Market initiatives to make voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) as popular in Hong Kong as in the mainland are expected to heat up next month with the local introduction of IP-based telephone handsets by iNetTalk.com. Daniel Fung, president and chief executive of telecommunications application service provider iNetTalk, claims the company is the first to introduce IP telephone handsets in Hong Kong. 'Our target customers will be the small and medium-sized enterprises [SMEs] in Hong Kong, a growing number of which are already customers of our existing IP services,' he said. The release of the IP handsets is supposed to extend iNetTalk.com's Web-to-Phone and 2 Call You IP telephony packages, which are both VoIP services used by more than 200 SMEs in Hong Kong. The company delivers the services on a subscription basis. VoIP refers to sending voice information over the Internet. It is digitally relayed through networks in discrete packets rather than in circuit-based protocols of public switched telephone networks. A major advantage of VoIP is that it avoids the charges of ordinary telephone services, especially for long-distance calls. According to telecoms market research firm Probe Research, VoIP services in the mainland are expected to account for 15 per cent to 20 per cent of all packet-based telephony traffic carried worldwide by 2005.