VoIP peering & profits

So… shortly, I believe from February next year but am probably mistaken, prices in the UK go up for calling “Lo-Call” 0845 numbers. As I understand it they’ll be similar, or the same as 0870 rates at 20p/min or so.

Now I wonder if the regulator has missed a trick here. It so happens that the nation is converting to broadband, be it ADSL or cable-based, and that very many of those broadband packages now come with VoIP offerings as standard.

My point is that these bundled broadband VoIP packages invariably come with 0845 dial-in numbers and no other choice. Dialing out via your broadband ISP may well be cheap for you but spare a thought for those calling in at much higher rates.

Having been tinkering with VoIP for a good few years I realise that actually this should be ok because calling VoIP-to-VoIP should be free, right? Wrong. Most of these ISPs don’t peer to each others’ networks – for two main reasons as far as I can see –

  1. They’re competitors and have little business reason to peer, apart from keeping the small proportion of aware customers happy.
  2. These ISPs make profits from users dialing in – 0845 is a profit-sharing prefix with which both BT and the ISP in question have a stake. This old story is of course also true of many telephone help-desks and similar. Keeping the customer on the line longer means more profits for the company and its shareholders.

It seems to me that the world could be a better, more communicative place through more thorough VoIP network peering but I simply can’t see it becoming widespread whilst profits stand in the way.