Voice Over IP is a leading-edge technology that is highly touted by industry experts as the future of telecommunications . Analysts believe that a shift away from traditional telephone lines to a fully digital, broadband service is inevitable, and indeed, while the major telecom companies in Canada offer the products, as we approach the end of 2006, some of them are doing anything but trumpeting the new technology.
A quick online perusal of the Canadian cable providers information will reveal that they are doing their very best to keep the difference between the traditional service and the broadband technology as quiet as possible. Even though the cable providers are in an ideal position to capitalize on the fact that they already have the technology to handle data calls, ‘don’t worry!’ appears to be the message, ‘nothing will change if you switch to the digital service’. And while that might sound good to some people, a small ‘bundling discount’ alone hardly seems enough to make consumers want to make the jump from analog service.
Rogers takes pains to distance itself from any association with VoIP. A comprehensive search of their website turns up only one mention of Voice over IP, and then only in the context of how their broadband service is NOT VoIP. Strictly speaking, that may be true; Rogers has a private broadband network that has been delivering their cable TV service for years, and by using that existing network, they avoid using the public internet and the sometimes negative connotations that can be associated therein. But VoIP can be defined as phone calls delivered via ANY data network, not necessarily the public internet, and if that’s the case, Rogers Digital Home Phone Service is indeed VoIP.
For Western Canadians, Shaw Cable is the Rogers of the region. Shaw has been supplying the cable service almost exclusively for some time, and they have, like Rogers, recently begun to offer a digital alternative to the phone service that has traditionally been the domain of Telus. Shaw goes a little further than Rogers and makes a more vigorous attempt to dissuade consumers from choosing what they call ‘best-effect’ VoIP, and qualify their own VoIP service as ‘Managed IP Telephony’. It’s an interesting strategy; on the one hand they tout the benefits of the data network, while at the same time distance themselves from the possible limitations of the un-managed internet. And most strikingly, with a reference to the Enhanced 911 question that many VoIP companies are dealing with, Shaw ultimately claims that their IP telephone service won’t “compromise personal safety”.
The only of the major telecommunications companies in Canada that actually seems to embrace VoIP is, ironically, Bell Canada. In addition to the traditional Home Phone service that Bell has offered forever and that VoIP acts as an alternative to, Bell now sells what they call ‘Digital Voice’ and ‘Digital Voice Lite’. These services are clearly advertised as VoIP, and unlike the Cable providers, Bell actually proclaims that VoIP is “the future of telecommunications”. They tout its “reliability” and “innovative calling features”, and profess VoIP’s “simplicity and convenience”. Unfortunately, starting at $34 per month, the pricing is not as competitive as some of the other offerings in the market.
So while the Cable companies are slow to associate with VoIP, in name at least, it’s encouraging to see that at least one of the major Canadian players is embracing the technology, and spirit, of what’s surely to be the standard for the future.
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