Fri, Jul 16, 2004 - Page 10 News List

P2P Internet voice call service launched

INTERNATIONAL LINK PC Home Online has joined forces with Luxembourg-based Skype Technologies to offer computer-to-computer calls, and soon PC-to-phone calls

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

The nation's telecommunication industry may experience a revolution, as PC Home Online (網路家庭) yesterday officially introduced its peer-to-peer (P2P) Internet voice-call service, in alliance with global P2P telephony company Skype Technologies SA.

"Like CEO and co-founder of Skype Niklas Zennstrom said, the idea of charging for calls belongs to the last century," said Jan Hung-tze (詹宏志), chief executive officer of PC Home Group, which owns PC Home Online, the nation's fourth largest Internet portal.

Skype, a P2P software that enables users to make free calls over an Internet connection to other Skype users, as well as conference calls with up to five users, was launched last August in Europe by the Luxembourg-based company.

To date, Skype has been downloaded more than 14.6 million times, and now has over 6 million regular users in 120 countries -- without any advertising. Industry watchers were even speculating that the software may overthrow the entire telecom industry.

Earlier this month PC Home began offering a test version of its "PCHome-Skype," which was downloaded more than 50,000 times in the past 15 days, Jan said.

To show support for Skype's first foreign partner, Zennstrom joined yesterday's launch ceremony in Taipei.

Zennstrom said Taiwan's sound broadband infrastructure makes Skype a marketable product here.

He is also working closely with counterparts in South Korea, Japan and China to bring the service to these markets.

Zennstrom and Janus Friis, his Danish partner, want to revolutionize the telecom industry just as they shook-up the record industry with their P2P file-sharing software Kazaa, which has been downloaded 360 million times.

Zennstrom sold Kazaa to an Australian company in 2002.

Currently, Skype only allows PC-to-PC communications, but Zenn-strom said that by the end of summer, the company will launch SkypeOut -- an advanced service which will enable users to call from a personal computer (PC) to a home phone, or even to a mobile phone -- here.

SkypeOut has been available in Europe and the US since last month. It costs about US$0.01 per minute to make international calls to 25 countries using the service.

Zennstrom said that his company has contracted with Siemens AG and US-based Plantronics Inc to manufacture its USB PC adaptor that enables wireless chatting from a PC, and wired and Bluetooth headsets, meaning users can make Skype calls as the way they do from regular phones.

Skype's aggressive inroads into the telecom industry has apparently panicked US telecom giants such as AT&T Corp and Time Warner Cable as well as other small startups which are keen to grab a share in the Internet phone market.

State-run Chunghwa Telecom Co (中華電信), however, is not concerned at present about its new competition, according to Liu Pan-ho (劉伴和), a senior director at the company's marketing department.

Liu said it is still inconvenient to make a call from PCs, especially since the appropriate software has to be installed first.

He said Chunghwa Telecom also provides a PC-to-phone service to its customers, but since it only makes about NT$100,000 a month on the service, it would appear that most people in this country still prefer the more traditional way of making calls.

But Liu admitted that once the service is developed to phone-to-phone level, Chunghwa will be in hot water.

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