ARCHIVED  November 1, 1996

New technologies enable long distance via Internet

Perhaps the latest buzzword on the Internet is Internet telephony, the ability to make phone calls across the Internet.What’s the point, some might wonder? What’s wrong with the regular telephone system? Well, as it stands today, it costs a lot less money to make a long-distance or international phone call over the Internet than using your regular telephone.
Internet telephony does not require a special telephone that hooks into your computer. In most cases, if you have a direct Internet connection (PPP or SLIP account), a microphone, sound capabilities, and a fast enough modem (at least 14.4 bps), all you need is the software, and someone to talk to.
You need someone to talk to because at this point there is no industry standard for the technology, which means the only people you can call are other users with the same brand of software.
Calls are placed by first logging on to your Internet service provider and loading the Internet telephony software. Then, simply type in a friend’s e-mail address, and wait for an answer.
The first Internet phone technology available was only half duplex, which meant the conversation was more like a walkie-talkie than a phone. Today, the most widely used products are full duplex, meaning you can transmit and receive sound at the same time.Available software
Internet Phone, a product of Vocaltec, was introduced on the market in February 1995. The current version, Internet Phone Pro, is Macintosh and personal-computer compatible, with minimum PC requirements of a 486 with a 14.4 modem and at least four megabytes of random access memory, running with Windows 3.1 or Windows 95. A demo of the product is available online at Vocaltec’s Web site (www.vocaltec.com).
Presently, Vocaltec holds more than 80 percent of the market for Internet-telephony software.
Digiphone Deluxe (www.digiphone.com), a product of Third Planet Publishing, works under the same hardware and software requirements as Internet Phone, except that it is workable with a 9600 baud modem.
According to Stacey Everett, spokesperson from Third Planet Publishing, Digiphone was the first product on the market with full duplex ability.
Both Internet Phone and Digiphone come with dual-site licenses, which let you give a copy of the software to someone. The sound quality, which both companies say depends on Internet traffic and the speed of your modem, is similar to a cellular phone. The technology is advancing rapidly, with many exciting applications just coming to market.
According to Allen Clark, spokesperson for MCI, MCI is working on using Internet Telephony for Call Center Applications, providing interactive customer service from a company Web site.
“Let’s say you’re on the Internet looking for information on installing a part in your washing machine,” theorizes Clark. “You go to the Whirlpool Web site and look up their Frequently Asked Questions, but can’t get a specific enough answer. You click on the button which says ‘call the service center,’ and you’re connected to an operator who knows where you are on the Web site, and can show you a picture of the information you need to install your part correctly.”
Vocaltec is just introducing the Vocaltec Telephone Gateway, which spokesperson Lior Haramaty says provides users of Internet telephony the ability to bridge between the Internet and the regular telephone network.
This means that you can use the Internet to call (or receive calls from) someone who will answer on a regular phone. This breakthrough is already providing the same call-center applications that MCI is working toward through a Web-site applet. Vocaltec’s Telephone Gateway will be brought to market soon. The future of Internet telephony
The lack of an industry standard is a serious problem for users. As it stands today, users can talk only to other users who have the same software.
Haramaty said Vocaltec is dedicating substantial resources to bring standards to the industry. He says that software developers are aware that in order for the market to grow, there will have to be interoperability.
The market for Internet telephony is expected to expand rapidly. According to International Data Corp., which has done an analysis, the market is expected to grow from 500,000 users in 1995 to 5 million users by the end of 1997. Haramaty believes the number of users will actually be higher because of the introduction of Vocaltec’s Gateway.
At this point in its development, Internet telephony can be a cost saver for companies with far-flung locations. Haramaty said Vocaltec uses it to communicate cheaply to its offices in Israel. The sound quality, which isn’t great, is not really any worse than a call to Israel on a regular telephone. It also provides high-quality, secure and low-cost conferencing and calling abilities for companies with local area networks and wide area networks.
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Perhaps the latest buzzword on the Internet is Internet telephony, the ability to make phone calls across the Internet.What’s the point, some might wonder? What’s wrong with the regular telephone system? Well, as it stands today, it costs a lot less money to make a long-distance or international phone call over the Internet than using your regular telephone.
Internet telephony does not require a special telephone that hooks into your computer. In most cases, if you have a direct Internet connection (PPP or SLIP account), a microphone, sound capabilities, and a fast enough modem (at least 14.4 bps), all…

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