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CLEAR announces new toll service

Media statement

3 February 2000


CLEAR announces new toll service

CLEAR Communications today announced a new choice of toll service which uses, in part, Internet technology to deliver the calls.

The new service, called CLEAR 0505, is part of the company's strategy to exploit the latest technologies to give its customers expanded options. CLEAR 0505 will initially be available until the end of April for residential calls to China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Macau.

The toll rates will be very low - for example, to China for as low as 50 cents/minute, compared to the current $1.41/minute.

CLEAR Tolls Business Portfolio Manager Steven Jackson says CLEAR 0505 will use a combination of traditional networks and new Internet Protocol (IP) technology to direct calls on the cheapest possible route to their destination. Calls dialled with the prefix 0505 before the normal number will be directed to either a traditional network, voice-over-ATM or voice-over-IP services [see attached backgrounder for details].

Some CLEAR 0505 callers could experience some problems with voice quality because of the different networks and developing technology being used.

The initial seven countries were chosen because of the traditionally high cost of toll calls to them. The launch is also timed to coincide with the Lunar New Year, a period of high customer demand.

The new service reinforces CLEAR's position as a leader in innovative voice and online services. CLEAR also has a quite separate development project underway to develop comprehensive business solutions using Internet telephony.

ENDS

For further information contact
Rochelle Lockley
Communications Manager - Commercial
CLEAR Communications
Ph: (09) 912 4104 Office
Ph: (021) 763 784 Mobile


Backgrounder - IP telephony and CLEAR 0505

Internet telephony is part of the convergence of computers, telephones, and television into a single integrated information environment. It will enable multi-media information, such as video, to be transmitted quickly and inexpensively.

"Voice-over-IP" is part of Internet telephony and it generally means delivering voice traffic using the Internet Protocol (IP).

Traditional phone service uses a circuit-based protocol to carry voice traffic. But IP, the method by which data is sent from one computer to another on the Internet, breaks up the information being sent into "packets." These little chunks include both the sender's Internet address and the receiver's address. All packets are sent first to a gateway computer that understands a small part of the Internet. The gateway computer reads the destination address and forwards the packet to an adjacent gateway that in turn reads the destination address. This continues across the Internet until one gateway recognises the packet as belonging to a computer in its immediate neighbourhood, or domain. The gateway then forwards the packet to the address.

Because a message is divided into a number of packets, each packet can, if necessary, be sent by a different route across the Internet to make the most of the bandwidth available. Packets can arrive in a different order than they were sent in. It's up to another protocol, the Transmission Control Protocol, to sort them out at the destination.

Data can handle being transmitted in packets on these shared lines, but with voice, it can mean dropped calls, echo and other quality problems. Many telecommunications companies around the world, including CLEAR's 100 per cent shareholder BT, are working on solving these problems. BT has developed a system which is being piloted by its Spanish unit, BT Telecomunicaciones SA with 150,000 mostly corporate customers.

CLEAR 0505 is another pilot service which combines traditional and new technologies provide cheaper toll calls. Ordinary voice calls are transmitted via ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) to a switch in Los Angeles, which then directs the call on the cheapest available route to its eventual destination, where it is converted back into an ordinary voice call. The cheapest available route might mean sending the call using voice-over-IP, voice-over-ATM or traditional circuits.

CLEAR 0505 is currently being offered for calls to China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Macau. Customers must dial the code 0505 before dialling the number as usual (including the country code).

ENDS

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