Friday, April 25, 2008

VOIP on Cell Phones

VOIP on Cell Phones

Great, the information superhighway has people talking on cell phones now.

A quickly developing technology in the telecom world today is VoIP over cell phones. The days where you had to shell out a large sum of money to make a long-distance call, or international long distance call are over. VoIP helps you save almost 40% of your calling costs. VoIP phones (a.k.a. Internet phone service) require the Internet to function. Your voice which is the analog signal format is sent via Internet after it is converted into small digital packets. These digital packets are then reconverted into analog signal format before they reach the final destination. Companies like Skype Technologies, a unit of eBay, are leading the way for this new technology. Skype’s mobile VoIP application already runs on Microsoft’s Windows Mobile software. Iskoot is also working with Skype to allow users to make or receive Internet calls on their mobile phones. Many instant messenger services also have built-in VoIP service. AIM, by AOL, has a VoIP service offered at $14.95/month for unlimited calls. Windows Live Messenger offers their VoIP service in cooperation with Verizon.

Avi Shechter and his team recently launched Fring, a peer-to-peer VoIP service that carries calls over cell-phone networks; not unlike the way PC-based Internet telephony services transport conversations over Wi-Fi or fixed-line broadband connections. It allows you to fill your contact list with other Fring users, or friends on other services, such as Skype. You can download the 200K-byte application to your handset for free. Fring is trying to widen the choice of handset compatibility by enabling the application to run on other operating systems as well, including Microsoft’s Windows Mobile. The problem with Fring, though, is that you may incur “roaming charges” when you make cross network calls, i.e. Fring to Skype users.

As of right now, there are two types of long-distance phone service available: paid service and free Internet phone service. There are a number of VoIP service providers offering Internet phone service free of charge. You can easily search for a provider giving free phone service and then download the dialer from their website. Dial the number with the proper country or area code, and voila! You’re connected like on a regular phone.

VoIP telephone service on cell phones is offered with VoIP built in, or usable through the use of installed applications. Many VoIP services are offered over Java-enabled mobile phones. You just need to install the company’s mobile VoIP application on a phone with Java features and you’re done. VoIP providers like Mino and Skype are leading the way in VoIP technology, which is widely popular in Europe.

There is a program called VoipBuster that is “free”. You just have to register an account, set up your phone’s Internet access point, and enjoy free VoIP phone calls on your cell phone. Charges will vary depending on your data plan, but if you’ve got Wi-Fi set up at home and/or work, then you’ll enjoy free VoIP phone calls. VoipBuster also allows you to make some free calls to landlines and cells, but I really don’t know the specifics as to how long you can talk, or how many of these calls you can make. The rates are supposedly low if you decide to go with the paid service to call these lines.Other VoIP providers offer services for a monthly price, and with per call charges. The problem with monthly fees is that consumers are already paying a monthly fee for a cell phone service. Consumers would have to be asked to pay another monthly charge, plus per-minute fees on top of the one they are already paying for using the same cell phone. One thing to keep in mind is that companies, like T-Mobile International AG & Co. KG, have banned the use of VoIP over its networks. Other operators may also introduce measures to block access to virtual mobile VOIP service providers, like Fring, that use their mobile data networks without commercial agreements. To offset any lost voice revenue from the switch to IP, such operators could charge a specific VOIP subscription fee, or offer a more expensive data package service fee for using VOIP or even bundle additional services for a higher fee. Telephone operators have invested far too much money in licenses, equipment and customer acquisition to not put up a fight. Like fixed-line telephone providers that first fought, and then adopted VOIP services, mobile operators must now deal with a technology that could radically change their business models. For obvious reasons, mobile phone companies are going to want to protect their huge telephone service revenues against new providers of VoIP-over-mobile services. VoIP services can cost as low as US$0.02/ minute for international calls compared to the $1/minute traditional mobile providers charge. It’s no surprise standard mobile companies are worried. I’ve always stated that VoIP is going to be one of the biggest developments in telecommunications. It’s here to stay.

We’ll have to wait and see how the drama plays out between the VoIP companies and mobile telephone service providers.To read up more about VoIP, please read my three part blog:

VoIP Telephony [ Part 1 Part 2 Part3 ]