CEBIT: Vodafone links IP and phone, killing roaming charges

Vodafone Germany will offer IP telephony allowing customers overseas with an Internet connection to call home at the same rate as if they were still in Germany

Vodafone Germany will offer IP telephony allowing customers overseas with an Internet connection to call home at the same rate as if they were still in Germany.

Mobile carriers and IP telephony haven't always been the best of friends, but now there are signs that might be changing.

With the Vodafone service, users can also receive calls abroad using a PC, effectively making roaming charges a thing of the past. However, for it to work you need an Internet connection -- which isn't always free.

With pressure from both European Union and IP telephony, which is being integrated into mobile phones, services like Vodafone feel the need to act.

"The roaming market is changing, and you also have the IP offers. So we have to do something for our customers," said Marion Stolzenwald, press officer at Vodafone Germany.

Incoming calls are routed to both the mobile phone and the PC -- the user then decides where to pick up.

There are two versions of the service, Messenger PC for consumers and IP-Phone Pro professionals. The functionality is the same, but clients have different menus and design.

Users can also send SMS from their PC using Internet Explorer or Firefox.

So far Messenger PC and IP-Phone Pro, which was developed in conjunction with HP, are only available in Germany. But Vodafone has a history of trying things out in Germany, and then expanding to other countries.

"First one country does a pilot and then other countries can pick it up, but there isn't a time frame," said Stolzenwald.

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