Saturday, December 22, 2007

AVM has started to sell one of the coolest VoIP devices ever

The company AVM from Berlin has started to sell one of the coolest VoIP devices ever, the FRITZ!Box Fon WLAN 7270, but only in Germany. Fritz!Box devices are still lacking FCC approval and carry only the seal of Europe's counterpart, Communauté Européenne (CE). That's why people from many other countries cannot enjoy them. In my opinion they blow away all other VoIP devices from Linksys, Grandstream or Sipura. At least you can start to dream by reading the first press release from March 15, 2007.

FRITZ!Box Fon WLAN 7270
Premiere for the New FRITZ!Box Fon WLAN 7270 – Combines ADSL, VDSL, WLAN 11n, DECT and Media Streaming for More DSL, More VoIP and More Multimedia

  • New top-of-the-range FRITZ!Box Fon WLAN 7270

  • Integrated DECT base station; ADSL, ADSL 2+ and VDSL broadband

  • More WLAN with 802.11n and MIMO technology

  • Media streaming server for all music files a the USB port

  • HD voice with 16 kHz broadband speech codec

The FRITZ!Box family will be premiering its new flagship, FRITZ!Box Fon WLAN 7270, at this year’s Cebit. Thanks to its wide range of features the new FRITZ!Box is now more than ever your central data hub for home Internet access. The new FRITZ!Box enables a previously unknown wide range of options: broadband access via ADSL, ADSL2+ and VDSL, and operation of cordless telephones using DECT. The new IEEE 802.11n (Draft 2.0) wireless standard, also in use for the first time, offers optimum transmission of data, speech and HD video in combination with MIMO multiple antenna technology. The integrated media server lets you listen to music in your entire network even when your PC is switched off.

ADSL and VDSL broadband

The new FRITZ!Box Fon WLAN 7270 shares the award-winning details of the current FRITZ!Box line and is also incredibly easy to use. Using ADSL (6 Mbit/s), ADSL2+ (16 bit/s) and VDSL (50 Mbit/s) technologies, the new FRITZ!Box is ready for the future expansion of broadband connections. It supports permanent virtual connections (ATM PVC) for ADSL 2+ and virtual local networks (VLAN) for VDSL. This enables different quality of service classes for various services such as voice, video and Internet. FRITZ!Box Fon WLAN 7270 supports Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMP) for Internet streaming. IGMP is the standard for IP multicasting on the Internet, i.e. the sending of an IP data stream to several recipients simultaneously.

New WLAN features: 802.11n and eco mode

For the first time, FRITZ!Box Fon WLAN 7270 enables WLAN connections using the future IEEE 802.11n wireless standard, which is ideal for simultaneous transmission of data, voice and multimedia. AVM uses the recently unveiled Draft 2.0 of 11n, which also defines compatibility. MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) multiple antenna technology has increased WLAN quality and data transfer rates considerably. Wireless connections can also be established using 802.11g. FRITZ!Box is secure on delivery thanks to activated WPA encryption; WPA2 can be activated individually as required. WMM (Wi-Fi multimedia) ensures optimum wireless transmission of voice, data and multimedia and simultaneous transmission of multiple streaming applications. WLAN can be switched off using sleep mode or a switch. WLAN eco mode also lets you reduce power output considerably even when the device is in use. Thanks to eco mode, AVM already complies with the planned EU Code of Conduct on improving energy efficiency.

Integrated DECT – new sound with HD voice – VoIP encryption

FRITZ!Box Fon WLAN 7270 makes placing calls over the Internet or your landline (analog and ISDN) easy and convenient. TAE sockets let you use existing telephones without the adapters required by other products. Cordless calls are also possible thanks to the new integrated DECT base station, which supports up to six mobile components. The new FRITZ!Box is compatible with the first phase of the new DECT cordless standard (CAT-iq), which offers better voice quality thanks to more bandwidth. The internal ISDN S0 connection lets you use up to 8 ISDN phones and PBXs to access VoIP and your landline. Integrated bandwidth management (quality of service) enables parallel applications such as VoIP and HD video streaming. FRITZ!Box Fon WLAN 7270 delivers with HD voice (High Definition) a brand-new sound quality for Internet telephony. It supports the Linear PCM 16 and PCMA 16 voice transmission standards with a 16-kHz sampling rate. RFC 3551 defines the application of these standards for Voice over IP (VoIP), enabling top voice quality in phone calls. Calls over the Internet can be encrypted as needed. AVM uses two internationally standardized protocols, TLS (Transport Layer Security) and SRTP (Secure Real-Time Transport Protocol) for this purpose. Using important familiar features from ISDN, such as toggling, call waiting, call divert and three-way conference calls, is intuitive with AVM’s new FRITZ! product whether for Internet or landline calls.

More options – music server and new USB interface

The FRITZ!Box Fon WLAN 7270 USB 2.0 port enables new network applications, and the integrated music server lets you listen to music in your entire network even when your PC is off. Hard drives connected to FRITZ!Box can be operated in Windows as conveniently as a local hard drive. You can even have secure access remotely using FTP. Thanks to AVM USB Remote Architecture (AURA), all devices connected to FRITZ!Box behave as if they were connected directly to your PC.

Comprehensive features for more security and convenience

The new FRITZ!Box Fon WLAN 7270 features comprehensive software, including a telephone book, alarm clock, firewall, child lock, WLAN sleep mode and eco mode for reducing energy consumption. One button lets you pair handheld devices (DECT and WLAN), while another lets you switch WLAN on and off.

Wifimobile again outsmarted by Truphone's free offer

Wifimobile quits their flatrate model and goes prepay like Truphone. The move is said to be inspired by a blog post from iotum's Alec Saunders from Canada who managed to spend just $4.16 on mobile calls and roaming at the IP industry event Fall 2007 VON in Boston. Calls were handled by either TruPhone (if in a Wifi zone) or Mobivox (if not).

Wifimobile users can now set up accounts to make very cheap calls over Wi-Fi as per Truphone, and GSM Call through access as per Mobivox. The rates are competitive, such as under $0.10 per minute to India. You can find them here. The move was necessary because Wifimobile's previous flatrate model could not offer calls to many countries like India and the Middle East as it looked like this:
Only £15.99 €11.99 £7.99 Per Month

The oneFone service from WiFiMobile allows you to make unlimited* free calls to landlines in over 40 countries as well as mobile phones in certain countries including the USA. For a list of countries that you can call for free click here.

All calls to landline and mobile numbers to countries not listed here are automatically routed through your normal GSM provider. This allows us to guarantee that customers are never charged more than the set monthly line rental.

*The unlimited free calls are subject to a fair usage policy.

In the last months Wifimobile had to walk in the shadow of Truphone, because they offered calls to the same countries for free in a limited offer that always got extended. Calls to destinations outside these 40 countries could at least be completed as paid calls with Truphone, while Wifimobile just couldn't offer them.

As Truphone's free calls should have finished at the end of the year, Wifimobile hoped to compete on the same level with them and beat them with more VoIP features. An added enhancement is that people can register not only their cell phone but also the home or office landline for the use with Wifimobile's callthrough numbers. That brings more calls onto Wifimobile's VoIP network and makes their service usable outside of Wifi areas.

Truphone lacks such a nice callthrough feature and I am missing it, as I told in my blog post "Packet8 MobileTalk could be done much better". Wifimobile also offers real time call records, which can be viewed in a secure customer portal, and they are also currently working on an inbound solution.

But will this be enough to step out of Truphone's shadow?

It must have been a strong blow that Truphone has just announced the extension of their free calling to landlines (and some cellphones) in 40 countries until the end of February 2008, only one week after Wifimobile changed their business model. Free phone calls are still the strongest argument for the VoIP customer. Read both companies' press releases! I am quite convinced that Truphone will never charge for these calls. We can already prepare for the next extensions in March, July and December. That's how it worked in 2007.

WiFiMobile goes global with prepay VoIP and dial through service

Los Angeles California December 13th 2007 - Leading mobile VoIP provider WiFiMobile today announced that their VoIP service has changed to prepay with very competitive costs.

The company had previously charged a monthly subscription which allowed free calls to landlines in certain countries, however calls to all other worldwide destinations were barred. The introduction of a top up system now presents a global platform.

WiFiMobile’s new tariff rate has been completely revised and users can now take advantage of calls such as to India at under 10 US cents per minute. Calls to other online WiFiMobile customers are free regardless of location.

Their unique local access numbers remain in place where cheap calls can be made when no Wi-Fi access point is in range. These numbers are available in twelve countries at present with more to follow shortly. Customers can also register other numbers such as their home landline to utilise these access numbers. This combines Internet and dial through calling into just one account.

The service is available at the company’s website where their VoIP client oneFone can be downloaded instantly to any compatible Nokia E or N Series smartphone. A free $1 credit is applied to all new accounts to test the technology. Customers are also able to securely access the log in portal to view account balance, top up history and real time CDRs.

The company’s VoIP client oneFone fully supports Presence enabling users to see who is online at any time with other business features such as Call Conferencing, Call Transfer and VCC (Voice Call Continuity) coming soon.

WiFiMobile CEO says "This stretches out our potential market to places that we couldn’t touch previously. Countries such as India have over 200 million mobile users and have a huge overseas based population. Our rates are very competitive and we have the most robust VoIP client".

For further information please visit or email


Head Office:
3250 Wilshire Boulevard
9th Floor
Los Angeles
CA 90010

Tel: +1 310 459 3000 Ext 2



WiFiMobile were founded in 2002 and have offices in the US and UK. In 2004 the company achieved status of a Forum Nokia S60 3rd Edition Featured Developer, one of only 23 recognized worldwide.

VoIP client oneFone is a self developed and wholly owned application and provides cheap or free long distance calls as well as converting select Nokia devices into extensions of corporate IP IBX systems. The company is poised to achieve phenomenal growth in the next year in this rapidly evolving market.

Thursday, December 20, 2007
Truphone freezes call charges until the end of February 2008

Truphone today announced that all Truphone call charges have been frozen at their current rates until February 29th 2008. For the next two months, Truphone calls will be free to landlines in 40 countries, and to mobiles in the USA, Canada and elsewhere. Using Truphone to call EU mobiles costs just 15 pence per minute or less.

Truphone call charges summary
  • Free calls to landlines in 40 countries
  • Free calls to cellphones USA, Canada, China, Hong Kong and Singapore
  • Pay 15 pence or less to EU mobiles - and no connection charge
  • Free mobile calls to other online Truphone customers
  • No roaming fees: Truphone calls costs the same wherever you are
  • No download cost, no monthly charge and no inbound fees
  • These rates are guaranteed until February 29th 2008. Rates quoted are exclusive of VAT
  • Anyone with a suitable handset can get Truphone by sending an SMS with the word 'Tru' to +44 7624 000000

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Free calls VoIP widgets make me get funny phone calls

Since my last post "Call me for free with Tringme!" I get funny calls from Senegal and other far away countries. They go through Tringme, but also my click to call widgets from Voxalot and Sitòfono. Somebody must have spread the word that I give support on certain VoIP services and devices. No wonder that people call me, since it's for free.

I am OK with such calls, but please understand that I can only answer during working hours in my time zone. The rest of the calls goes to the voice mail box. The yesterday's caller didn't even understand that he was talking to an answering machine. He thought that I was on the phone with him but refusing to answer, so he got a little upset. Also I had serious problems to understand his Englisch and the e-mail address he left.

I think for such purposes it's still the best option to contact me over the contact form on my website. The last caller who came through caught me on my cell phone in a department store when I couldn't help him at all.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Call me for free with Tringme!

Much has been said about startups like Ribbit, Tringme or Flashphone which use the Flash browser plugin for click to call widgets. Aswath Rao even declares 2008 the Year of Flash based VoIP Clients. I can only say that you don't have to wait till next year to call me for free using Flash. I love my Tringme call widget:

These calls are entirely free to you, because the caller speaks into the Flash widget on my website using a headset or the laptop's built in phone and speaker. On Linux the sound is a little bit weird. The automatic voice, which says "please wait while we connect your call" before every connection, sounds like a 45 rpm record played on 33. The phone call itself sounds like Mickey Mouse, but still the the words are understandable. On Windows everything works just perfect.

Also to me these calls are entirely free. Other than my widgets from Sitòfono and Voxalot where I have to pay to call the person who wants to contact me.

I achieve this by using FWD as SIP provider to power the Tringme widget. The Tringme account website says "Connect my phone and voicemail widget to Phone number or extension". Unfortunately it accepts only numbers and no SIP addresses in this input mask, but as a workaround I have simply put my FWD number there. In the "TringPhone SIP Settings" part of the account configuration I left my FWD login data. Which means that every Tringme call is in fact a free FWD on net call. You can probably do the same with Gizmo Project's SIP account data and phone numbers, as well as with many other VoIP providers.

Also there is another widget for people who don't want to talk to me, but just leave a voicemail.

Only seconds later I get a call and a voice says "You have a Tringme" before it plays the message. The Tringme widgets are much better than Gizmocall which also allows free calls from a website.

You could call me for free by simply typing in your browser's address bar. This website also uses Flash, but additionally you have to install a plugin for Windows or Mac. For ten months yet Gizmo owes us a Linux plugin. Although the company's CEO, Michael Robertson, even has his own Linux distribution, Linspire.

But why bother? The Flash browser plugin gets more and more versatile and works on all platforms. It's a new way to disrupt the telco industry, circumventing the PSTN and offering a new option for free phone calls that so many people appreciate.

So, if you want, please give me a Tringme call!

And, before you ask: No, I couldn't get Truphone's Facebook application running, which should basically do the same like Tringme, only that it uses Java. After one week of tinkering I gave up. But congratulations for winning the "Red Herring 100 Global" Award.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

What does the the new free phone calls startup Dringg do?

Does anybody know the new VoIP startup Dringg? They make me very courious with their announcements. The Facebook site of Jeff Heubo, CEO and Co-Founder, says;
Keep your cell/landline device(s) & phone number(s).
Our ambition is to build a "Free Call Network" so that anyone could use his or her cell/landline phone to reach worldwide cells & landlines at zero cost.
No download - No Pin - No Wifi or 3G - No Java.

"Dringg is a fast, free and easy way to call family & friends' cells / landlines from yours, no matter where they're physically located", says the company's website. But so far that's the only useful information. Sounds quite interesting, but I have no idea what's behind it. The company seems to be located now in San Francisco, CA. But the founders are from France.
Dring project was fully initiated by Jeff Heubo & Stephane Orey, both friends and co-workers in La Defense, the biggest European Business Center.

Jeff and Stephane studied Business & Telecom Engineering. After a few years un Spain & the US, idea came to build a free alternative to paid calls so that people could just Dringg themselves from their existing landlines and cells.

Obviously they are paving the way for a launch and seed pieces of information to create interest. Jeff Heubo invited me to be one of the first Alpha testers and says that it deals with free calls. But he doesn't tell more and hopes I understand that. A hint could be his Twitter page which says at the top:
“Never be first to market, make something good Greater”
Steve Chazin

So what kind of business is Dringg improving? Jajah? Pudding Media? Yak4ever? Maybe Jeff Pulver shouldn't have headed to Israel to hunt for talents, but better contacted these two French guys.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Cubic Telecom's Maxroam in alliance with Celtrek

Irishman Pat Phelan, CEO of Cubic Telecom, is improving his product Maxroam. In the hype time around TechCrunch 40 competition in September 2007 we thought to see roaming prices around $0.20 in every country with this SIM card. That's not a reality yet, but not forgotten as a longer term aim. Now Cubic Telecom announced a cooperation with the folks at Global Roaming which offer a very similar SIM card, called Celtrek. The partnership will allow both companies to offer extended geographic coverage and data roaming on their existing products. Celtrek is stronger in the US market and Maxroam here in Europe.

Phoneboy Dameon Welch-Abemathy revealed an interesting detail in his post on The VoIP Weblog:
What wasn't announced in the press release, but slipped out on Pat's Jaiku stream was that the MAXroam service would soon be much cheaper in the US/Canada. Right now, it's prohibitively expensive, but Pat is saying by early 2008 the price should be about 12 cents (presuming Eurocents here). I'm not going to hold Pat to those rates, but if it's true, it does sound a fair bit better than the 1.18 Euros it now costs to receive and make calls within the USA.

Andy Abramson explains:
While their pricing isn't lower than buying local SIM cards, they do save you money if you are going from country to country, and you avoid a lot of unused minutes. They also give you the benefit of one number so friends and family can find you, making it a great gift for the student you know whose going to take a trip overseas.

Yes that's right. The pricing isn't lower than local SIM cards, but it's super convenient for frequent travellers to always have the same number on their SIM and don't have to worry too much for roaming prices. I am already playing around with a Cubic Phone from Pirelli and a Maxroam SIM card. The sound quality is fantastic while roaming on the German Vodafone network. I have a UK fixed line number for Maxroam and could also add a German number. They all would ring in whichever country I am.

The only thing that holds me back is that for Germany they only offer numbers from Hanover while I live in funky Berlin. He Pat, didn't they tell you that Hanover has the fame of being Germany's most boring city? So boring that in the 80ies and early 90ies Punks regularily gathered from all over the country to mix it up at least one time a year in their famous Chaos Days. So when I roam I will simply forward my existing Berlin number to the Maxroam UK number. As a Voipchecker I know how to do that for free, this I can save the €4.50 per month for a German Maxroam number.

Anyway, here is Cubic Telecom's press release:

Cubic Telecom and Global Roaming align forces
Alliance will focus on joint opportunities

CORK, Ireland – 30 November, 2007 – Cubic Telecom dba MAXroam and Global Roaming Inc. dba CelTrek have today announced a strategic alliance combining their marketing reach and technical know-how into a single partnership.

The partnership will allow both companies to offer extended geographic coverage and data roaming on their existing products. This is a substantial step forward for both companies in their goal to provide a single global communication platform that brings an end to the monopolistic behavior of the large cellular operators.

Pat Phelan said “I am delighted that Global Roaming has decided to partner with Cubic and I look forward to a world where anyone can call anyone at anytime without worrying about the cost.”

Florian Seroussi, CEO of Global Roaming Inc. said “This alliance gives us an opportunity to get a footprint in Europe in order to spread our ambition of offering low-cost roaming to consumers everywhere.”

Through the partnership both companies are currently actively engaged in joint proposals to large US and European enterprises and announcements on these are imminent.

ABOUT Cubic Telecom
Based in Cork, Ireland, with offices in Vancouver, Canada, Cubic Telecom is an innovative global communications company focused on introducing simple, high quality and high value telecommunications services. Its core target market is aggrieved customers across the globe who don’t understand why they can’t get value for money when making international calls while roaming.

ABOUT Global Roaming Inc.
Global Roaming, Inc, is a privately held Nevada corporation, with offices in Miami, Florida. The parent company has over 350 GSM network operator agreements covering more than 165 countries and all continents.

For further information, please contact:

Media Contact
Giovanni Rodriguez,
The Conversation Group
M: +1 650 279 8415

Patrick Smith, Sonus PR
T: +44 (0)20 7851 4890
M: +44 (0)7734 600553

Company Contact
Cubic Telecom Limited
Pat Phelan, CEO
+353 21 425 0657

Cubic Telecom Limited
Unit 1, Webworks
Eglington Street

Company Contact
Global Roaming Inc.
Jenny Callicott, COO
+1 305 249 3121

Global Roaming Inc.
1021 Ives Dairy Road
FL, 33179

Thursday, November 29, 2007

How much does Google pay the operators for the My Location info on Google Maps?

Google has launched a location service for Google Mobile Maps that doesn't rely on the Global Positioning System (GPS). The My Location feature locates users who don't have GPS-enabled phones based on their location to nearby cell towers. The result isn't as accurate as GPS, but it works pretty good in cities. Om Malik got located just half a block away from his real location when he checked out the service yesterday.

I wonder how much Google has to pay for that location info, because it's not free. In Germany the mobile operators charge €0.10 from third parties for every localization, and Google's new service works also here.

The disclaimer on the mobile phone explains pretty good the functionality of My Location for Google Maps:
With the My Location (beta) feature, just press [0] to move the map to your approximate location. [...] Your approximate location will appear as a flashing blue dot. If you have a GPS-enabled device, this blue dot correspondents to your GPS location. At times, and if you don't have GPS on your phone, you may see the dot surrounded by a light blue circle to indicate uncertainty about your location.

Why the uncertainty? The My Location service takes information broadcasted from nearby mobile towers to approximate your current location on the map - it's not GPS, but it comes pretty close. [...]

As part ot the My Location (beta) feature, Google Maps sends anonymous radio information back to Google servers to improve the service. You can disable / enable this and all location features by selecting from the options below.

In Germany we have a company called Qiro which does quite the same, but they are more advanced with their service. I visited them in July 2007. You can locate yourself and your buddies on a map. Qiro shows nearby movie theaters with their current program, ATM machines, Burger King restaurants, train stations, travel agencies and many more things.

Unlike Google Maps, Qiro is already based on localized online advertising. The prices for advertisers are similar to the banner ads on your web browser. This means it's cheap, between €3 and €150 for 1.000 ads. Qiro needs a razor sharp calculation to earn the money back for the localization and still make a margin.

How does Google do it?

Do they get better prices? Or do they just don't care because they are drowning in money? I guess we have to read their next stock report and look for an item called "locator info".

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Packet8 MobileTalk could be done much better

When Packet8 presented last week their service MobileTalk I was fascinated, but just for some seconds. Then I thought: What a lost opportunity! It could have been such a great application, if it 1.) hadn't such an expensive basic fee, 2.) wasn't bound to one particular VoIP provider and 3.) didn't work only in the US.

The press release explains very well how it works:
Packet8 MobileTalk utilizes a downloadable software application that can currently reside on any Windows, Palm or Symbian based mobile phone to seamlessly connect international calls from the mobile phone to the Packet8 digital VoIP network. Routing these calls over the Packet8 network enables cell phone users to significantly reduce their international phone bills and maintain high international voice quality while still enjoying the convenience and flexibility of mobile calling. [...]

With Packet8 MobileTalk, subscribers won't think twice about calling Europe or Asia because instead of $1.00 to $3.00 per minute, they will be paying as little as $.02 to $.05 per minute over the Packet8 network to most destinations. With more than 340 mobile phones from any cell phone carrier currently supported, the Packet8 MobileTalk service is a vital tool for mobile business professionals and consumers. [...]

Unlike calling card, callback and other reduced-rate international mobile calling services, which require the user to dial numerous key strokes in addition to their destination number or make their calls through cumbersome software applications, Packet8 MobileTalk users can dial calls directly and natively from their mobile handset, contact list or speed dial directory with no additional keystrokes - a significant advantage when, for example, placing a call while driving. Once the destination number is dialed or selected, the Packet8 MobileTalk software application identifies the international prefix being called and redirects the call to a local Packet8 network access number. With Packet8 MobileTalk, all calls are carried to the Packet8 network over the subscriber's existing cellular voice phone service and do not require access to an expensive monthly data plan or WiFi access point. [...]

There is a one-time $9.99 activation fee for the service and a monthly fee of $9.99 for non-Packet 8 subscribers. Existing Packet8 VoIP subscribers, including subscribers with one Packet8 MobileTalk account, pay a monthly service fee of $4.99. Packet8 MobileTalk overseas calls are billed at Packet8's low international rates which can be found at
That's a quite expensive monthly rent for a small piece of software. Given that there are no calls included in the recurring fee of $9.99. On top you always have to pay the per minute price for the calls, which is e. g. $0.03 to a German landline. The several Betamax companies charge only half the price, $0.015, for the same service. Or the call is free, included for instance in Voipstunt's flatrate price of € 10.00 for 120 days (roughly equivalent to $ 13.40).

I guess that people who acquire Packet8 MobileTalk suffer very strong from dialing "numerous key strokes in addition to their destination number or make their calls through cumbersome software applications". If not, $9.99 is a rip off. Taking into account that other callthrough applications like Runningmobile's cost just €19.95 (about $30). But only one time, when you buy it.

Nevertheless the functionality of Packet8 Mobile Talk is quite smart and better than other "cumbersome software applications". Perry Nalevka is Director of Business Development at the Israeli company MobileMax, which developed the software for Packet8. He explains in a comment to Pat Phelan's regarding blog entry:
1) The application sits on in the background of the phone and allows the user to use their phone normally and dial from their address book or call log

2) Supports BlackBerry, Windows, Palm and Symbian phones currently. The Java will be ready next year.

3) Calls are “caught” and routed by pre-configured parameters. In the case of Packet8 any call that begins with “011″ or calls that begin with “+” that are not in the US.
Hopefully Nalevka doesn't break an NDA by telling that his company is behind Packet8's software. He mentions it also in Tom Keating's blog. So MobileTalk from Packet8 works similar to the Wifimobile application, which sits in the background of your cell phone and only kicks in when you dial an international number. Only that Wifimobile tries to establish the call over Wifi while Packet8 establishes the call over callthrough. The callthrough numbers are stored in the software, like it is at iSkoot.

Let's wait and see now when Wifimobile comes up with the same callthrough feature. They have already recognized that Wifi isn't everywhere and offer callthrough numbers in 12 countries. Much better than MobileTalk which works only in the US. Also at Wifimobile you pay only $15.99 per month and get unlimited calls to landlines in 40 countries. This feels much cheaper than Packet8's offer. The only point is that Wifimobile's application works only on Nokia smartphones and the nifty callthrough is not yet part of the software. Users still have to dial "numerous key strokes in addition to their destination number".

Which brings me to the point: Companies like Truphone, Gizmo Project, Wifimobile and the like should make callthrough numbers a part of their mobile applications to make them usable outside of Wifi.

Or couldn't Jajah strike an agreement with MobileMax and let them make a software which handles the Jajah Direct numbers? Last week they celebrated themselves for eliminating the need for computer to make Internet calls, only to present a system that's not less complicated: Now people have to dial numbers which are 24 digits long.

A similar case is Truphone: Their software does pretty much everything. It automatically updates the call forward when you insert a foreign SIM card in your cell phone while travelling. Couldn't it also hold some callthrough numbers? If the company doesn't want to set up their own numbers they could surely make an agreement with Sipbroker or Tpad. These VoIP companies have callthrough numbers in nearly every country of the world. The Truphone software could automatically "sense" which country's callthrough number to use, since it already uses a similar functionality to forward calls from Truphone number to local SIM card. If that's not so easy the Truphone software should have a button to choose the country.

Or maybe Tpad and Sipbroker should design their own callthrough softwares, a proposal I directly made in their forums. Tpad's answer from the forum admin:
I will definitely mention your idea to management, but early next year we are starting work on a Tpad Global Freephone Number (cant mention too much detail at the moment, but from what we have come up with so far it is looking pretty good).

We are aware of the German Running Mobile, but we will have to check the other sites out.

Thanks for your ideas, we respect what our forum members want and we will try our best to develope them.
A "Tpad Global Freephone Number"? Now that's even more tricky. It would address the downside of the Sipbroker which is explained in a comment to Pat Phelan's blog entry:
What would make more sense for a large player is to negotiate preferable rates for access through 00800 (international toll free) straight to their own VOIP switch. Going through sipbroker access numbers that are operated by dozens of different VOIP carriers would not lead to consistant QoS.
OK, so QoS fans should use their own numbers, although many people use the Sipbroker numbers without problems. In the forum of Sipbroker's mothership Voxalot we developed some interesting ideas.

Maybe Voxalot could design my "callthrough dream application"?

It holds all Sipbroker numbers, kicks in only when make an international call and let's me use my own VoIP providers - like a already do on Voxalot's all purpose VoIP PBX. People would always only pay a local call and the international part goes over the respective VoIP provider. The mobile application should always “sense” in which country the cell phone is situated and choose the local Sipbroker number to establish the call.

I am craving for a really comprehensive application: sitting in the background like Packet8 and always kicking in when I need it, automatically making use of the callthrough number of the country where I am. Be it Jajah's, Tpad's, Sipbroker's, Net2max' or whatever callthrough number. I am a client of all these companies anyway.

It should be a "callthrough consolidator", like Devicescape is a Wifi consolidator for mobile phones. Devicescape let's me consolidate all the Wifi hotspots for my mobile phone into just one virtual hotspot. The callthrough software should do the same with all these numbers. I would even make myself the work to copy all callthrough numbers into my account on a website. The way that I can copy all login data of different Wifi hotspots into my account on the Devicescape website. Devicescape knows them all. No hassle with Wifi configuration on my tiny phone keyboard.

Who can build a Devicescape for callthrough?

Maybe a guy from Poland, called Marek. But until now he has only sent me ideas that go in this direction. No downloadable application.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Voxalot's Facebook application for really free phone calls

You know that I bashed Facebook very hard for being a terrible time sucker. Many Web 2.0 applications need too much attention, compared to their value. But there are some utilizations that make me smile, because the unleash the potential of Web 2.0 without wasting my precious time and money. Like Voxalot's latest Facebook application, VoxCall for Facebook, that really disrupts telecommunications. It let's me make free phone calls without touching the PSTN. Read the announcement:

On Monday 19th Nov 2007 Voxalot will be officially launching our new social communications application for Facebook called VoxCall.

VoxCall is an exciting new initiative from Voxalot that allows Facebook users to click on their friends and initiate phone calls. The beauty of VoxCall is that it is self-organising in that if your VoxCall friend changes their contact phone number, you don't even have to be notified... VoxCall will use whatever number they have registered.

VoxCall also offers both public and private chat rooms where VoxCall friends can get together for a group discussion.

The underlying technology that VoxCall uses to connect calls is Voice over IP addresses (often known as SIP URIs). When you add the VoxCall application, you will be prompted to enter your SIP URI. To ensure that you are the rightful owner of that number, VoxCall will display a PIN number on the screen and then call the number you entered. Your phone will ring and you will be prompted to enter the PIN, which is validated.

As such, VoxCall supports calls between friends that belong to *any* "open" voice network (not just Voxalot).

The beauty is that VoxCall uses VoIP without touching the PSTN. My buddies just enter their SIP URI and I can call them with just one click in Facebook. When they change their SIP address I don't have to bother to update my data since their Facebook button stays the same. We stay connected for free from SIP to SIP.

I find this much more nifty than the Facebook apps from Jajah, Jangl, Jaxtr, Rebtel, IVR Technologies, iotum, Sitófono or Grandcentral. They also connect people on Facebook and let them call me for free, in most cases. But there is always a telephone number involved, so that someone has to pay an incumbent telco which provides them.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The iPhone is beautiful but nasty

Finally I could get my hands on the Apple iPhone and check it out for one day. I must say that I am not that overly impressed like others commentators. The iPhone is a real multimedia machine, a true Apple product: fancy, with sharp pictures and fat sound. But it's definitely no Jesus phone. It does some things that I am really missing on my smartphone, like seeing every Youtube film. But the iPhone also full of small bitchinesses, like a spoiled starlet.

Youtube lies behind the goggle box

To see Youtube I just tip on the icon with the old TV set and it starts directly. Unlike other smartphones the iPhone delivers the entire Youtube on the screen, not just some handpicked films, like the mobile version for Symbian does. That's great because Youtube is Television 2.0 where people decide for themselves what they wants to see. The editorial preselection on my Nokia smartphone is always wrong with it's recomendations.

On the iPhone I just enter my search word and as result I get as much films like on my desktop PC. The only problem is that the virtual keys on the touchscreen are much too small, which makes me commit many typing errors. The picture quality is great, due to the high resolution display with 160 dots per inch. To fast-forward the movie or to stop it I just have to grab on the display to make the necessary buttons appear. I did that until the fat fingers on the screen seriously inhibited my Youtube pleasure and I had to clean. The landscape format gives you a real TV feeling, especially if you like cartoons. But I don't understand why the picture stayed in landscape mode when I put the phone upright. I love the iPhone feature which makes the entire screen turn when you move the phone in this direction.

Youtube fat fingers on the iPhone
Youtube fat fingers on the iPhone

Wifi is convenient but uncomfortable

However it's indispensable to have fast Wifi internet access for Youtube. With EDGE I had to wait eternally even for websites, when I played around with the iPhone in the Berlin subway. On my 3G smartphone I am used to read the latest news there without any problems.

Of course it's great that the iPhone automatically logs into every Wifi network that it has used before. But setting up a new hotspot is horrible. The iPhone finds the network's name very fast, but then follows the input of the password which in my case consist of lower case letters, uppercase and numbers. On the damned iPhone I could only choose between uppercase an numbers. A friend of mine had the same problem when he checked the iPhone at home. The arrow key for uppercase and lower case has no effect. I just couldn't enter any lower case letters. To not go entirely nuts, I finally had to chang my Wifi password so that it consisted only of numbers. A passnumber, so to say, which I could enter easily. But that's not very safe. That's why I chose a new Wifi password directly after the iPhone test.

Cool Cover Flow

The iPhone obviously wasn't made for security savvy techno geeks, but for design fans. They will surely love such cool effects like the cover flow: Turn the iPhone into landscape format, while listening to the music, and wipe over the shown record cover. It makes the covers of all stored songs rotate until your next favourite tune appears. Looks really fancy and works better than Windows Vista, where such graphical effects often bring the entire computer to its knees. When I change from cover view to list view, the cover rotates and disappears in the backgroung. Looks quite spacy.

Fat sound, but only for expensive earphones

Also the sound of the iPhone is great with Apple's small white earphones. It's cristal clear and banged my eardrum quite hefty when I pumped up the volume too much. Too bad that these white squits always fall out off my ears and I cannot use my own earphones with the iPhone. As soon as I connect them the entire iPhone goes silent. The phone doesn't work with every earphone because Apple moved the plug more inside the device. I already have great headphones from Philips which make me look like a DJ. They have cost only 3 Euros in a department store, cover my entire ear and have a great sound too. When they get broken I will buy new ones. That happens every few months because the cables are thin, also the iPhone's. Only for the iPhone squits it's really expensive to buy new ones: at least 40 Euros at Gravis, Germany's biggest Apple dealer.

iPod and iTunes are not the same on the iPhone

To listen to the music the iPhone has two buttons which have similar names but do different things: iTunes and iPod. The first one is to buy music and the second is to listen. The iPod button hides all the functionalities we already know from the iPod MP3 player: playlist,album, genre, artist and all that stuff. Nothing has changed and that's OK since I don't have to learn anything new.

The easiest way is to use the iPhone like an iPod: organize everything beforehand in iTunes and then just synchronize it with the iPhone. But before I could to that, I had to update the iTunes software again. Nearly every week it asks me to do so.The 63 MB download and the installation took nearly half an hour this time. Again it was very important to switch off the automatic synchronization in iTunes, before plugging in the iPhone, and to use the cell phone as an external hard disk. If not, all the music had disappeared that my friends had bought and downloaded before. The laptop computer had it just overwritten.

iTunes also works wirelessly

I also could have avoided the synchronization process, because iTunes works nearly completely as a standalone application on the iPhone. But only nearly completely. I could have searched through the entire Apple music store from the iPhone and I could have bought songs over Wifi or the EDGE mobile phone network with just one click. The last used iTunes ID comes as a preset, you just have to enter the password to finish the purchase.

But why of all things the free podcasts cannot be downloaded with the mobile iTunes version? They are my favourite feature. Unlike in the PC version you just get albums and titles for sale as search results. It would be so great to download the latest TV newscast over the air to the iPhone and see it on my way. At home I never would have time anyway.

At the end I was really happy when I could download my favourite podcast to a laptop computer and synchronize it with the iPhone: Dance Department, number 112. One hour of finest electronic dance music. Every week another world famous DJ spins the turntables. This week it's Ferry Corsten who also did great remixes for Moby and U2. The download is free of course. My favourite iPhone button is located at the bottom right of iTunes. It's name is "Further". When I touch, it all the content comes in neatly ordered: albums, audio books, compilations, composers, genres and also podcasts. That way I can find my favourite programs easily.

But I had to look for this button quite a long time.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Next monday is the real Google Phone day

I am really looking forward to next Monday when the software development kit (SDK) for Android, the new operating system from Google for mobile handsets, comes out. Hopefully that brings answers.

When they launched the Android last Monday there was very much buzz but few to be seen. Valleywag pretends to have screenshots of the first Googlephone app, but that's not very much of an information.

On tuesday I interviewed Florian Seiche, Vice President Europe of HTC, the most important smart phone producer in Google's Open Handset Alliance. But whenever I digged deeper he said that we have to "wait till monday when the SDK comes out".

At least he could tell me that Android has nothing to do with Openmoko or other Linux versions for smartphones. No Openmoko developers worked for the Android, no code sharing or whatever. Before I had the suspicion that Google's new mobile OS was in fact powered by the community solution Openmoko.

But that's not the case. Even Sean Moss-Pultz, initiator of Openmoko and responsible hardware product manager at First International Computer (FIC), doesn't have much knowledge about the Android, he told me in an email. He doesn't know the code yet and is waiting for something to compare.

So let's wait for Monday, November 12, 2007! That`s the real Google Phone day.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Jajah's 2007 IPO cancelled

VoIP callback service provider Jajah has cancelled their IPO for 2007, an idea they first communicated to my fellow Berlin journalist Thomas Ramge in his interview for the German economy feature magazine Brand Eins. When they met in December 2006, Jajah's co-founder Roman Scharf told Ramge that the company would go public at the end of 2007. The year is nearly over and Scharf now had to correct the story a tiny bit in an interview he had on wednesday with Reuters on wednesday, November 7 2007, postponing the IPO for nearly a year.
NEW YORK, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Internet-based phone company Jajah Inc aims to go public in the second or third quarter next year to expand its low-cost calling service globally, co-founder Roman Scharf said in an interview on Wednesday.
Too bad that the Reuters reporter Ritsuko Ando is no frequent reader of Brand Eins or GigaOM and missed a much more juicy story, which Om Malik puts in the right words for us:
Jajah’s Hypothetical IPO Delayed Another Year

Jajah, the VoIP callback service provider that shifted from paid to “free” and was dreaming of an initial public offering in 2007, has pushed back its IPO plans until the second or third quarter of 2008, co-founder Roman Scharf told Reuters. The timing seems about right — the way everyone is going nuts here in the Valley, profitless IPOs could make a solid return by the middle of next year.
Scharf says that they would need $100 million to $200 million to bring Jajah within a year to a level of 50 to 80 million customers. That would be the purpose of a possible IPO. "We want to do this next year. We believe the second or third quarter next year might have the right environment for us to go public."

These numbers are very humble, compared to the evaluation of 2.9 billion dollars which RRS Capital Strategies Services from Vienna credited them as "fair value" in May 2007 after the investments by Deutsche Telekom and Intel. They deducted this virtual price from Jajah's user data and the conditions under which Skype had been sold to Ebay in 2005. As we know Skype's value has fallen by $1.43 billion and this is also affects the valuation of other internet phone companies.

Until now only stock holders of Jajah's investor Qino Flagship could have fun with the company. Qino Flagship is publicly listed and the only stock trading possibility to participate in Jajah's success. Since June Qino's value has fallen from €15 to €10.

But still the carpetbaggers are sucking up every Jajah news, no matter how goofy it is. In the web forum of the Austrian magazine Börse Express they try to construe even the slightest Jajah move. Obviously they are happy about the new business model: in-call advertising as an opt-in solution. Users listen to an audio ad before every phone call and receive Jajah minutes in exchange. 50 per cent of the advertising revenue gets the user and the rest shares Jajah with the phone company, explained the other Jajah founder, Daniel Mattes, in an interview with the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

"JAJAH's patent pending in-call advertising platform turns the inventory of the world's telephone calls into an advertising market place", said Mattes in the German press release. "Google paved the way around a decade ago with Google AdWords. Their approach was revolutionary, as they respected the users' common sense and reactions. We are now trying to do the same for the massive amount of phone call inventory. Think AdWords for the phone", he says in English.

Comparing oneself to Google is always a great way to get publicity. Does anybody remember when it was cool to sell a company as "future Microsoft"? Although Jajah has filed a patent application they are not the first with such an idea. The Rebtel clone Talkster also plays 10 second ads before every call. And Californian Pudding Media even wants to eavesdrop conversations to deliver targeted advertising during their free phone calls.

Monday, November 5, 2007

I think Google's Mobile Phone Platform Android will be great

So the Google Phone is out and the first reactions are not too good. At least at GigaOM there is more criticism than kudos. Nobody wants to hype the new product, nearly everyone is nagging. Since Google's shares are worth more than 700 dollars it's not cool anymore to be a Google fanboy.

I got an invitation to the same press call like Om, but unfortunately it started when my workday ended. May other journalist cover the story. Also it seems that the press call was not very much of a pleasure. "They completely dodged my question about how does it reconcile with other mobile linux efforts which are backed by none other than partners like Motorola", writes Om Malik.

Personally I like very much what he tells about Android, Google's new mobile phone plattform:
What is Android? A fully integrated mobile “software stack” that consists of an operating system, middleware, user-friendly interface and applications. It will be made available under one of the most progressive, developer-friendly open-source licenses, which gives mobile operators and device manufacturers significant freedom and flexibility to design products. Next week, the Alliance will release an early access software development kit to provide developers with the tools necessary to create innovative and compelling applications for the platform.
Does anybody know if this has something to do with OpenMOKO, the other open Linux cell phone platform? Maybe Android is just the same?

How open is Android compared to OpenMOKO?

The latter let's you manipulate everything to the very core of the mobile phone functions. Yet now there are thousands of great free Linux programs running on the OpenMOKO devices. I would love to see this kind of openness backed by heavy weights like Google and the other mentioned companies.

I hope that Android is as open as the Open Handset Alliance's website says:
Android was built from the ground-up to enable developers to create compelling mobile applications that take full advantage of all a handset has to offer. It is built to be truly open. For example, an application could call upon any of the phone's core functionality such as making calls, sending text messages, or using the camera, allowing developers to create richer and more cohesive experiences for users. Android is built on the open Linux Kernel. Furthermore, it utilizes a custom virtual machine that has been designed to optimize memory and hardware resources in a mobile environment. Android will be open source; it can be liberally extended to incorporate new cutting edge technologies as they emerge. The platform will continue to evolve as the developer community works together to build innovative mobile applications.

All applications are created equal

Android does not differentiate between the phone's core applications and third-party applications. They can all be built to have equal access to a phone's capabilities providing users with a broad spectrum of applications and services. With devices built on the Android Platform, users will be able to fully tailor the phone to their interests. They can swap out the phone's homescreen, the style of the dialer, or any of the applications. They can even instruct their phones to use their favorite photo viewing application to handle the viewing of all photos.
I think GigaOM's reader rohit understands it right:
i think this is a much bigger potential play at replacing the whole mobile phone software stack and aimed at making it truly an information appliance. think of it as an IP-services led “phone” design, not a telco-call based device.
It's a Linux for phones! You can do everything with it, if it's really open. I already wonder how it cooperates with Google's Ubiquisys femtocells. It annoys very much that my cell phone is not as open and flexible as my PC. Give me a command line to my cell phone and I will be happy!

Or, as commentator David Jacobs puts it:
Being an open system, hackers will have a field day with this and it could get some serious traction among the geek community who are so frustrated with the iPhone limitations.
Here you can get more quotes from Android's developers:

"Even A teenager in the basement and a senior designer in a big company - they have the same chance", says the film. That would be great because I don’t want just a Google Phone. I want many different of them for different purposes. That’s why I think the OS approach is great. The iPhone just isn’t enough anymore. It’s so 2007.

I got the offer to do interviews to John Wang, Chief Marketing Officer of Google's hardware producer HTC, and Florian Seiche, Vice President Europe of HTC, tomorrow. Let's see if that will answer my open questions.

Friday, November 2, 2007

3Skypephone doesn't do mobile VoIP

Many commentators didn't realize that the 3Skypephone doesn't really do mobile VoIP. Even my friends at Areamobile thought at first that a 3G data flatrate would be necessary to use it. It was quite easy to get this false impression as the press release only said:
29th October 2007 – Skype, the global Internet communications company and 3, the mobile operator, have launched a new affordable handset that lets you make free Skype to Skype calls and send free Skype instant messages from your mobile phone to other Skype users no matter where they are.

The 3 Skypephone is a fully-featured 3G Internet phone with Skype built-in. In addition to Skype calls the phone makes conventional calls and can be used to access 3’s broad range of other internet services.

3 customers using the 3 Skypephone will be able to make Skype calls and send instant messages on the move with the push of a button. This is the first time an operator has offered a mass market device which is tailor-made for free calling over the internet from a mobile. Now, all of Skype’s 246 million registered can be reached for free with the 3 Skypephone. ...

No more technical details were given. But the mobile Skype calls on the 3Skypephone are basically GSM phone calls, since it's the iSkoot service which is powering them. The day after the launch iSkoot could send out their own press release:

„CAMBRIDGE, MA – October 30, 2007 – iSkoot today announced that it has been selected by Skype to help power the 3 Skypephone – the first ever mass-market Skype-enabled mobile handset. ..."

This means that Skype calls from the 3Skypephone aren't 3G VoIP calls. They are GSM calls from the phone to the 3-iSkoot server, which then cannels them over the fixed line internet to Skype. The data connection is only used to show the presence of the Skype buddies.

The 3Skypephone doesnt really do any mobile VoIP, since it uses Skype only in the fixed line part of the call. The bad voice quality, that for instance Luca critizes, is not because of unreliable 3G coverage. Possible causes are the low sound quality of the GSM codecs or transcoding issues at a gateway level. Yet still iSkoot is a nifty solution to guarantee Skype coverage nearly everywhere.

That's also why their FAQ list says:

Q: Will it work on 2G, 2.5G& 3G networks?
A: Wherever you have coverage in the UK, Skype will work. If you can make a normal voice call, you will be able to make a Skype Call.

Now it's also obvious why the technology doesn't work outside of the 3 network: It relies on free on net calls from the 3Skypephone to the 3-iSkoot server. Luca said that "if you are roaming (in Italy in some places you are under Tim coverage and not 3) Skype calls don’t work".

The 3Skypephone is no new invention but just another marketing skin for iSkoot. Take that TIME magazine if you want to elect your next "Invention Of the Year". ;)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Andy Abramson the Citizen Kane of VoIP?

I always wondered about the power of Comunicano. That's the marketing communications company of Andy Abramson, one of the most intesting bloggers in the VoIP industry. From some of his blog posts I already had gotten the vague feeling that he must be some kind of mastermind.

Many of my blog posts lead back to information that Comunicano spread. But I could realize that only recently, because Comunicano's website is nearly empty. No press releases, no list of clients - while Andy, the company's founder and head, is one of the most influential bloggers in the VoIP industry.

Some weeks ago I wrote how I feel about this situation:
Especially the VoIP area, which became a main focus of this blog, is dominated by blogs of entrepreneurs who have an interest in maximizing their profits. Luca, Andy, David, Alec, Pat and others run great websites, but there you will hardly find tipps on how to hack their companies' services for free phone calls. They use their blog as a business tool.
Today I realized that my blog is full of Comunicano's clients: Covad, Entriq, IntelePeer, iotum, Junction Networks, Mobivox, Nokia, PhoneGnome, SightSpeed, TalkPlus, Thomas Howe, Truphone, Voxalot and Vringo. Comunicano has set up a blog with their latest press releases and finally published their list of clients.

Thank you for this disclosure, Andy. I feel better now. It helps me to judge the posts on your blog which often are starting points for my own articles. I would have written these texts anyway because the topics were interesting. But it's always better to know precisely who is feeding you an information.

Also now it's easier to get first hand information about these companies without delay. Kudos to Comunicano for interesting and not annoying press relations so far!

I appreciate openness.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Nokia's file sharing platform MOSH is full of illegal contents

Nokia has a serious problem with software piracy, but at least they are trying to solve it. Some days ago the company announced SEEK, a new search function for Nokia's file sharing platform MOSH which had been launched in August. MOSH exists as a small website for mobile phones and in a bigger version for computers. Every subscribed user can upload files and downloads even work without subscription.

Although new users have to give their personal mobile phone numbers to subscribe, MOSH is full of pirated software. For instance the program VirtualRadio for Nokia s60 3rd edition costs US $20.50 when you buy it from the company's website. At MOSH you just have to look up its name in the internal search engine. Within seconds you find the program and then you can send a free SMS on Nokia's cost with a direct download link to your cell phone. After the installation the software works without any restriction, although the MOSH user paid nothing.

Pirated software now much easier to find?

This search for pirated software, and of course also for legal contents, could now become much easier: SEEK allows MOSH users to make requests for content they crave and the community can then respond with suggestions or custom created content. "SEEK allows the rapidly growing, and global, MOSH community to connect with one another and to obtain content not yet available", says the press release. Instead of "content not yet available" they could also have written "in others places only available for cash".

Yet five weeks ago Jan Rezab, CEO of Redboss (one of the top distributors and developers of mobile games in the Czech Republic), told in his blog told that "the only problem is, that people are sharing free, illegal mobile games on the site. Games from EA, THQ, Fishlabs, and many companies are available on MOSH". I tried to verify that and found for instance the VirtualRadio software and many games. Of course Nokia doesn't encourage this kind of use. Instead they imagine that users share self created contents like a personal "video of a specific dive in the Maldives".

"MOSH has a strong focus on responding to the needs of its community of users and feedback from the community is the motivation for SEEK", says Lee Epting, Vice President, Forum Nokia. "We have always focused on MOSH being a service created for, and shaped by, users. Seeing users request content from one another, as well as the desire for community discussion, forms the foundation of SEEK." His words sound a little bit sarcastic to me, taking into account that many users take MOSH as a free one stop shop for pirated software.

Officially launching on December 14, an exclusive demo of SEEK could be seen at CTIA Wireless in San Francisco October 23rd through October 25th. MOSH, short for mobilize and share, has seen more than 6 million downloads since its beta launch on 9th August. Hopefully these weren't all pirated software downloads.

Hunt for piracy with fingerprints

After I wrote a short article about SEEK and the illegal content on MOSH for Areamobile, I soon got a phone call from Finland. On the phone was James Waterworth, Communications Manager Technology at Nokia. He said that the piracy problem is high on MOSH's agenda and should be solved soon.

For copyright protected music and movies they already have an automatic solution: MOSH checks the digital fingerprint of the file and prevents the upload if it's copyright protected. For that Nokia could use existing filter software that already had been used in similar ways at Youtube or Flickr. "Try to upload a song by Madonna!", Waterworth told me. But I didn't do so because I don't want to get in trouble. That's also the reason why I don't post any direct link to illegal MOSH contents in this blog post. Look for yourself, dear reader! Yet I wonder why still I can find Madonna's song "Hung up" at MOSH.

Much more difficult is it for Nokia to filter illegal software. There was no existing solution for cell phone programs, so Nokia now has to develop their own. In some weeks, Waterworth says, pirated software will be detected automatically at MOSH. Nokia will check against a blacklist from software companies which contains every piece of software they don't want to see for a free download at MOSH.

Until then Nokia asks users to report copyright infringements and illegal contents to the moderators who monitor MOSH day and night. They will delete them by hand. The responsible for the illegal upload will be warned and if he does it again his account will be canceled.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Jajah offers pure play VoIP over 3G, inconsistent with their No Headset campaign

The web based callback operator Jajah starts to offer real VoIP calls over a 3G HSDPA cell phone network in Japan. That's funny since it undermines their own "Smash your headset" campaign which Jajah uses to attack competitor Skype. But Jajah's press department again did a great job of reality distortion so that bloggers and old school media didn't realize the the contradiction. I already covered the topic for the German news website Areamobile where I now work more often.

Normally people have to pay double at Jajah. After they enter their own number and the callee's number on a web site or in a mobile phone, Jajah's server establishes two phone calls to connect them. That's not always the cheapest option, compared to calling cards or pure play VoIP, and has nearly nothing to do with mobile internet telephony. Jajah uses VoIP only in the backend to connect the calls. The callers just need a normal PSTN or cell phone to start a Jajah conversation. But now Jajah starts to change these rules with a new operation in Japan. The per minute price gets cheaper by eliminating the double calls and Jajah does more or less the same like Truphone.

The Japanese company Emobile will be the first mobile operator in this country to offer VoIP over HSDPA. The start is scheduled for October 18, 2007, and the application has been developed by Jajah for the "One Alpha" devices of Emobile, which until now were data only and could not make phone calls. The phone calls go over the Jajah network and cost per minute about 9.7 Euro cents to Japanese cell phones and 1.4 Euro cents to the PSTN. Emobile makes its money by charging a flatrate tariff for the VoIP and other data usage. Emergency calls or calls to free numbers are not possible, as we already know it from other VoIP providers. The VoIP application comes preinstalled on new devices, or can be installed on existing devices, and the customer only needs to sign up with Jajah, which gets him a 300 Yen (1.80 Euro cents) call credit.

I would really like to know more about this application, but the information is spare. Jajah did not send out an own press release and their public relations people don't know more either, I learned from emails and phone calls. The big question is how the new Jajah VoIP application looks from inside and if it's the first outcome of the recent investment by Intel. Jajah's co-founder, Roman Scharf, said in May 2007 on this occasion: "The deeper Jajah can be embedded into Intel solutions, the better for customers everywhere. It is our intention to bring a best-of-class, next generation solution to the market which can be embedded and optimized for any computing device." Fellow blogger Moshe Maeir then explained in his blog posts "Jajah gets $20m and Intel’s patents" and "Behind the scenes of the Intel, Jajah deal" how Jajah's access to Intel's patent portfolio helps to embed Jajah's telephony functions at the chip level of mobile phones.

Maybe that's what's happening now with Emobile? The birth of a new mobile VoIP hardware?

The funny part is that you have to connect a HEADSET to the "One Alpha" device from Emobile, which runs Windows Mobile 6.0, to make a Jajah call. That's so ironic since Jajah is badgering their opponent Skype yet for months with a campaign under the claim "If you liked Skype, You'll love Jajah". It makes fun of the fact that Skype users are tied to their PC and have to use a headset to make a call. "Jajah is revolutionary because it lets you make free and low-cost global calls using your everyday mobile or landline phone," said Roman Scharf in the regarding press release. "Services like Skype require headsets, software downloads and sometimes other technical equipment, making them way too hard for the everyday consumer to use."

With the new VoIP service from Emobile Jajah works exactly the same way. But at least nobody has to pay double for a phone call.

Friday, October 5, 2007

New York Times has to correct article about Cubic Telecom's Maxroam

Please don't think that I am obsessed with Cubic Telecom's Maxroam. But one more thing has to be added. CEO Pat Phelan says that his company made a big mistake this week. I guess that refers to the wrong prices they communicated to their customers. Cubic Telecom sold more than 1,000 SIM cards in the first weekend of pre-sale, says their public relations agency. But now even the New York Times had to apologize to their readers for a very positive article about Maxroam that suddendly appeared wrong in great parts:
This review got an awful lot of people excited.

There's only one problem: those were the wrong rates. The Cubic phone still saves you money, but not as much as I wrote.

The company's Web site hadn't yet gone public. I asked its chief executive several times if I could see the Web site in his beta form, but he never did give me access.

So I sent him a list of sample calls I wanted his per-minute prices for. He returned the list with his prices filled in. They were incredibly low, around one-tenth the price you'd pay T-Mobile or AT&T.

But when his Web site ( finally went live, the same day my review appeared, readers immediately started sending me e-mail—sometimes very angry e-mail—letting me know that the Cubic prices online did not match the examples in my story.

At first, I thought that he must have been quoting me prices in Euro cents rather than American cents. That would explain about half the discrepancy.

But no, the prices online don't match what he quoted me, even in Euros. (Furthermore, the list I'd sent him included the T-Mobile and AT&T prices for all those sample calls in dollars. I assumed he'd know I wanted a comparison of apples to apples.)

So I wrote him just after the first reader complaints came in. "This has been set up too quickly this morning," he wrote back. "Pricing model will be fixed for tomorrow AM. Just an error from a rushing web designer, sorry."

Whew. Crisis averted.

Except the next day, there was no change to the prices. I wrote him again. This time, he replied: "This error was totally down to an error or miscommunication by our company. We have, however, decided to completely honor this error and update our prices accordingly. These new rates will be lodged today. We apologize for this and error and would like to thank you for bringing it to our attention."

Crisis averted?

Well, sort of. As far as I could tell, he planned to post the super-low prices he'd originally quoted me—but only for the country examples I'd supplied! Those were no longer representative samples; they were artificial samples to match my review.

And besides: he never did, in fact, change those prices (Bahamas, Russia, Greece, Iraq, and so on). They're still higher than what he originally told me.

That's not good, even for a startup company. It shouldn't have happened. Still Cubic Telecom has great features. New York Times' David Pogue lists them:
One of them, for example, lets you choose up to 50 phone numbers for your single phone, in cities all over the world. The idea is that your friends in other countries can now call you for the price of what, for them, is a local call. The Cubic phone is also a Wi-Fi phone, meaning that you can make unlimited calls around the world for a flat monthly fee when you're in Wi-Fi hot spots. And finally, Cubic's higher prices are still much better than most cellphones' international roaming rates. On average, then, it looks like the Cubic card saves you between 25 and 75 percent off the big carriers' rates. Not 90 percent, as I reported.

Journalists don't like it to be fooled. It makes them look stupid to their readers. Cubic Telecom's Sean O'Mahony has more explanations:

We've had lots of great comments from customers and we've made quite a few mistakes as well.

The biggest one was our rate sheet. A couple of times we posted the wrong one so people were confused about whether it was in euros or dollars. We also garnered the attention of David Pogue over at the NY Times who corrected his original piece. Of course Andy Abramson was onto the bandwagon immediately.

I say it's been a funny week because you'd think from all the comments from the "intelligentsia" that we were out to fool people. Our rates are public. They are good and they are honest. If you can find a better deal somewhere else then by all means buy that service.

Hat tips to Andy Abramson for reading that much media that he found the New York Times' correction. See also David Pogue's update article "Cubic Telecom Kerfluffle: The Final Chapter?" from October 6, 2007!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Cubic Telecom's Maxroam stirs up emotions

On tuesday, October 2nd 2007, Maxroam has fixed their rate calculator. It doesn't say anymore that you can call to wherever in the world for just €0.35 when roaming in Germany. Now different prices apply for each country.

After Maxroam went live last week and sold 573 SIM cards on the first day, a big discussion broke out that you could also follow in the comments to my blog. People couldn't believe that when roaming in Germany you can call to wherever in the world for just €0.35. It sounds too good to be true. An anonymous poster even said:
Pat. If you are reading this please fix your rate calculator. If its correct than I will sign up but I promise you that you are going to lose a lot of money from me since I will be calling cuba for several hours a day and I know that there is no way you can cover the termination charges if you charge me based on the website. I work in the telecom industry and know what is and is not real. Please get of the correct rates.

But today the Maxroam rate calculator still says the same: €0.35 to wherever. I cannot verify the real rates either since I don't have a Maxroam SIM yet. Another poster, who calls himself Satphoneguy, commented last night:
I called and spoke to Pat Phelan on the phone today. There is definatly a bug in the rate calculator. He is working on it. For now I would not trust any of the rates to be accurate.

Soon we shall know what the actual rates look like.

I am not really sure if that comment is trustworthy, since Maxroam has to deal with "nasty comments over the last few days from corners seemingly jealous of maybe a tiny bit of growth for this fledgling company". That's how Cubic Telecom's CEO Pat Phelan calls it. He even put up a "new living room policy" to deal with annoying comments on his blog, not allowing them anymore.

From my desk in Berlin I am not yet able to verify what's true and what's not in Maxroam's rates and the commentators criticism. So I beg your pardon if perhaps I copied wrong prices from Maxroam's website. But one thing is for sure: Cubic Telecom is working day and night to complete the product. Pat Phelan even made an exclusive announcement on my blog:
I will give this to you exclusively here. We will have 15-20c USA roaming in next quarter, we will have MAXroam TO MAXroam regardless of country for under 20c in under 5 months, full triggering of call without the callback and global data roaming in under 6 months,this is not the end of a product this is just the beginning.

We intend to change the mobile infrastructure and bring the customer back to the centre. We could launch UK mobile sims with just a flight to the Isle Of Man but we don't want to be just a reseller, you know my personal experience of this business if I thought UK, Lichtenstein, Estonia was a better model I would have just become a reseller and resold the best model possible.

I also note that you commentors are anonymous whilst my phone is on the front page of my blog.

We really appreciate all your feedback.

So these are the "15 to 20 cents" prices we read about in the articles around TC40. Stay tuned for more to come! I will try hard to get more verified information and to write soon a review of Maxroam.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Maxroam went live

On tuesday, October 2nd 2007, Maxroam has fixed their rate calculator. It doesn't say anymore that you can call to wherever in the world for just €0.35 when roaming in Germany. Now different prices apply for each country.

Cubic Telecom's Maxroam went live today and I really like the prices for this international SIM card. Making a call to wherever in the world costs €0.35 if you are in Germany. There is no difference between countries. The entire world costs the same €0.35. Receiving calls costs in most cases nearly the same like making them. CEO Pat Phelan says:
Well we want to give back value, we wont pinch on pennies, We will give you the best quality voice services possible, we wont be the absolute rock bottom prices.
Well I hope so, because I don't understand why calls from the USA cost €1.18. Why this big difference?

But still that's much cheaper than the up to $3.65 which AT&T would charge, as you can learn from this insightful article "A Cellphone Without Borders" in today's New York Times. Now I am very courious to get to know Cubic Telecom's Wifi VoIP prices.

Please read also my update blog post "Cubic Telecom's Maxroam stirs up emotions".

PhoneGnome's Mr. Blog doesn't want to write about VoIP anymore

Mr. Blog, PhoneGnome's CEO David Beckemeyer, says he considers to stop writing about VoIP because I called his blog a business tool.
Markus Göbel says this blog is a business tool. That means I have failed. I have let too much from that world creep over to this world.

Sorry everybody. I guess this means I have to blog less about VoIP, or anything related to ventures I'm involved in. Perhaps I shouldn't talk about VoIP here at all.

Please stop him from doing that! Leave a comment on his blog post and tell him that he should go on. I like his VoIP posts in this private blog very much. He makes us think when he says that Jaxtr math doesn't add up or that the Ooma business model could be considered a Toll Fraud. These are brilliant thoughts and he brought them up first. I don't want him to stop that.

Of course he also encouraged his readers to leave PhoneGnome favourable comments under an article from FierceVoIP. That's OK! It was only self defense against the Ooma fanboys who were dissing the PhoneGnome there. In this case he used his private blog as a business tool, something I would never criticize at an entrepreneur.