While launching a new IP telephony services aimed at small business customers, Telstra also said it did not believe Voice over Internet Protocol could deliver sufficient reliability and quality to enable the telco to launch a VoIP service to consumers.

Lots of other service providers probably are surprised by that conclusion. Other Australian competitors iiNet, Internode, TPG and Optus all sell VoIP to consumers, not to mention many other carriers around the world.

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So the argument that consumer VoIP, even with the business QoS, somehow is not yet ready for mass markets should strike many as puzzling. Some might think the reasons have more to do with possible Telstra strategy than technology readiness.

Lots of incumbent carriers, perhaps most, have at times made deliberate decisions to harvest legacy voice revenue rather than introduce VoIP. But Telastra also might be thinking something else, that in a new business context where it no longer runs its own network, it might not want to sell consumer voice services, perhaps focusing instead on business customers. It might focus consumer voice efforts on 4G wireless, instead.

That speculation makes more sense than a claim that VoIP is not stable enough to sell to consumers.

Telstra also launched a new integrated telecommunications package aimed at small business, featuring as its centrepiece a VoIP offering using a Cisco integrated router. To ensure the service provides an acceptable level of quality, Telstra has pledged to spend part of a $600 million package on upgrading equipment in its telephone exchanges with Broadsoft hardware to support quality of service (QoS) techniques to prioritize voice traffic.

Telstra chief executive David Thodey was asked whether Telstra would extend its SME VoIP platform to consumers, given the hundreds of thousands of end users now using VoIP services in Australia through rival providers. “We are continuing to review bringing the product to market,” he said. “As we think the product is mature enough, and has enough technical backup, we’ll bring that product to market.”

However, Thodey didn’t appear to believe a Telstra VoIP offering would appear soon, according to Australian content provider Delimiter.

“We don’t think the quality and reliability is there,” Thodey said. “We could bring it to the market tomorrow, but we don’t want to.”

Apparently Telstra really believes a consumer product could not be offered without the QoS policies it will use for its small business product.

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