.