US-based search engine Google plans to launch a free telephone service that would link users via a broadband Internet connection using a headset and a home computer.
Although the technology has been in the market for quite some time, no telecom firm has ever used it properly.
Why cold technology is vital
In a report, The Times said, BT, which connects seven out of ten British households, has developed its own Internet-telephone service. However, the telephone giant, which would be the biggest loser if Google succeeds in its venture, has so far been reluctant to promote the technology heavily.
Since Google already conducts half of all Internet enquiries, the telephone service is most likely to be linked to its search engine. The Times said, a surfer looking for a clothes retailer could simply find the web site and click on the screen to speak to the shop.
While the basic cost of making the call over the Net will be almost nothing, the real cost lies in developing the software. Also connecting the Internet call with the traditional call will incur some cost.
The Times warns that the 'sound quality of calls across the Internet can be poor and the connections can be less reliable.' However, by investing in capacity, Google 'could circumvent the problems of quality and reliability and guarantee better service,' says The Times.
With the collapse of the Internet bubble in 2001, thousands of miles of fibre-optic cable remain unused, as the amount of 'speculative development vastly exceeded demand.' Google could lap up this capacity at a very cheap rate.
But using the Net to make phone calls is not a new concept. The Times points out that, in Japan, 10 per cent of households already use voice over Internet protocol or VoIP. In the US too it is quite popular.
Stanford University graduate students Sergey Brin and Larry Page founded Google in 1996. Google went public in 2004.