Friday, January 21, 2005


I seem to have missed a bunch of the VOIP stuff at CES that is detailed in this post on VentureBlog:

Portable Handsets: Almost a cell phone...

The best example of the first approach was UT Starcom's Vonage handset. Vonage is one of the major Voice Over IP providers. Previously, they used Cisco and Linksys VOIP devices that you plug into your network at home. Now innovative telecoms company UT Starcom has produced a wi-fi handset that lets you make calls from anyplace you can connect to 802.11b. Now consumers buying Vonage don't need to set up any equipment in their home so long as they already have Wireless.

Pretty cool -- I use Vonage at home and it would be nice to not have to boot up a computer to use a softphone.

Consumer Routers: No more landline...

This really isn't all that new -- DLink, Linksys, and all the other consumer router manufacturers are providing support for the various VOIP providers.  What would be really cool is if there was a standard that allowed you to buy a non-specific VOIP provider router and just pop in a DirecTV-like card to activate the router for a specific provider.

Skype Gateways: Free calling...

The most interesting solutions didn't get much press at CES, probably because they were too esoteric for the masses. However, it's hard to argue with free as a consumer proposition.

A Taiwanese company called Sysgration introduced the SkyGenie product line. These devices sit between your regular phone jack and the phone. An additional plug goes into USB port on your computer. Your phone works as it did before.

However, if you dial "##" before your number, you are now dialing on Skype, the free calling network. Incoming Skype calls ring on your home phone, complete with caller ID and a different ring pattern.

The high-end device, the SkyGenie Voodoo, can even route incoming Skype calls to other phones and receive calls that then get routed over Skype. When at both ends of a call, SkyGenie Voodoo provides free international calls using your current phone system. For less than $100 in equipment, any company with overseas offices can get rid of their huge telecommunications costs.

This is really cool, but I can think of an even better implementation that would blend the service provided above with on-demand Vonage service.  Imagine if you could pay $5 a month for basic Vonage service like voicemail, caller ID, etc. and a phone number.  Then you use the equipment described above to determine if the call should go out over the Vonage network or the Skype network and to route inbound Skype calls to telephone handsets -- any minutes used on the Vonage network would be billed at a per-minute rate or your could elect to continue using Vonage plans with a bucket of 500 minutes at $15 a month or unlimited minutes at $30 a month.

1 comment:

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