GrandCentral, the single-phone-number Web-based service launched last fall, is adding support for the free Gizmo Project Internet VoIP service, which may open up a whole new way to decrease spending on international or long-distance calling.This news seems more like a good piece of Public Relation work than a technical breaktrought to me and I want to tell you why:
Still in beta, the GrandCentral service is the latest entrant in the often-attempted “single phone number” scheme. The Fremont, Calif.-based startup uses a combination of VoIP technology and softswitch-based applications to give users ways to tie multiple phone numbers, services (voice mail, etc.) and devices to a single inbound number.
If we all would be using ENUM the deal between GrandCentral and Gizmo wouldn’t be big news. With ENUM I can already route my PSTN number to my Gizmo account. VoIP users that call this number and do an ENUM lookup can call me for free.
Why bother for another number from GrandCentral?I can implement the same call routing features of GrandCentral in my analog telephony adapter (ATA). I actually do. So whenever somebody calls my years old PSTN number I can let it ring wherever I want (for instance on my Gizmo Project soft phone or my mobile phone) and I can also filter the callers like GrandCentral offers.
Why pay extra for a service which I can already use at no extra cost at home?Well, some might say that ENUM is difficult or that they just don't know it. But the point is that it’s totally easy to do an ENUM lookup before every call. SNOM VoIP phones do it automatically before they start the call. The VoIP providers could do it automatically before the VoIP call starts. Also they could enlist all their numbers in ENUM. The client wouldn’t even notice that ENUM is working in the background. It would just be all over IP and for free. But the VoIP providers don’t do it because the earn very well not doing ENUM and charge for calls that technically could be for free.
Others say that we should at least give GrandCentral credit for is their rules processing.Well, the newest versions of the Fritz!Box do this out of the box. No complicated acronyms needed for installation. Just some clicks in the browser.
Incoming calls can be treated individually. You can for instance block unwanted calls or pass them to an answering machine. Friends and business partners can be redirected to a mobile phone, even if the call signal of the phone that’s connected to the Fritz!Box is switched off.
I am using such a Fritz!Box at home. It’s connected between my old telephone and the DSL connection. So all my calls go for free or for very modest prices over the internet. I do the configuration in my browser and it’s very easy. You can see an example here.
In fact the Fritz!Box is an entire PBX and cost me only 30 Euros, because I bought it used. It can do everything that GrandCentral does. Even an ENUM lookup before every call. But this is a hidden function for which you have to tweak the Linux that runs on the box. The Fritz!Box is getting better and better with every firmware update.
So to me GrandCentral is no big news and no necessary service. But I am always courious about new stuff.