Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Mobile VOIP, How does this technology work

So much is talked about VOIP these days. I know what you guys are thinking, I must be smoking pot to say VOIP rocks, when you read companies like Sun Rocket closing down and vonage struggling. However, having said that, I strongly believe VOIP is going to make a big impact in the industry and it will not go down the drain.
We have seen VOIP calling from desktop/soft phone etc. Extending this technology to mobile is what people call mobile voip. It’s too early to talk about pure VOIP from mobile perspective, because of the QOS issues. Some of the current bottle neck with respect to Mobile VOIP is technology and operators unwillingness to open up the walled garden. Not sure if there is any compelling reason for them to stop milking the cash cow . Basically, mobile voip is going to hurt the operator and their revenue stream from voice. But, it’s a good feature for consumers especially business users who are always on the move.
Also, with Mobile IM becoming more popular, this might hurt operator’s sms revenue. However, to support mobile im, you need a data package. I guess that kind of evens out the revenue margin. That explains why we see so many mobile IM’s client supported by operators. User is still paying for the data package rather than SMS. The advantages of mobile im is, you don’t have to build a new community, the community is already built and mobile becomes your access tool and an extension to your PC.
Some of the different mobile VOIP modes are listed below














• Call originated from handset connects to the operator’s network through IP interface. No need to use TDM resource on the originating side. Here the originating side of the call uses data interface ( GPRS,EDGE,3G,and WIFI etc). There is definitely a voice quality issue depending on the data speed available on the handset. With respect to the uplink and downlink data speed, its not there yet. We will see some improvements in these areas over couple of years. If it’s a WIFI phone, than calls become lot more cheaper since the existing WIFI interface is used for voice calls. Some of the DUAL mode handset supports call transfer from circuit to WIFI based on the availability of wifi hot spots. This is a very lucrative feature for enterprise. ( Some companies, to name a few - Siemens,Davitas,tango have products that support these features. ). These products fall under FMC category, I will discuss more on that later.
Startups to watch: fring, truphone,barablu














• Call originated from handset uses TDM resource to connect third-party vendors gateway, which in turn connects the called party using IP interface. A predefined gateway number(E.164) is configured with the handset client for voice call. Whenever a voice call is initiated from the handset , client initiates a voice call to the gateway( preassigned E.164 number).In additon, an sms or ip message is sent to the gateway with all the information about contact or group. ( Each time a call is made, sms or mobile data is used to communicate contact/group information to the gateway). Most of the mobile VOIM (iskoot, eqo) products use this kind of signaling methods to convey contact or group information to the gateway.
Startups to watch: nimbuzz,iskoot,eqo,
• Call Back model, using the web or local handset client, user can dial his/her contact/group number. Within some seconds, user would get an incoming call from the third-party gateway, which will bridge the call between him and the called contact/group. This makes more sense when making a long distance or international calling. What you end up paying is a local airtime fee, if the other end is a VOIP endpoint or fewer rates for international calling, because of voip backhaul being involved in call setup.
Startups to watch: jajah,talkster,gizmo

Here is a list of some interesting companies in the Mobile VOIP space. ( I have not included some companies like iskoot,eqo,talkster as they fall under mobile IM and mobile VOIM category, Its my favorite subject and want to write more insights on this in a separate article)

Fring
Supports free voice calls, mobile chats and presence. Interface to multiple IM vendors, which allow you to pull in all your IM communities to the handset. I love the idea of mobile P2P voip technology. Having said that, Im not sure how P2P guys are going to solve the CALEA compliance issue.
Worthy of mention is their recent second round of funding that is reportedly in the ballpark of $12 million.

Truphone
truphone routes your mobile calls through the internet. You need to have a WIFI enabled handset to use this service. Also, it support IM and voice calls to Google talk users. Interesting thing about truphone is; they have built the entire product using open source technologies. Wow, this is a cool deal. Thumbs up to open source revolution.

Talkster
Looks like talkster wants to talk business than user base, they are interested in helping enterprise reduce their voice traffic bills. In addition, they support the standard multi IM access feature that most of the companies support. For now, only MSN and Google talk is supported.

Mig33
Compared to other Mobile VOIP companies, mig33 has some additional features like creating/joining communities, sharing photos and scrapbooks.

Nimbuzz
It’s a Netherland based Mobile Voip and IM company. From IM interface standpoint, they support Skype, Google talk and MSN. They have both PC version and a handset version of client. I downloaded the PC version of IM. Slick interface. I didn’t see the skype settings, was surprised to see AOL setting. I have played around with so many IM aggregators PC clients, I don’t even want to look at a new one. Mobile IM and voice support is something I was really hooked up with.

Barablu
Free mobile-to-mobile calls using voip technology via WIFI.

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5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mobile Network Operators will do anything in the power to block third party VoIP. The battle between Truphone and T-Mobile is hardly over. Add to this the fact that the MNOs have plenty of room to lower costs and compete on price against VoIP with the existing networks.

omfut said...

Good point; MNO’s don’t want their network to be used as dumb pipes. However, eventually MNO's need to provide innovative services to keep their customer's happy. So either they would partner with some of the vendors or provide these services themselves. T-Mobile was the first operator to support dual mode handset in North America. Having their own wifi spots makes perfect sense.

Rachael said...

Stumbled across this blog write up. Am a nit of a novice and have tried to go down the route of getting skype on my mobile a couple of times. Fiddly. Managed to find how to do it automatically (without networks interfering). bell-me.com works pretty well. About to go away with it so will let you know how it goes.

omfut said...

Hi rachael:
Im not sure of bell-me supports skype. Why dont you try iskoot,eqo or mobivox. These companies support skype interface.

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