Bell’s new Digital Voice offering is a good indication of where they are going strategically with VoIP. Dismissed by many as too little too late, Bell’s offering is much more than it first appears.
First, it really is the first salvo beyond the basic telephone service being offered by Virtual Network Operators like Vonage, or the incumbent cable provider (Rogers) here in Ontario. You can read through the feature set in their online manual. When compared, Bell has a richer feature set at a very competitive price. Call screening, and selective call forwarding, for instance, aren’t offered by either of their competitors. Neither competitor offers conference calling. Bell is upping the ante for what basic phone service is, which is surprising and refreshing!
Secondly, Bell is offering the service on ordinary phone lines, or over your DSL, the latter referred to as Digital Voice Lite in a direct shot at Vonage. When offered over your existing phone lines, the call hits the IP network at the central office, rather than at the ATA in your house. The advantage, of course, is that they can offer 911 service, and that the phone system (just like POTS) isn’t vulnerable to a power outage.
What we’re seeing is the recognition that IP is just a transport technology. The CRTC has tied Bell’s hands by forbidding them to compete on price. Innovative service is the only means they have to compete. Bell is delivering those new services on IP, but as they’ve convincingly shown, it doesn’t matter. The fact that these services are hosted on the Nortel MCS5200 platform, in Bell’s IP network, is irrelevant. They simply move the traffic from the old network to the IP network as required.
Compared to Rogers offering, Bell’s is downright revolutionary.