It's official. AOL (Time Warner quote - news - alert) has made it into the VoIP (define - news - alert) market. The company’s Canadian division, AOL Canada Inc., announced today the availability of AOL TotalTalk—a new residential phone service based on VoIP technology. The ISP will allow existing and non-AOL members, to use the new service to place phone calls over the Internet for an introductory monthly fee of $19.95. The new service will begin to be offered in most parts of the Greater Toronto Area by January 2005, with a national rollout planned in the coming months.
"High-speed Internet access is a commodity in Canada. AOL is focusing on delivering services that leverage broadband to meet relevant consumer needs related to voice, data and video," commented Craig Wallace, president and CEO, AOL Canada Inc. "AOL TotalTalk simplifies and enriches telephone service, giving Canadians more control, more features and far better value. This is just the tip of the iceberg for the types of enhanced broadband services that AOL Canada plans to offer in the future."
AOL TotalTalk will offer unlimited local and member-to-member calling, inclusive long distance minutes in North America and lower international calling rates, as well as a full suite of standard and enhanced calling features. The company says the service also has local number portability and 9-1-1 functionality within designated service areas, operator and directory services and a command center self-serve Web portal for service personalization and control. Besides the introductory monthly fee of $19.95, users that sign up won’t have upfront fees, commitment periods or hidden charges.
Standard AOL TotalTalk service features include:
- Voice Mail Plus: In addition to offering regular voicemail functionality, voice messages are directed to a designated e-mail address. Members can listen to their voice messages on a PC, forward or reply to them via e-mail or archive them for future reference.
- Locate Me: Enables a single phone number to ring at up to three different locations, simultaneously or in sequence, to ensure Members are always within reach when needed.
- Service Portability: Members can connect to a high-speed connection when traveling and continue to use their TotalTalk service as though they're at home. Service portability ensures Members don't miss calls and reduces expensive mobile phone charges.
- Secondary Numbers: Members have the option to select up to two additional phone numbers with area codes corresponding to most major Canadian cities. The addition of Secondary Numbers enables Members to have a "virtual presence" in those cities, while allowing local callers to avoid long distance charges.
AOL Canada will be offering two VoIP calling packages—the AOL TotalTalk Optimum Package for $19.95 per month for the first three months ($34.95 per month thereafter), which includes unlimited free subscriber-to-subscriber calling, regardless of location, 60 North American Anytime Minutes included ($0.05/minute each additional minute) and lower international long distance rates; and the AOL TotalTalk Optimum Plus Package for $29.95 per month for the first three months ($44.95 per month thereafter), which includes unlimited free subscriber-to-subscriber calling, regardless of location, and 1,000 North American Anytime Minutes included ($0.05/minute each additional minute) and lower international long distance rates.
AOL Canada is teaming up with Canadian communication solutions provider Allstream to jointly develop the network infrastructure for the TotalTalk service. Infrastructure elements are being delivered on Allstream's carrier-grade network through the company's network-resident IP telephony solution.
I would have expected AOL to make its grand entrance into the VoIP space here in the US. I guess it will remain a mystery for many why this ISP giant went into the Canadian market first. Fearing competition amongst the big telecoms, perhaps? Strategically teaming up with one of them, maybe? We shall find out soon enough…and I will surely keep you posted on this one as it develops!
|Johanne Torres is contributing editor for TMCnet.com and Internet Telephony magazine. Previously, she was
assistant editor for EContent magazine in Connecticut. She
can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.