Bezeq launches Israel's first fixed-line videophone

Fixed-line operator tackles cellular, Internet screen chat.

bezeq videophone 88 298 (photo credit: )
bezeq videophone 88 298
(photo credit: )
Bezeq launched the first fixed-line mass-market videophone in Israel on Monday as it attempts to counter competition from Internet phone services and third-generation cellular phone technology featuring video services. "The experience of third-generation cellular phones can now be experienced in every home from your fixed line", said Bezeq CEO Ya'acov Gelbard. "We are hoping to sell about 5,000 of the new videophones over the next few months." Bezeq announced it had already signed a contract for 500 videophones with a major medical body. The videophone, which has a built-in camera and a five-inch screen, enables customers to make and receive video calls through their broadband ADSL connection as an easy way to engage in face-to-face audio and visual communication. The videophone can be purchased at about NIS 2,200, including the NIS 149 installation fee. The cost of the service is NIS 19 a month, while the cost of a video call is the same as a regular telephone call between Bezeq lines. Initially the Bezeq videophone will be mainly targeted to the hard of hearing as a first device through which they can read lips over the phone. "The hard of hearing community in Israel makes up about 10 percent of the entire population," said Gelbard. But there is already skepticism over the impact and effectiveness of Bezeq's video revolution on the partially deaf. "I don't think the videophone fully provides the required solution for the hard of hearing, and I will not be buying the new phone," said Yitzhak, who is partially deaf. "The problem with the Bezeq videophone for us is that there is still a slight delay between the voice and the picture you see, which creates confusion in the understanding". Bezeq said that there was still a delay of 300 milliseconds between voice call and video, but it expected the technology to improve to reduce the delay. In the second stage, Bezeq will also start marketing videophones to businesses as a tool for cost-effective videoconferencing and to the general public. The videophone can be connected to a regular VCR or DVD to record the call or to an external display such as a plasma screen, LCD screen or TV for viewing the picture on a larger screen. Bezeq hopes that its device will overcome the "old-fashioned" image of fixed-line phones, while overcoming technical problems and poor picture quality which have plagued previous videophones, which had been unsuccessfully launched in Europe and elsewhere. Videophones have already been adopted by European fixed-line operators, including France Telecom, Deutsche Telekom and Telecom Italia. About 1.5 million phones have already been sold in Italy.