VoIP Closes Distance of Time and Place

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TO explain it in simple terms VoIP is the third choice for voice, data and picture communication. Initially, there were conventional telephones. Then came the wireless network, the GSM and followed by CDMA. Consumers are aware that such networks need a huge investment, so they are willing to pay high rates for the service.

VoIP, however, uses a network that was developed later, that is, the Internet. The infrastructure uses the existing Internet network; that is why almost all VoIP services are free of charge as long as the communication is within the Internet network, which is also called OnNet. It is indeed a fantastic facility as it reaches the entire world. However, VoIP service users still have to pay when they contact the conventional telephone or cell phone numbers, which is called OffNet.

Currently there are three free VoIP service providers in Indonesia, namely VoIP Merdeka, VoIP Marsinah and VoIP Rakyat. VoIP Merdeka is the first VoIP network built in Indonesia by Onno W. Purbo in 2003, while VoIP Rakyat started its operation in 2005 and is managed by Anton Raharja and his friends from ICT Center Jakarta & WAN DKI.

There is no record as to when VoIP Marsinah was launched. Maybe the initiator felt that its history was not important. Indeed there are numerous VoIP providers available around the world today. The web page of VoIP Marsinah only reads that its head office is located in Lippo Cikarang and that it has a branch in Tokyo, Japan. Marsinah.com actually claims to be the first online Indonesian magazine in Japan and has been quite active since 1996. So, the name has nothing to do with the labor rights defender in Surabaya.

Initially VoIP Merdeka was intended as a solution to rising telephone rates so that almost anyone can phone anywhere they wish, including to foreign countries at no charge. Of course, one has to have a computer and access to the Internet to utilize the service. However, VoIP Merdeka has a critical shortcoming, that is, it cannot be accessed through a proxy server with the majority of users at the office using the LAN network. The technology used by VoIP Merdeka was based on the H.323 protocol which was the initial VoIP protocol standardized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Meanwhile, VoIP Rakyat uses Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), which can be accessed through a proxy server. The development of SIP was due to asterisk software technology, which is an open source based program. The gadget, which is called softswitch, functions as the private branch exchange (PBX) and it can coordinate the incoming voice. The use of this new PBX software version also benefits VoIP users because of its free availability.

Basically, VoIP providers make available three things for the users: the software to be installed in the computer, the ID number functioning as the user’s VoIP phone number, and the required telephone software developed by specialized vendors. One of the telephone software is Softphone X-Lite, which is currently available in its 3.0 version.

Providers have many choices. Perhaps you are already aware of the 4.1 Skype version. Next there are also GoogleTalk, MSN and SIP. In Indonesia at present VoIP Rakyat is the most popular. The free service is available among VoIP users, namely for telephone, video calls as well as instant messaging, while for OffNet usage a certain deposit is required, that is when a VoIP user wants to get in touch with a mobile phone, including sending SMS. It is not difficult to imagine how the VoIP service has opened up many opportunities for personal as well as business users.

The connection is now more than just voice based; it now offers video conference for meetings and so forth, eliminating distances created by time and place. For OffNet connection another provider must be used, which in Indonesia is called ITKP (Internet Telephony Keperluan Publik or Public Necessity Internet Telephony). The ITKP has a permit from the Postal and Telecommunication Department. A VoIP user has to open an account, which is free, with the ITKP and then has to prepay an amount through internet banking. So, it is easy as it can be done through a laptop.

Until December 2004 the government has issued 12 ITKP licenses, namely PT Corbec Communications, PT MobiCom Selular Indogemilang, PT Jasnita Telekomindo, PT Starcall Siskom, PT Indo Pratama Teleglobal, Excelcomindo, the PJI consortium which is integrated in the Group -12, Telkom, Indosat (including Satelindo), Atlasat Solusindo and Gaharu Sejahtera.

The issuance of licenses depends very much on the ‘mood’ of the government, because sometimes licenses have been issued and at other times rejected. Some time ago the licenses were not issued because PT Telkom suffered losses as its network was used by ITKP and PT Telkom claimed that it would lose revenue and profit.

In 2004 licenses were issued due to the urging of Commission IV of House of Representatives (DPR) overseeing telecommunications. The House members were of the opinion that the rebalancing of local telephone rates and the long distance telephone rates by the government was already effective.

In the middle of June 2005, Director General of Communication and Information Basuki Yusuf Iskandar said that new licenses could not be issued pending a revision of government policy.

Internet expert Onno W. Purbo was of a different opinion. He said that the issuance of licenses should be continued in order to avoid a breach of law. According to him the VoIP service will benefit the nation in the long run.

Onno said, “In the short term VoIP based communication will create a quick return on investment as the cost is not much. In the future there will be a major penetration of IT as consumers will be able to build their own VoIP infrastructure.” In other words, Onno is reminding the government that it cannot hamper advances in technology merely by issuing regulations. (Eddy P. Kasdiono)

The Jakarta Post, August 19, 2009

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