The telephony techscape is heating up with newer technologies being revealed almost everyday, and the POTS companies struggling to exist. VoIP is nothing new, and I, personally, have been using it since around 1999 when I first made my Internet voice call to the US. What’s really happening right now is the emergence of global open standards making it easy for new players in the arena to set up shop.
Skype has been around for quite some time and holds the most prominent position in Internet telephony. But, it suffers from the fact that it still uses proprietary technology, and is closed in many respects, restricting the users of other open standards based software to connect to their gateways. Nonetheless, they do have a sound business model.
I had the chance to use a relatively new service called Gizmo Project a couple of days ago. What distinguishes it from Skype is its implementation of open standards (including Jabber for IM), although the main client software itself is closed. Users get a free area code 775 US telephone number that could be used by regular POTS/cellular phone subscribers to connect to a Project Gizmo user for free. In addition, users have the option of paying a monthly/pay-by-use fee to forward/transfer their incoming calls to a regular phone number across the globe.
My experience up until now has been excellent, and I actually like the simple yet functional interface. The sound quality is great as well. Gizmo Project provides the cheapest calls to regular phones in the US at 1 cents a minute. International calls are not competitively priced, and this is where Yahoo! Messenger/Dialpad steals the show. Toll free calls (8**) incur no charge at all, and provide a great way to communicate when you’re travelling internationally.
The most phenomenal aspect of this software is its use of open standards, which means that it can connect to a multitude of SIP enabled networks, all for free! It is worth mentioning that almost all universities across the globe use open SIP gateways, which means you could use Gizmo Project to talk for free internationally! A lot of businesses are also investing in open SIP gateways. I see a complete Internet telephony enabled talk-space within a couple decades from now. Cell-phone networks stand no chance in the light of pervasive Internet and mature VoIP telephony.
That said, I would still wait for Yahoo!’s latest messenger to come out of beta stage before passing any final judgment. Yahoo! has a lot of tricks up its sleeve, and has just licensed the best VoIP codec technology for use in its messenger software. With its competitive pricing, it could very well emerge as the winner in this battle for a very long time.
Interesting times indeed!