VoIP competitors asked to sacrifice price edge for firm's quality guarantees PCCW is offering its internet telephony rivals the option of paying $42 per subscriber per month in exchange for service-quality guarantees when using the fixed-line incumbent's Netvigator broadband network. Internet telephony operators, however, are likely to baulk at the high fee. The point of voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services is to offer customers lower tariffs compared with traditional fixed-line services. But with local fixed-line rates now as low as $68 and falling quickly, few VoIP providers could afford to pay PCCW $42 per month and still expect to earn a profit. VoIP vendors such as Hong Kong Broadband Network (HKBN) and Skype Technologies presently do not pay anything to PCCW because the Netvigator customer has already paid PCCW for internet access - be it for voice-data packets or other applications such online games. For the $42 fee, PCCW will give priority to voice packets over other types of data, ensuring the service quality that VoIP providers can offer their customers. The company's executive vice-president for consumer marketing Dominic Leung Tak-sing: 'Different customers have different needs. If they want a better quality of service, we can offer them another option but they have to pay.' An HKBN spokeswoman said the operator would not use the service. HKBN presently charges its customers about $48 per month for local VoIP services. PCCW in the past has accused HKBN of getting a free ride on its Netvigator network, for which it should be compensated. It has also characterised VoIP services as unreliable. In September last year it sent a letter to Netvigator subscribers outlining possible problems with VoIP phones. Industry players have called on the Office of the Telecommunications Authority to ensure that PCCW plays fair. Some have said the authority should take steps to ensure PCCW does not do anything to hinder the flow of voice-data packets, thereby affecting the service quality. Hutchison Global Communications, which offers a video telephony service, was 'studying the details proposed by PCCW', said a spokeswoman. 'Any new arrangement set between the operators should not affect the service and quality provided to the customer.' Wharf T&T said it backed PCCW's move. Wharf T&T agreed to pay sister firm i-Cable Communications a line rental of $25 a month to run VoIP services on its cable backbone.