BT Business Makes VOIP Local – Vonage Not Impressed

BT has announced that small businesses across the UK can now take advantage of the benefits of VoIP and still maintain their local identity, with the launch of Geographic Numbers from BT Business.

The new service, launched in response to customer feedback, allows companies to use a local phone number with BT Business Broadband Voice. Businesses can benefit from the free additional VoIP line that comes as standard with BT Business Total Broadband packages, and offers capped-price calls to mobile and international destinations, but now give their customers a familiar local number to call.

According to research recently conducted by the company, this allows them to meet the needs of the two thirds of consumers who would still rather buy goods and services locally and the three quarters who prefer to call a number with an area code close to their location, rather than phone a prefix they do not recognise.

Bill Murphy, managing director of BT Business, said: “We know that people like to deal with local companies and feel more comfortable calling numbers with codes they’re familiar with. By introducing Geographic Numbers, in addition to offering Business Total Broadband customers a free VoIP line, we’re enabling even the smallest businesses to take advantage of the cost savings and convenience of making calls over the internet, whilst still maintaining their local presence.”

“VoIP also offers businesses flexibility, especially when combined with services like Office Communicator that allows them to make and receive calls whenever they’re connected to the internet – whether that’s in the office, at home or in a hotel abroad.”

Kerry Ritz, managing director at Vonage UK, has some interesting thoughts on this. Although this is welcome news from BT, he believes the company still has a lot to do to provide the complete VoIP experience to its customers and ensure that they’re getting the best package possible.

“It’s very flattering that BT has finally got it’s act together and quietly begun offering its business customers a watered down version of what Vonage has been doing for three years now – providing full geographic numbers for all its VoIP users. But BT is just offering virtual geographic numbers, so any calls received by customers from the businesses BT assigns these numbers to will still see a number beginning with 05 or the like and not a geographic number. And while BT will charge them £2.99 a month for this privilege, Vonage doesn’t charge a penny extra for the real McCoy.

Geographic numbers are clearly what our customers – residential and business – want and have been enjoying for some time. It’s just a pity BT’s residential customers aren’t going to get a look in yet. With Vonage, you don’t need a separate account for each number and we offer a choice of additional numbers across Europe and around the world, not just the UK.

Business and ordinary consumers like to stay in touch with each other locally and don’t appreciate anonymous, expensive numbers. We welcome innovation wherever it comes from, and are happy BT has at last taken their first tentative steps to joining with Vonage to offer a feature our customers have been using since 2004.”