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Costly no more

Small businesses now have access to telco services that offer affordable rates on calls using broadband Internet connections
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Telecommunication costs contribute significantly to the operating expenses of a business. Thus, whether big or small, companies are always on the lookout for ways to save on their telephone and telecommunication bills.

There is one such affordable way that’s already benefiting many individuals and organizations worldwide. It is the so-called Voice over Internet Protocol (or VoIP), a technology that allows the placing of voice calls using a broadband Internet connection instead of a regular phone line. It has been available since the late 1990s, but not so many Filipinos and local businesses have become aware of it or are now using it.

A company that intends to change this state of affairs is Pacific Internet (PacNet) Philippines. Through its VoIP service, PacNet Vocal, the company now offers the technology particularly to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and individual entrepreneurs.

“We have positioned our PacNet Vocal to suit the requirements of SMEs,” says Jojie Yap, president of PacNet. “We know that given their limited resources, SMEs are very discriminating when it comes to choosing a product or service. They want value for their money, so the product or service they are buying has to be truly meaningful and highly beneficial to them.”

Yap says that unlike other VoIP products that require users to have a personal computer or PC, PacNet Vocal can be used on conventional phone handsets. Typically, VoIP is done from PC to PC, but in the case of the PacNet Vocal handset, it can be plugged into any broadband line and, since the subscriber’s account number is registered on the phone unit or handset, the subscriber can access it from any location.

“We are giving Filipino SMEs and consumers the same benefits now being fully enjoyed by other companies worldwide,” Yap says. “We are offering a business-grade VoIP service to them, one that can level the playing field and make them more competitive. In fact, our VoIP package would allow them to get the same professional telephone system functionality as that of a large enterprise.”

Based on a 2001 survey, VoIP will account for 75 percent of the world’s voice traffic by this year (2007). This forecast has already been realized, and VoIP is expected to become even more popular considering that this service is now being integrated on the same network with the Internet and television. And since affordably priced high-speed broadband is now also widely available, it is even being predicted that VoIP would likely replace telephone lines in the near future.

The technology for VoIP has at the same time been improving. Before, the VoIP technology enabled their subscribers to call only other subscribers of the same service; today, the enhanced VoIP technology already allows subscribers to call anyone with a telephone number, regardless of whether the call is local, long distance, mobile, or international. And while the VoIP services before worked only over a computer or a special VoIP phone, today’s VoIP technology allows the use of a traditional phone connected to a VoIP adapter.

Whatever the variations in VoIP technology or service, the bottomline is that VoIP offers unbeatable benefits, foremost of which is the huge savings in phone bills. For this capability, in fact, VoIP has been dubbed as the ”long-distance killer.”

Another feature of VoIP is that its subscribers enjoy the advantage of a world number service. This feature allows subscribers to maintain virtual telephone numbers from over 400 different cities or locations, which in turn allows them to call such numbers while only being billed for local phone charges. For instance, a Cebu-based subscriber can call a client in Davao or Detroit without incurring long-distance or overseas call fees; the call will be treated as a local call.

VoIP has three more functionalities that should make it even more interesting to mobile entrepreneurs, namely enhanced access to voice mail online, directing calls to multiple phones, and virtual phone numbers with area codes local to callers.

“Business competition nowadays is happening on a global basis,” says Yap. “By using PacNet Vocal, SMEs would be able to compete head-on with global players, and their telecommunication costs and expenses should no longer be a hindrance to them in penetrating international markets.” She adds that aside from its cheaper IDD rates, PacNet Vocal also offers unlimited vocal-to-vocal calls at a fixed monthly rate.

What has prevented Filipinos from enjoying the benefits of VoIP much earlier is the hullabaloo over its regulation and technical aspects. The dominant telecommunications companies have been opposed to the use of the VoIP platform in the country by independent providers on the ground that VoIP among others rival their IDD or NDD services by providing cheaper rates to their existing or potential subscribers. This, despite the ruling issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) a couple of years ago that VAS providers or non-telecommunication companies can legitimately offer voice services or even use the infrastructure of telecom companies in delivering voice services.

With the increasing and intensifying industry competition, however, the telecom carriers are now considering offering the VoIP service themselves as a way to retain and expand their subscriber base as well as cut down on costs. With more players joining the VoIP bandwagon, the service should then become even more affordable to prospective users in the Philippines.

In the meantime, though, PacNet Vocal has already made a headstart in making VoIP available to small- and medium-scale entrepreneurs. “SMEs employ over one-third of the country’s population,” Yap says. “It is thus our goal to empower them with VoIP and help enhance their competitiveness in both the local and global markets.”

CONTACT DETAILS:

PACIFIC INTERNET PHILIPPINES

19th Floor, Taipan Place

F. Ortigas Jr. Road (formerly Emerald Avenue)

Ortigas Center, Pasig City

Telephone: (02) 918-5151

E-mail: sales@pacific.net.ph

Website: www.pacific.net.ph

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