The UK?s largest Internet service provider, UUnet Pipex, sought to reassure its customers this week that it is not trying to block their use of Internet telephony.
UUnet Pipex has taken flak recently for resisting customers' demands to make low cost voice calls across the Net, on the grounds that it "clogs up bandwidth". But it claims its restrictions on telephony - its contract enables it to cut off call makers if they are interfering with other users - are temporary, while it waits for new standards for Internet phone calls, due in two months, which will make calls less bandwidth-hungry.
?We are quite happy to see Internet telephony develop once the standards are satisfactory and use of the technology doesn?t interfere with existing customers. In fact I think we will see a big change this year with a certain level of corporates buying into the Internet telephony concept,? said Richard Woods of UUnet in the UK.
Internet telephony standards are developing all the time, he explained, and the software is becoming less and less bandwidth intensive. Also, the situation will be eased when UUnet increases its own bandwidth. ?We are investing in Internet bandwidth to make sure we can accommodate the new technology coming along,? Woods claimed.
UK dial-up king Demon Internet agree that new telephony products are becoming more refined. ?Early telephony products were complete bandwidth hogs but the technology is becoming more self-regulating,? said Steve Kennedy, business development manager at the company.
He added: ?Our customers can use telephony software as long as they use Internet protocols and they don?t run any protocol that is damaging to the network or causes security problems.?
Until now, however, UK ISPs have been cautious about the use of their networks for telephone calls and have written contracts that protect existing customers and discriminate against phone users. UUnet Pipex? contract allows it to cut off customers making telephone calls over the Internet although it has not yet done so.
Other ISPs may continue to take a harder line, however. Valerie Holt, managing director of PSINet UK, says for her business there is little to be gained from encouraging widespread use of the technology. ?We own and manage a frame relay network and our aim is to optimise use of bandwidth. Unlike UUnet Pipex we are not owned by a telephone company so have no interest in selling more bandwidth to people. They will be interested in selling anything that uses more bandwidth per se but our drive is to concentrate on digital traffic. We are not going to make money if we squeeze our margins,? she continued.
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