CNN Technology

Internet phone makes global chatting cheaper

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October 10, 1995
Web posted at: 10 p.m. EDT

From Correspondent Jim Clancy

LONDON (CNN) -- No one is claiming that the calls are free, but new technology developed for the Internet gives people the power to telephone friends around the world at a fraction of the cost of a normal long-distance call. Should MCI and AT&T be sweating?

Say hello to the telephone that's taking computer communications a step further, the Internet phone. With the Internet phone, the voice of your computer can now span the globe. "Without having to be in ham radio, you can talk around the world at will," said VocalTec President Elon Ganor.

What attracts most people is the cost. It's not entirely free, but it's not far from it. "Actually," said Ganor, "you need to have an Internet account, you need to have a PC, modem and audio board inside your PC, which is pretty standard equipment for anybody that is logged on to the Internet today."

user All of that can cost several hundred dollars more than a basic computer, but once equipped, users said, there are no limits. One Internet phone user said that he's talked to just about every country on the face of the planet.

The quality of some connections isn't great, but when everything does work, it's comparable to a speakerphone on a conventional telephone system.

Both users are required to have similar software from the company that developed this PC version, VocalTec. "Everybody is buying the product: the home user, the office environment, people from small businesses, large businesses," Ganor said. "So, it's practically a tool for communicating. Anybody who needs communications buys the product."

WWW pageThe Internet telephone is well-designed. Most people can be using it within a few minutes. And most users say it's a blast talking to places they've never even seen before. "Yeah, I've had a great time," said a user in Vancouver. "Talked to people all over the world. (Talked to) London two hours."

The PC software program costs about $70, but a free demonstration version is available on the Internet. It's already drawn thousands of enthusiasts.

Don't worry that this might put the telephone company out of business. While the Internet phone is already seeing some commercial applications, the wires that connect the Internet are owned, at least in part, by the phone company.



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