While catching up with engadget, I came across an item on the BT Broadband Talk Videophone 1000 (and it's WiFi enabled sibling, the 2000). One thing that struck me was the line
The phone uses a BT Broadband Talk account, plugs into your router and existing broadband internet, includes automatic upgrades and a built-in address book, and will cost you 10p (about 20 cents) per minute to use
I was somewhat surprised by that statement - unlike the Amstrad E3 and some ancient BT Videophones from years long past, the new BT Videophones use VOIP, and surely calls that are completely over VOIP would be free, as they are with every other VOIP provider I've ever heard of.
Digging around, I came up with BT Broadband Talk's "What It Costs" page, which, while not mentioning the video service does detail BT Broadband Talk's calling plans and it looks like fully VOIP calls are indeed chargeable if they fall outside of your plan. So, if you have "Evenings & Weekends" a call to another UK number (including another BT Broadband Talk number) during the day is 3p a minute with a 3p setup charge (which looks exactly the same as a daytime call on a landline with "BT Together Option 2"). The only way this is in any way competitive is if you're a BT Total Broadband Customer, as then the Evening and Weekend package is thrown in for free - users of other ISPs have to pay 2.99 a month. Even then, as BT are often running promotions on Option 2 (I think they're advertising one on TV if not on their website at the moment, and I'm currently on an Option 2 promotion that I never saw advertised anywhere), using BT Broadband Talk may be more hassle then it's worth. Getting back to the cost of video calls, the video calls have their own "What It Costs" page, and it looks like video calls are 10p a minute, at all times. I could see some justification if it was touching the PSTN in some way, or calling 3G mobile phones, but 10p a minute VOIP to VOIP?
Even weirder is the BT Broadband Talk Softphone, as Softphone To Softphone calls are free - if you dial by Softphone IM name and not by number as "calls to BT Broadband Talk numbers are just 3p (plus a 3p call set-up fee"). I guess this is left over from the old BT Communicator with Yahoo Instant Messenger product that was withdrawn. The Softphone also has Pay As You Go option, unlike the "normal" Broadband Talk.
I would love to know the technical reason why a VOIP call dialled one way is free, and the same call to the same person over the same product but dialled differently is charged. Also, the softphone does video calling but I haven't found out if it's interoperable with the Videophones. Seeing as the Softphone has the word "free" emphasized over and over (for example, you even get 100 SMS messages for free) while the Videophone pages don't appear to use the word at all, I'd be unsurprised if they're not compatible, even if there's little technical reason for why they shouldn't be compatible.
My current opinion of BT is that they have some really interesting and exciting products, but they're often overpriced (but then, if you look hard enough, you can occasionally find a reasonable deal) and they don't always seem to be integrated well (Virgin seem to be doing a better job, with their "Very Impressive Package" - BT could do a better job, throwing WiFi access into the mix).
Some other BT Broadband Phone Links:
Pocket Lint's News Item On the Videophone Launch