First Estonian Internet phone service launched

  • 2000-10-05
  • Aleksei Gynter
TALLINN - Eesti Telefon launched Netifon, the first Estonian Internet telephone service, under the Atlas trademark on Sept. 27. During the two-month test period, all Internet calls within Estonia are free.

So far, users of Netifon can only place calls within Estonia. Tarmo Reineberg, from Eesti Telefon's IP service unit, said that in the near future international and mobile calls will be possible through Netifon. Speed-dialing, history of calls and reports will be also available.

Anu Vahtra, Eesti Telefon spokeswoman, said the test period will last approximately until December. Until then, Netifon is available to the users of any Internet service provider. When the test period is over, the service will require payment, and users of Eesti Telefon's Atlas Internet connection will have privileges when using Netifon, she said.

For non-Atlas Internet clients, there might be another version of the service or other conditions of use after the test period. The price for the calls through the Internet is not yet set, but it will be lower than calling by usual fixed-line phone, according to Vahtra.

Long-distance and local calls by regular phones within Estonia cost 0.68 centi and 0.24 Estonian kroons per minute, respectively, as of Oct. 1.

Andres Kaarik, Eesti Telefon board member, said the service, based on the "Voice Over Internet Protocol" (or simply "voice over"), is advantageous mostly for dial-up connection users, who can now make phone calls without interrupting their Internet connection.

Commenting on the popularity of Netifon, Vahtra said that during the test period, users are not registered.

"That is why we have only the number of calls made through Netifon. During four hours of the first day, 200 calls were made, and that shows the interest of users is quite high," Vahtra said.

Initially made for the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser (version 4.0 or higher), Netifon will be available for Netscape users by the end of the year. "Technically it was more convenient to make the first version of the service for the "Internet Explorer," explained Vahtra.

Juri Luud, marketing director of Internet service provider Uninet, said the absence of the Netscape browser support undoubtedly narrows Netifon's target group.

"Many people use Netscape Navigator. Besides, it is not that complicated to adopt the service for it," said Luud.

However, Luud assessed the service positively. "This is not a revolution, but nevertheless it is a landmark of development for Estonian telecommunication market," he said.

Luud said he received calls through Netifon, and the audio quality was normal.

Calling via Netifon requires a computer with an Internet connection, sound card, microphone and speakers or earphones. Users also need to install special software that can be downloaded from Netifon's Web site. System requirements for the computer are Pentium 200 or better, 1.2 Mb of free disk space and Windows 95/98/2000/NT.

Netifon provides satisfactory audio quality even through dial-up connections, although the minimum connection speed should be 28.8 Kbit/sec or higher. The service does not work on networks protected by firewalls.