A "surprisingly" high number of Canadians are aware of Voice over IP (VoIP) services, according to new research obtained by Network Letter and commissioned by Bell Canada. In a summer 2004 poll of Canadians, Bell finds that awareness of technology that allows voice conversations to be conducted using the Internet rose to 75% from 69% in the winter of 2004.  Of those aware of VoIP capabilities, but who don’t use the Internet to have voice conversations, Bell finds that 20% say they will likely start using the Internet to do so in the next 12 months. The findings seem to indicate a quickly growing awareness of VoIP, which, when combined with still-growing wireless substitution of landline telephones, the telecom giant is likely to tout as a reason for the CRTC to consider a lighter regulatory hand in the market. The study, Canadians’ Usage and Views Regarding Telecommunications, was prepared by Decima Research Inc., an affiliate company of Network Letter publisher Decima Reports Inc., and written in November. It is a follow-up to an identical 2003 survey, and polls 1,016 Canadians about their telecom habits (NL, Oct. 15/03). Bell also conducted a survey in the winter of 2003, though it interviewed roughly only half the number of respondents than the summers of 2003 and 2004 reports. The survey finds that awareness of VoIP is high among 13-to-24-year-olds, among whom 94% are aware of the technology’s capabilities. Of those survey respondents who use the Internet, 19% (11% of all respondents) report using the Internet for voice – "surprisingly high percentages given the nascency of Voice over IP services," says the report. The vast majority, 90%, use computer-based systems to have Internet voice conversations, and 7% report using phone-based services. Of those using VoIP, 70% of their time is spent on long distance calls, and 66% of them report spending 100% of their time on long distance calls. "These results indicate that Voice over IP is being used as an alternative to traditional long-distance calling, perhaps indicative of the savings realizable with Voice over IP services. Close to a third of Voice over IP users (33%) said they expected their usage of Internet for voice conversations to increase over the next 12 months," concludes the study. Of VoIP users, 55% say they have reduced their use of landline phones to at least some extent. Wireless gaining The survey also finds that the number of people using their cell phones rather than a landline while in the home has increased significantly since Bell’s previous survey. In the summer 2004 study, 58% of cell phone using respondents did so, compared to 47% in the winter 2004 survey, and 49% in the summer 2003 survey.  Bell has been touting wireless substitution for wireline as a key metric that the CRTC must take into account when considering marketplace competition. The company again asks telecom decision makers what it would take for them to drop their home phone in favour of wireless.  Nearly half (46%) say they won’t switch, and 35% say rates would have to come down to induce them to switch. Popular responses that were cited by under 10% of respondents included better reception, more reliable cell phones, more than one extension, longer-lasting batteries and good long distance plan rates. Canadians satisfied with level of competition Bell found, as it did in the summer 2003 survey, that Canadians are satisfied with the level of competition available for their personal communications. Overall, 81% indicated that they were either very satisfied (17%) or satisfied (64%) with the state of competition, with Canadians in the BCE Inc. serving areas more likely to be so (84%) compared to respondents in Western Canada (76%). Respondents were also asked about their satisfaction with the level of competition in TV broadcast services. Two-thirds said they were satisfied, without difference across regions – lower than for communications services.