UK WISP to offer VoIP

Patrons of U.K. hotspots will soon be able to make voice calls over public wireless LANs, thanks to a new service from Internet access provider Broadreach Networks.

The service, called ReadytoTalk, won’t officially launch until next summer, but Broadreach will do a test run with 40,000 customers in the interim. The voice over IP (VoIP) service will be an add-on to the company’s ReadytoSurf hotspot service, which passed the 500,000 user mark this week.

All ReadytoSurf sites will also be ReadytoTalk-enabled, according to Broadreach CEO Magnus McEwen-King. There are currently 129 ReadytoSurf hotspots in coffee shops, retail stores, hotels and other locations across the United Kingdom.

Like ReadytoSurf, the VoIP service will be offered through ISPs and wireless carriers. Users will need to download software, developed by Broadreach, to their laptop or PDA (McEwen-King said the company plans to support all the major operating systems). Pricing for the service is not yet available.

Broadreach has been contemplating a VoIP service for a while, but has been waiting for the right time to enter the market, said McEwen-King. “VoIP has always been a much talked about proposition, but the quality levels have not been there. However, in the last six months, a number of companies have made significant strides in improving both the costs and quality. We feel there’s another few months to go, but now is the time to start doing end-user testing with our ISP and mobile phone operator partners.”

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