Internet telephone company VocalTec Communications today released a new version of its software in an effort to create a worldwide network that lets users make cheap long distance phone calls through their PCs.
The network will allow people with properly equipped PCs to make calls to standard phones, not just other PCs, for the price of a local call. Users should be warned, however, that the quality of "voice over IP," as Internet telephony is sometimes called, is shoddy, with only one person able to speak at a time.
In VocalTec's network, users will only save money by calling cities where access providers have implemented VocalTec's Telephone Gateway server. So far, service is available to eight U.S. cities including Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco. Service outside the United States is available in 22 cities, including Beijing, Hong Kong, London, Moscow, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Sydney, Australia; Tokyo, and Toronto.
Internet Phone Release 5.0, VocalTec's client software, is available from the company's Web site for $50. Users of version 4.0 of the product can upgrade for $20 in the next 30 days or for $25 thereafter. Users need a PC running Windows 95 or NT 4.0 equipped with a sound card, microphone, and speaker. At least a 28.8-kbps connection is recommended.