Not sure if Bell Canada was ready to tell the world about its decision to jump into the residential Internet telephony market but the cat is now out of the bag. According to Alek Krstajic, Bell Canada's chief marketing officer, the carrier will be ready to offer service to its Sympatico high-speed customers in 2005, before it is rolled out to “everyone and everywhere”. To date, Bell has only said it was conducting tests of Internet telephony technology, but clearly it has been more aggressive as rivals such as Rogers Cable Inc. prepare to get into the market next year. Bell's move should not be a surprise given the moves it has been making in delivering IP-TV to apartments and condominiums. Compared to delivering video service over IP, voice should be a snap.
The big question is whether Bell is going to cannibalize its local phone base by offering what will likely be an inexpensive product in a market where price will likely be king. I suspect Bell will make it part of their bundles. If you want to buy Internet telephony, you'll also have to purchase wireless and/or satellite-TV and/or IP-TV. The good news for consumers is Bell will do a good job of educating the market about the advantages of Internet telephony and alleviate concerns people have about issues such as 911 and back-up power.
For Canadian consumers willing to jump into the fray, their choices in 2005 will include Bell, Rogers, Shaw Communications, Primus Telecommunications, Yak Communications, BabyTel, Vonage and AOL Canada. If high-speed Internet access and IP-TV penetration are any indication, Canada could prove to be a leading Internet telephony market.