Dutch cable operators vow to bypass KPN for VoIP

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Five cable operators in the Netherlands with more than seven million customers are banding together to bypass the incumbent, KPN, for VoIP telephony.

The operators, which currently have more than 500,000 digital phone customers, have awared a VoIP peering contract to a partnership of XConnect, a provider of VoIP interconnection services, and Kayote Networks, which makes equipment for routing and peering.

Ultimately the project, if it works, could knock a big hole in KPN's fixed-line revenue. The five operators, UPC Netherlands, Casema, MultiKabel, Essent and CaiW, have 95% of Dutch households for their cable TV services, and have three million internet customers.

"Our digital telephone business is growing at 50,000 a month," said Sikko de Graaf, director of CaiW, on behalf of the consortium of five.

At the moment calls within individual operators remain VoIP all the way — but they have not until now been able to exchange calls from operator to operator except via KPN as incumbent.

"We're going to run a pilot with 3,000-4,000 users," said de Graaf. "Then each cable operator individually will decide what it can offer."

But he hinted strongly that companies might decide to make all calls from one VoIP customer on a cable network to any other VoIP customer on any other Dutch cable network free of charge. "That's one option. My personal opinion is we will see flat rate telephony for a fixed fee per month, and that's it — no separate call fees. Voice is just another application of IP."

The pilot is designed to test the VoIP technology, from suppliers such as Nortel and Siemens, that the different operators use, and to test it's interworking with VoIP technology standards such as ENUM and SIP.

In the second phase of the project the operators will be looking at features such as video telephony, he suggested.

The system will be hosted on the Amsterdam Internet Exchange, where their will be a database of VoIP numbers operated by the different cable companies. "Otherwise the call will go via the PSTN."

CaiW, the smallest of the five participants in the scheme, is based near the Dutch capital, The Hague. "We are designing the project technically," said de Graaf.

It will be possible to exchange VoIP calls internationally, but first the operators want to test the market and the technology inside the Netherlands, he said. XConnect already has more than 75 internet telephony service providers across 20 countries.

"This deal is a momentous event highlighting the tremendous impact

VoIP is having on business models of telecommunications," said Eli Katz, founder and CEO of XConnect.

KPN rebrands to boost chances against competition

Dutch incumbent KPN has launched its new brand positioning under one key theme, : "KPN sluit je aan" — or "KPN connects you" — in an attempt to reinforce its position against its competitors.

The company is also rolling out a new house style and an accompanying advertising campaign.

"The world as we know it is rapidly changing," said CEO Ad Scheepbouwer. "KPN was one of the first in our sector to steer a new course last year and now we are leader in converging internet, television and telephony."

KPN is "undergoing a transformation", he said. "We are witnessing the transformation from a traditional telecom company to a multimedia company whereby the emphasis is on marketing and distribution. Plus, we harbour the ambition of offering innovations that can be effortlessly absorbed into the daily routines of our customers." GTB