TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: VOIP Pioneer Aims For End of Regular Phone Networks

VOIP Pioneer Aims For End of Regular Phone Networks

Lisa Minter (
Wed, 15 Jun 2005 09:48:07 -0500

By Steven Scheer

Jeff Pulver has a dream: That his invention a decade ago of making
phone calls using the Internet will eventually be used by everyone and
traditional phone networks and copper wires will be a thing of the

"Whether that will happen in my lifetime is another story but my hope
is to basically enable people to be free -- to have the freedom to
define what their communications experience is," Pulver said in an
interview with Reuters during a visit to Israel, which he calls the
birthplace of commercial use of Internet phone calling.

Pulver is a pioneer of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology
and is a co-founder of fast growing VoIP provider, Vonage, as well as
founder of a half-dozen other VoIP firms.

Vonage has more than 700,000 subscribers and is adding 15,000 a week
in the expectations of hitting 1 million by year end.

A number of competitors -- as well as many cable companies and large
telcommunication firms -- have sprouted up around the United States
and around the world as Internet voice services have become cheaper
than traditional phone offerings, while quality and reliability
continue to improve.

As a result, Pulver estimates there are some 9 million paying VoIP
customers around the world -- 6 million of them in Asia -- and
millions more with Skype, the Web site that allows for phone calls
around the world for free to and from computers.

"Skype is a major player," Pulver said. "So, if you look to the future
there is an opportunity to grow big. The market can bear a few more

Pulver believes the industry is at a crossroads, with so much room for
growth but a host of regulatory and financial issues confronting it.

"The last 125 years the telephone industry has replicated and
replicated but now, the DNA has changed," he said.

"The challenge is regulation and how it is adopted by governments
protecting (telecom) incumbents," Pulver said. "And, some companies
are so focused on the bottom line that they can't look outside the

Pulver said there is a huge market where a company like dominant phone
company Bezeq Israel Telecom, for instance, could offer virtual
Israeli phone numbers to its citizens living abroad using VoIP.

The same could be said for any country, he said, adding another focus
for VoIP would be to blend messaging offerings into intergrated

"It's up to the kids now in high school," Pulver said. "They need to
look at the technology they are playing with and commercialise those."

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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