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10/05/2009

Vonage iPhone, BlackBerry Mobile VoIP Apps: Better Late Than Never?

More than eight years after signing up its first residential phone customer, Vonage is finally becoming a real VoIP company. Despite being the name most associated in the public mind with VoIP, Vonage actually has spent most of its time pretending to be a conventional phone company. It offered little that AT&T didn't, except a slightly lower price. Recently, however, it has belatedly begun adding other ways to use its service which take advantage of VoIP's unique capabilities. The latest additions are applications for iPhone and BlackBerry phones.

The new applications use software downloaded to the handsets to provide cheap international calling via the Vonage network. That's particularly attractive because cellular international rates are inordinately high. The iPhone app routes calls via either Wi-Fi or cellular links. The Wi-Fi option sends them through nearby hotspots and then over the Vonage VoIP network at inexpensive rates. It even works at overseas hotspots, which makes it especially useful for travelers. A related application for the iPod touch allows Wi-Fi calling only.

The cellular option kicks in when the iPhone user is not near a hotspot. When it recognizes calls dialed to international numbers, the application intercepts them and routes them to local Vonage gateways. From there they travel cheaply overseas via the same Vonage network. Such calls use local cellular minutes but not costly international cellular circuits. The option is only available in the U.S., and of course not for the iPod touch. The BlackBerry application allows calls only via cellular links.

The mobile apps represent a belated updating of Vonage's longtime approach to telephony. For most of its history, the VoIP pioneer mainly emulated traditional residential phone service. Users plugged their standard phones into a Vonage analog adapter which was itself plugged into their broadband Internet connection. They then could make and receive calls just as they would on the regular landlines that Vonage replaced. Providing such a familiar user experience was probably necessary to reassure customers worried about trying what they considered an unproven technology. But it meant the service had little to attract users except the lower price it offered.

More recently, Vonage introduced soft phones for its "Pro" customers paying $35 per month for premium services. That allowed them to make calls from their laptops while on the road. Although the move would have seemed obvious long ago, Vonage didn't offer the software until July 2008 for Windows, and until March 2009 for Macintosh. Likewise, the new mobile applications significantly lag those of companies such as Truphone and 8x8. It will soon become clear whether late is better than never.

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Resources

  •     A selection of free documents for download to help make purchasing decisions when shopping for a business phone system.
  •      Get customized price quotes on a business phone system from top vendors.

Reports

  • Choosing the (Near-) Perfect Cloud Video Conferencing Solution
         This 7-page buyer's guide gives SMBs the information they need to choose the cloud-based video conferencing service that fits their needs. As a for-purchase download priced at $9.99, this document avoids the conflicts of interest of papers and guides that are offered for free, or sponsored by, vendors and service providers. Instead, it provides the kind of objective and authoritative information that would otherwise require assigning a staffer to spend days or weeks searching out and evaluating.

  • SMB Video Conferencing: Getting Beyond Clouds & Interoperability
         This 31-page VoIP Evolution report provides an in-depth analysis of a market that has suddenly become very competitive. It identifies and dispels some of the misconceptions that have become part of the conventional wisdom surrounding SMB video conferencing. Chief among these are unrealistic expectations regarding the cloud approach and interoperability.
         The report provides an innovative approach to analysis by illustrating that these issues are just two of many important factors that differentiate solutions from one another. The report surveys 10 Companies to Watch and compares 16 cloud solutions using a unique Differentiation Matrix that clarifies their strengths and weaknesses.

  • Voice Over LTE: More Pitfalls Than Promise for Now
        This 18-page Heavy Reading Insider report, written by Robert Poe, analyzes the prospects for delivery of voice calls over cellular networks using LTE (long-term evolution) 4G wireless technology. Operators are originally looking to use LTE mainly for mobile data services, since a number of technical issues make delivering voice traffic over LTE complicated. The report describes the various options available to operators, and explains why they are likely to move to voice over LTE later rather than sooner. Information about the report is available at Heavy Reading 4G/LTE Insider.

  • Making HD Voice Happen: Choosing Codecs, Connecting Islands
        This Heavy Reading Insider report by Robert Poe evaluates the impact HD voice will have on voice services providers ranging from traditional telcos to cable MSOs to cellular carriers to VoIP operators. The 20-page report also analyzes the role vendors' and providers' choices of codecs will play in ensuring that HD voice services can be delivered end-to-end, rather than only within individual providers' or enterprises' networks. It also surveys the HD voice efforts of 14 vendors.
        Information about the report is available at Heavy Reading Insider. A column about the report is available at Light Reading.

  • Disruptive VoIP Services: What Carriers Need to Know
        A report by Robert Poe for Heavy Reading, analyzing the innovative VoIP services with the most potential to disrupt the telecom services market over the next three to five years.
        The 57-page report describes the changes VoIP innovation brings to telephony models, practices and concepts. It identifies 17 categories of potentially disruptive VoIP services, and analyzes their potential impact on the market. It also profiles 50 potentially disruptive companies and services.
        Information about the report is available on the Heavy Reading Website. Coverage of the report is available on the Light Reading Website.


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