CeBIT: Mobile IP nixes roaming charges

Vodafone Germany is to use IP telephony to allow customers overseas with an internet connection to call home at the same rate as if they were still in Germany.

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Vodafone Germany is to use IP telephony to allow customers overseas with an internet connection to call home at the same rate as if they were still in Germany.

The move has raised hopes that a similar offer of might be extended in other countries.

With the Vodafone service, users can also receive calls abroad using a PC, effectively doing away with roaming charges. However, for it to work they need an internet connection – which isn't always free.

Mobile carriers and IP telephony haven't always been the best of friends, but services like Vodafone feel the need to act in the face of pressure from the European Union and because they're losing revenue to IP telephony.

"The roaming market is changing, and you also have the IP offers. So we have to do something for our customers," said a Vodafone Germany spokeswoman at CeBIT.

Incoming calls are routed to both the mobile phone and the PC; the user then decides where to pick up. Users can also send SMS from their PC using Internet Explorer or Firefox.

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

While Messenger PC and IP-Phone Pro, which was developed in conjunction with HP, are only being launched in Germany, Vodafone has a history of trying things out in Germany before expanding them to other countries.

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