Thursday, March 29, 2007

Why I use about 20 different VoIP providers

At GigaOM there is an interesting survey going on under the title "Does your house VoIP?". Om Malik asks:
Regardless, time to ask the community what kind of a VoIP users are you? Cable kind, or someone who uses soft clients or do have still doing the Vonage styled ATA-based VoIP calling?
This cuestions finally made me get a general idea about all the services I use. And, god, it's a lot of them!

Actually I am using 20 VoIP accounts, out of couriosity and because of the different services they offer. But maybe I am subscribed to even more, but just forgot it. My goal is to make free calls and use arbitrage possibilities between the different VoIP services. I use the different VoIP providers on my desk phone that's connected to the Fritz!Box fon ATA and on my mobile phone, Nokia E61, that can hold several SIP accounts. Also I use Fring on the E61, because it can hold my accounts on Skype, MSN messenger, Google Talk and also one SIP account.
Here is why I use so many different services:
Voipstunt: For free or super cheap calls worldwide. This services I use most. It's installed on my desk phone and on my mobile phone, Nokia E61. So I can make free calls from Wifi hotspots.

Sipgate: Is use Sipgate as an answering machine. Incoming calls to my ATA are forwarded for free to the Sipgate mailbox if not answered in 30 seconds. For that purpose we have two Sipgate accounts at home.

Tpad: Because of their BreakIn numbers worldwide. My friends from Peru can call me so in Berlin for the cost of a local call without having a computer.

Truphone: To check it out on my mobile phone and because of their new offer that gives me landlines nearly worldwide for free in the next two months.

Several services for testing purposes and out of couriosity: GMX, Voipbuster, FWD,,,, Openwengo,, Rebtel, 4S newcom ...

Voxalot: Every time my Fritz!Box fon ATA gets too full, because it can only hold 10 VoIP accounts, I move the one I don't use to call out anymore to Voxalot. This service works like an ATA in the net: It's logged in to the VoIP services I don't use so much anymore. So I can keep them and receive calls on their SIP addresses or phone numbers. For instance if somebody calls my unused Gizmo account (I have several of them) my Voxalot account in my Fritz!Box fon ATA rings.

Gizmocall: I have set up a special web link to my address at Gizmo Project. So people can call me unlimitedly from a web page.

Ageet: That's probably the world's smallest PBX. It works as a Activex plugin in Internet Explorer and has a link from my website. If people open this page the PBX loads and they can call me from their browser. This was really cool until I discovered Gizmocall one week later.

The large quantity of the services I use is not so much a sign that I might be tech crazy. It's just an indication of how much the VoIP sector is still evolving. The industry consist of thousands of different companies that offer basically the same: Cheap phone calls over the internet. But if you look closer you see that they differ in the added services: cheap break in numbers, calls from a website, use the old PSTN number as VoIP number, administrate your other VoIP accounts,...

So probably I will have soon 30 VoIP providers. For instance I am interested in a Peruvian VoIP number that my friends in Lima can call for price of a local call. Tpad is already doing a good job with their callin number and the extension. But sometimes this does not work and a real Peruvian phone number would be much more elegant. But still the Peruvian VoIP market is underdeveloped and these numbers are too expensive to me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Microsoft's VoIP at CeBIT runs on Linux phones

Paul Kapustka at GigaOM reports about a new VoIP device from Microsoft, called Response Point. The interesting text also tells how Microsoft has failed so far in VoIP and why neither the new device neither is intriguing.

Microsoft's VoIP strategy is also puzzling to me. And I have to add an example I saw last week: Microsoft had to rely on Linux for its VoIP.

Their booth at Hanover's CeBIT computer fair showcased VoIP on IP phones from German producer Snom, together with the German PBX solution PBXnSIP. The phones are based on Linux and the PBX runs on Windows, Linux and NetBSD.

Snom says that this is the first CeBIT where it's possible to voip at the booth of the software giant. So why didn't Microsoft rely on an own technology? Read more in Snom's press release.

Is Rebtel moving into Wifi telephony?

Yesterday I have been quoted in Rebtel's new blog. My name was mentioned together with luminaries like Andy Abramson and Om Malik. Of course that makes me proud. The text was about the minute stealers debate and Rebtel finally admitted:
The question remains as posed last week; why does nobody admit that their company is a minute stealer?

Well, we at Rebtel are minute stealers, and proud of it.
But sometimes in blogs the real news leak slowly, pouring from the comments section. The question is now: Will Rebtel launch a new service on Wifi phones? Until now they make VoIP telephony possible even on the oldest cell phones, using callback and calltrough services. But their newest blog post makes me wonder what they are planning next. It shows the following quotes in the comment section:
Vivek Puri Says:
March 21st, 2007 at 5:40 am

Your argument is right and might apply more for people who are not that smart about what they pay. Most of the international callers are already placing VoIP lines on either ends to call for free. Also what about WiFi based mobile calling. Can Rebtel compete with them? Or How exactly Rebtel plans to compete would be the right question.
And then comes the answer the answer of Rebtel's Chief Marketing Officer Will Harris:
Will Says:
March 21st, 2007 at 10:00 am

we will be right at the vanguard of the wifi revolution, rest assured vivek. it’s going to be fun! we’ll be announcing stuff shortly.

thanks for your comments

I am so courious what that means. Will Rebtel start a service like Truphone on Wifi equipped cell phones? Will they finally give SIP addresses to their Rebtel inbound numbers?

Well, I would be prepared to check it out. I just installed the Wifi access point on my brand new Nokia E61.

But before Rebtel starts to rely even more on Wifi I would recommend them to get a new office in Sweden. The last time I talked to Rebtel's CEO Hjalmar Windbladh he was calling me by Wifi on his Nokia N80. The conversation was cut every few minutes until I gave up and called him on his fixed line. The explanation: Every few minutes when a tramway passes the Rebtel office the Wifi quality is severely affected and the calls drop.

One more thought:

Rebtel seems to have one of the biggest amount of inbound numbers in the VoIP industry. They offer RebIn numbers in 37 countries.

This means they give real local phone numbers to their costumers, which can be called from PSTN networks and are in fact SIP numbers, only that they don't work on softphones or ATAs. I could for instance get a Peruvian phone number to ring on my phone in Berlin.

I suppose these RebIn numbers would theoretically also work as SIP numbers on Wifi phones, the way Truphone does it. With this service Rebtel could blow Truphone all away. They would really become the worldwide Wifi phone network that Truphone tries to be. But Truphone clients get only numbers from the US or the UK with their accounts.

Monday, March 19, 2007

CeBIT 2007 is better than expected

Many critics had said that CeBIT is out of date and that it had lost ground to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona, which have been held some weeks before. But Hanover's CeBIT is still the world's largest computer expo. After half of the time CeBIT has ten per cent more visitors than last year and to me it was more interesting to me than ever. Maybe because of the technological promises that at last have been accomplished after years of cheap talk.

It started with Vodafone's and T-Mobile's presentation of Europe's fastest 3G internet access for laptops and mobile phones: The new network combines High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) and High Speed Uplink Packet Access Technology (HSUPA). So it can deliver download speeds of up to 7.2 Mbits/s and uploads of up to 1.45 Mbits/s. That's faster than most classic DSL rates. I was impressed to see a 100 Megabyte FTP download to a laptop taking only 2:45 minutes. „The new HSDPA is at least seven times faster than every 3G internet access you get in the US“, said Vodafone spokesman Jens Kürten to me. „We will roll it out in Germany in the next months.“ Vodafone's 3G network covers already over 2,000 cities in Germany with data transmission rates of up to 1.8 Mbits/s. Faster transmission rates of up to 3.6 MBits/s are available in all major cities and 7.2 Mbit/s will follow soon.

But while Kürten sees it more as a replacement for fixed line internet access and Wifi hotspots on laptops Samsung presented already a tiny mobile phone which really can make use of such amazing speeds. The F700 looks from outside very similar to Apple's iPhone and has the size of a normal cell phone. But when you slide it open there is an entire keyboard for writing e-mails and chat messages. Unfortunately the interest in the phone was so big at CeBIT that the F700 had to be held behind glass and I could not check out the download speeds. Hopefully with devices like this the mobile network operators keep in mind what Germany's head of state, chancellor Angela Merkel, told them in their CeBIT opening speach: to bring down their prices. „You get more clients when you make it cheaper“, she said to more than 2000 IT managers. Many cell phone companies still charge more than 9 Euro per Megabyte and wonder why the mobile internet usage isn't higher among their clients.

With HSDPA these prices are just a joke and new Notebooks like Toshiba's „Portégé R400“ already come to the shelfs with built in 3G internet access and bundled with T-Mobile or Vodafone contract. The R400 downloads e-mails and synchronyzes the calendar continuously, even when it's closed or in standby mode. A second display outside the cover keeps you informed about new incoming messages, whithout the need to open the notebook. Although the luxury notebooks weighs only 3.79-pounds it can be already too heavy for today's miniaturization freaks. So Samsung's revealed on CeBIT it's Q1B, the world's lightest Universal Mobile PC (UPMC) which weighs just 1.67 poundsand runs Windows Vista. With 60 Gigabyte Harddisc, 1,0 Ghz Pentium processor and 7 Inch display the Q1B will is in the US stores from now on for 1299 dollars.

But maybe the times of personal computers are now really over and everything switches to the web. At least this idea came to my mind when the German software company Magix presented their online desktop Mygoya that's still in closed beta. The Flash website fullfils all basic needs of a computer user: E-mails, photo collection with optimization, all known messenger services with voice, videos, music, filesharing and office programs are managed in one Mygoya account. The files are saved for free on the 1 GB storage space and can be accessed from every computer or mobile phone with a Flash player. No need for an own harddisc anymore, because there will be more storage space in the paid version. No operating system wars anymore, because flash runs on virtually everyone.

„Soon the Mygoya desktop will also run Skype“, said Magix promotion manager Janek Bennewitz to me. I wonder how they want to do this since Skype is a closed system. But maybe these days are also over: At least the Italian company PCService presented a great way to bridge Skype and normal phones. Their Linux software Skip2PBX serves as an addition to a company's existing PBX. Installed on a Linux machine, which can also be virtual, it controls up to 30 Skype accounts at one time, using different sessions of the Skype program. When a Skype call arrives it's being redirected to a phone. The Users can call their Skype contacts for free by using short numbers on their phone. While the software still works only with ISDN and analogue phone lines the next version, which is due in june, will build the bridge from Skype to SIP.

A nice addition to existing company PBXs and a great example of the new VoIP ideas presented in Hall 13. The companies there showed how they want to beat the incumbents by channeling more and more calls over the internet. This isn't always automatically the cheapest, we learn from recent news about real „minute stealers“ that take away phone minutes by hacking a company's VoIP gateway. „That's possible because you can configure most PBXs with just few clicks in your browser“, explains Jens-Uwe Junghanns, sales manager of the German PBX producer Junghanns.NET Gmbh. „The built in webserver of the PBX can be an open door for hackers.“ So their poison green „Cruise phone“ PBX for VoIP and PSTN telephony can be configured only from one computer which has the right Java applet installed. German security at it's best that nearly got overlooked at CeBIT in Hanover.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Vodafone's Starfish to defend their voice business?

Vodafone surprised at CeBIT with a new service called Starfish:
Vodafone, the world's most international cellphone carrier with over 200 million subscribers, showed Internet-calling for cellphones with Skype, which it said it may launch in the future.

Starfish allows a cellphone user to see a list of buddies from various chat and Internet calling groups, such as MSN, Yahoo, AOL and Skype, and send messages and make Internet calls.
So, what is this? Didn't Vodafone struggle against VoIP on mobile phones and reserve it's right to block VoIP in Germany from July 2007 on? There was also an English article by Andy Abramson on this attempt.

I guess that Vodafone tries with Starfish to defend its per minute voice business. "The calls use the traditional wireless voice channel from the phone to the radio base station and the rest is carried over the Internet", does the Reuters report say. That sounds like iSkoot to me. As Starfish uses the voice channel, I suppose that it will be charged per minute.

This looks weird on first sight, if you keep in mind that Vodafone launched on CeBIT Europe's fastest mobile 3G internet connection: Using HSDPA and HSUPA you get 7,2 MBit/s download and 1,4 MBit/s upload speed on your laptop or mobile phone. I already saw on CeBIT Samsung's new HSDPA smartphone F700 which really can make use of these fast speeds. It's as small as a normal mobile phone.

Vodafone's HSDPA/HSUPA connection is much faster than many domestic DSL connections. A 100 MB mobile download takes only 2:45 minutes. I have seen it with my own eyes. And so I wondered why Vodafone uses the voice channel for Starfish, while the service could easily be all over IP.
But then I remembered that Vodafone's cash cow is still the voice channel.
Probably they don't want their clients to realize that with Skype, fast mobile access and Vodafone's 50 Euro mobile flatrate people can talk as long as they want without a per minute charge.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

4S newcom converges fixed, mobile and internet telephony

Now that's a press release I like: 4S newcom, inventor of the blue4S, "the world's slickest PBX", running on a blue Apple Mac mini, do it again: On the on the occasion of the CeBIT, the world's largest computer expo from 15th till 21th of march 2007 in Hannover (Germany), they start to sell the software running on the blue4S on a bigger scale. It can be used for many purposes: to substitute an expensive hardware PBX in a big company, to save on mobile communication costs or to even build up an own VoIP telephony provider.

They let mobile phones make free calls via their PBX, using Wifi to connect them or flat-rate tariffs for dial-in. Especially I like the "intelligent redirect: a user is given a set of local telephone numbers, which are redirected to international destinations of his choice". That's a little big like the free Break In numbers from Tpad, that my Peruvian friends use, but much more nifty.

4S Fixed, Mobile and Converged: 4S FMCd

Berlin-based 4S newcom introduces its new product range for fixed, mobile converged VoIP. The new software suit "4S FMCd" integrates PBX functionality with a carrier-grade prepaid system to offer high-level IP Centrex functionality to mobile users.

In addition to providing a feature-rich hosted class-5 IP PBX to VoIP users, the software provides full functionality and cost savings to mobile handsets as well. Making use of WLAN-enabled handsets or flat-rate tariffs for dial-in, call-through and call-back, users can use their mobile handsets as PBX system phones with almost no costs on the mobile phone’s bill.

"With this suite, 4S newcom offers providers and business users full fixed-mobile convergence as value-added functionality", says Harry Behrens, founder and director of 4S newcom. "We rely on dual-mode mobile handsets as well as flat rate tariffs increasingly offered by mobile operators". By connecting platform users to VoIP trunk circuits and configuring dial plans, optimal, e.g. least cost, routing plans can be configured at very fine granularity.

GSM connectivity is added by connecting 4-channel GSM extension boards by junghanns.NET to the system server’s PCI extension slots.

Two example scenarios are free redirection to mobile phones and international calls from mobile phone at VoIP prices. Redirection of fixed office numbers to mobile phones works by routing an incoming call to an employee’s desk phone to the employee’s mobile phone using the appropriate GSM channel on above mentioned GSM module. The call will then be completed at no cost.

"Another very useful setup is what we call intelligent redirect: a user is given a set of local telephone numbers, which are redirected to international destinations of his choice. For example by calling a Berlin number from my mobile phone (for free) I am connected to my parent’s phone in London and can talk to them using my mobile phone at zero cost to the mobile’s bill and a grand total of less than 1 Euro per hour! Basically we are arbitraging between mobile rates and VoIP rates"

A trial run for a limited number of users will be launched on March 19th 2007 at This trial run will allow registered users full use of the system based on two simple tariffs, one being a flat rate.

About 4S newcom:

4S newcom focuses on delivering carrier-grade software platforms to VoIP providers, ISPs and enterprises. 4S newcom delivers system, components and know-how along the full VoIP value chain: carrier grade class-4 "dial tone systems", on-premise IP PBX, hosted PBX as well as IP Centrex. Its two product lines are the carrier grade 4S ITSP Solution and the 4S IP PBX.
4S newcom last hit the news with its slick Mac mini-based IP PBX blue4S.

Press contact:

Maja Schneider
Tel: +49-30-79 70 87 71

Monday, March 12, 2007

The MagicJack doesn't seem magic to me

At the VoIP Weblog and in GigaOM's VoIP sections they talk a about a new VoIP device, called the MagicJack, which caused me some trouble this weekend. The device is by far not as appealing to me as to the others, and so I got some criticism in GigaOM's comment section. Paul Kapustka describes the MagicJack in his blog post „MagicJack, Simpler VoIP than Skype?“ like this:
According to the just-live MagicJack website, the main “magic” appears to be an oversized-looking thumb-drive thingy with a USB connector on one end, and an analog phone jack on the other. Greenberg’s column says the total price for a device and a yearly subscription for all-you-can-eat dialing in the U.S. and Canada should be between $50 and $60 $29 and $39 the first year, $19.99 a year thereafter; so far, no other details have surfaced on how the pricing, connection and billing actually work, and whether it won’t be another free-calling fiasco.
I directly checked the MagicJack's website for more details and was disappointed. What is so great about that MagicJack? I don’t see a breaktrough. It lets people make phone calls only while their computer is switched on. When it’s off they cannot even receive calls. The MagicJack is basically a softphone on a USB stick, bundled with a $60 dollar a year VoIP contract. - That seems quite expensive and uncomfortable to me.

E. g. with the VoIP provider Voipstunt I have unlimited calls to USA, Canada, Germany, UK and other 30 countries - for about 36 dollars a year (= 10 Euros for 120 days). I have Voipstunt installed on my analog telephony adapter (Fritz!Box), which connects my normal phone to my DSL connection. This means that I can make those VoIP calls and receive calls when my computer is switched off. It’s works like normal PSTN telephony, but is much cheaper.

I am really not impressed by this MagicJack. It seems as uncomfortable as Skype to me, which annoys me much because it works only when my computer is switched on. Maybe they want to address clients which don’t understand VoIP. But to me it seems too uncomfortable and its contract too expensive. Looking for solutions from abroad the USA they would have found much better and cheaper solutions, for instance the one I use: Fritz!Box + Voipstunt from Germany. A reader called Andrew Jed answered:
Didn’t anyone listen or read?!
The initial cost will be $30 - $40 for the magicJack device…with FREE unlimited local and long distance calls - through your analog phone (or headset on PC if your prefer). No subscription or fees the first year whatsoever. Each add’l year is planned at around $20.00.
And? What is so great about that? For about $40 I get one year of unlimited local and long distance calls as well, as I explained before. And I don’t even have to switch on my computer to make them. So the MagicJack would worsen my situation if I would change my at home configuration for it.
PLUS you can have your entire home wirelessly making FREE calls.
And so what? That’s what I do already with my configuration. I have a DECT phone connected to my Fritz!Box that let’s me wirelessly do free phone calls without the need to switch my computer in.
There is so much more. Making rash and unfounded comments prior to knowing the facts seems very, well, wrong - to say the least. Markus Göbel states in his web site he is a journalist?
Well, thanks for Andrew's appreciation of journalism as a profession. But maybe he doesn’t know: Even journalists can make mistakes. Moreover in this very case none of his arguments convinces me and I still think that I am right with every word I wrote in my comment.

Also I wrote an answer to a comment from Dan Borislow, the inventor of the MagicJack:
What makes the magicJack so different?

1.Ease of use.There is no other device in the world,where you plug into a USB,up and running in a minute with plug and play and you plug in a telephone.This is one of a kind.
Well I have already read about many similar USB stick devices that plug into a computer and then people can start talking via VoIP, without the need to install a software: Vonage V-Phone, MPlat FlashPhone or Sandisk’s Skype on a USB stick. OK, with the MagicJack you don’t need a headset but you can use your normal phone for the call. But is this really a breaktrough? When my computer is runnig and I am talking to a friend I just speak directly into my computer, which has a great microphone and sound with echo cancelation. For what would I need to pick up the phone that is connected to the MagicJack?

Borislow answered with some ironic comments:
When you went to go to in your backyard and swig down some Becks,do you bring your laptop outside with all those songbirds and talk to your favorite girl?
That’s exactly what I don’t like to do: Grab my laptop just to make a phone call. There is a device that’s called “telephone”. You don’t have to boot it. You can take it to the backyard and make phone calls. Only that it is easier to use as a laptop, weighs less and is just as mobile because I use a wireless phone. This phone is connected to my WLAN-Router/VoIP device (Fritz!Box) so that I have calls to 30 countries for free. I find this much more comfortable as the MagicJack.
What happened when you were finally making time with your girl, and Voip!Stunts only server caught on fire and she might have hooked up with somebody else by the time they restored their service? (we have 31 we use)
That was a better point from Borislow! I agree that Voipstunt can possibliy dissapear from one day to another. They are obviously underpricing. But the recent outage because of the fire was the first I experienced in two years and lasted only 4 hours. Too short to even sell this news to the media! Voipstunt is a very “no frills” service. They are just cheap and I don’t know if they give any kind of support. But for me they failed only 4 hours in two years.
Were you surprised when you started getting billed 13 cents a call,when the Voip!Stunt promo was over after 120 days?
That’s never happening. When the 120 days are over the countries I call cost about 1 Cent. I just don’t miss the 120 days. When there is no money anymore on my Voipstunt account the phone does not work anymore. In this case I have 9 other VoIP providers installed in my Fritz!Box (as fallback options and also because I a am a geek who tries out all the VoIP services). But normally I do a quick Paypal to Voipstunt and a minute later I can go on making phone calls.
Lastly, Fritz!Box told me that it is impossible to use Voip!stunt softphone on it. How did you do it.
Well I don’t know to whom Borislow talked and what is his technical background. But I suppose he knows how easy it is to configure a VoIP device like the Fritz!Box. You just have to type Voipstunt’s login name, password, registrar, proxy-Server and STUN server into Fritz!Box’ built in website and yet you can do the first phone call. This takes about 1 minute. It’s not “impossible” to use Voipstunt on a Fritz!Box. I do it every day. As well I use Sipgate, GMX, Tpad, Ekiga, Gizmo Project, FWD and others on the same device. As I said I try to check all of the interesting VoIP services.

I like the VoIP industry very much and see it with the eyes of a client. To me and to my buddies the most appealing point is to save money. VoIP should work like a PSTN telephony but cheaper. Just pick up the phone and make a call.

So the MagicJack misses the point. It shouldn't be connected to the USB port of a running computer, but directly to the DSL modem or the router. It could easily get it's energy from the router's Ethernet port. The entire phone software should be embedded in the device and not rely on the Windows XP of a computer. In this case people could make VoIP calls that feel like real telephony. They could connect their old phones directly to the internet.

But in this case the MagicJack would be some kind of Fritz!Box.

Free calls are still the VoIP killer app to me

Some days ago I had a litte blog comment conversation with Luca Filigheddu, a recognized expert in the VoIP space and CTO of the Italian VoIP provider Abbeynet. He had a written a blog post called „Jon Arnold on why VoIP has succeeded“. The two of them were looking for the reasons why the VoIP business is a success, but they seemed to see it too much from a company's point of view. So I want to add my humble opinion as a costumer and hardcore VoIP user to the discussion.

To me "free" calls as in "free beer" are still the killer application of VoIP. I am a normal user and freelancing journalist who is happy to bring down his costs per call near to zero. The telcos charge me anyway high basic fees for my DSL connection which is bundled with a fixed phone line I hardly ever use. Still there are no cheap DSL only offers in Germany. At least I make free or super cheap calls on this infrastructure, using several VoIP providers and an ATA, so I can talk on my old phone while my computer is switched off. I suppose that many users are thinking like me.

It seems that Luca doesn't like this point of view, although he says that he agrees. His answer:
Markus, I totally agree. But we are still far from the picture you are painting.
Are we really far from it? I am living it! I pay about 3 dollars a month to Voipstunt for unlimited calls to Germany, where I live, the US and most important countries. The rest is just plain internet access costs I would have paid anyway for surfing the net. Still Luca replies:
Ok, but you don't get more. Moreover, is Voipstunt related to your DSL provider ? Have you other services like presence, voicemail and so on ?

Naked "voice" is not enough. IMHO, of course.
Well I am quite happy with „naked voice“ and I don't need more. Voipstunt is not related to my DSL provider. I have to pay extra for DSL. What I need from VoIP is just a phone and an answering machine. Any special presence functions I don't need.

When I don't want to be contacted I tell my Fritz!Box FON ATA from the German company AVM to forward all calls to voice mail. Voipstunt doesn't even give me voicemail, but I use Sipgate's free voicemail: When I don't answer a call to one of my 10 VoIP numbers then Sipgate's voicemail answers and sends the left message as an email. When I don't want my phone to ring I send any call directly to Sipgate's voicemail.

I only use free VoIP services. Maybe I am the type of client that makes the old and new telcos (like Abbeynet) cry.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Tpad's free call service in Peru works great now

It seems that Tpad took the advice from my last blog post "Free incoming VoIP number from Tpad seems false labeling to me". In their new press release they just say "Tpad Launches 13 New Break In Local Telephone Numbers". That's the right way to say it. Tpad doesn't give free incoming SIP numbers to its clients, but they have found a great way to lower international phone costs for people from poor countries. Their latest press release states:
Popular VoIP provider Tpad have unveiled their latest innovation in their drive to cut the cost of phone calls, Break In local numbers. By dialing a Break In number before calling Tpad customer the caller will only be charged at local rate no matter where in the world they are calling.
I can only agree to that and I can say that they have improved dramatically their service in Peru. The Peruvian Break In number works perfectly now. My friends from Peru call my phone in Germany for the price of a local phone call in Lima. Two weeks ago Tpad still had problems offering this service, as I told in a former blog post:
Often this service doesn't even work, as I experienced with my friends from Peru. They call the Tpad call in number in Lima and then want to type in my Tpad number. But already after the fourth number the computer voice says "this option is invalid" and asks them to put in the number again. When they try it for another time, they hear the same answer and then the computer hangs up. Sometimes it also says "we have problems". The Tpad support told me that "it may seem that there is a problem with the peru number, our network team are looking into the problem". I really hope so.
Now the calls from Lima work without problems and Tpad does even do the CLIP. When my Peruvian friends call me on my virtual Tpad number I can see their number in the display of my phone.

Tpad already makes them change their telephony habits. Before they called me for free from their computers, using the softphone from Gizmo Project. That worked quite OK, but the voice quality wasn't the best since the DSL connections in Peru aren't so fast.

Now they call me on my Peruvian Break In + Tpad number. While writing this blog post I just got another call. The voice quality is stunning. Much better than a fixed line phone call from Peru. My friends can call me now from every Peruvian pay phone for local prices and do not have to boot their computers anymore to talk for free to their friend in Germany.

Well done, Tpad!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

GigaOM needs more stories from Europe, especially Germany

GigaOM, my favourite weblog on new technologies, wants to develop further and asks it's readers:

Folks, I am looking to do deeper technology stories, and cover more “technology” focused start-ups. Any thoughts on categories, topics, company names etc, please leave your comments.

Well, here I am and directly answered with this message:

Hello Om,

I wouldn't like to see stories on biotech, nanotech or greentech here. I come for the electronics, because that is what most interests me as a reader. Also I worked in former days in a magazine which tried to do the splits between electronics and bio. It did not work well because both parts came too short.

What GigaOM is definitely lacking is a more international focus. You are very concentrated on the US and often missing bleeding edge technologies from other parts of the world. I see it especially in the VoIP area, where GigaOM sometimes presents new technologies that make me say "but that's no big deal". I could do most of this already at home, using my Fritz!Box from the German company AVM. So GigaOM should maybe cover more European companies.

I see for instance these stories from Germany I would have liked to read on GigaOM:

1.) Siemens (from Munich) will present on CeBIT their new product HiPath MobileConnect, that let's mobile phones do a seamless handover between Wifi telephony and GSM networks - and back, always choosing the cheapest way to connect, without interrupting the call.

2.) Cellity (from Hamburg) tunnels mobile calls with exquisite voice quality trough fixed lines, bringing down the prices up to 90 per cent.

3.) AVM's new Fritz!Box Fon WLAN 7270 (from Berlin ) is the dream device for VoIP: DECT phone for fixed line phone calls and VoIP, WLAN router, answering machine, USB host, DSL modem and music streamer in just one device. It also works with the new V-DSL for downloads speeds until 100 MBit and includes the new 802.11n standard for super fast Wifi. Any other American product seems more than oldfashioned against this! Also you have to keep in mind that people in Germany get these devices for free from their DSL providers. That's the reason why there are already millions of VoIP users in Germany.

4.) "Most of the Nokia phones will have Wifi soon. For instance in the N-Series Wifi is no exception but a general feature", said Ari Virtanen, Vice President Convergence Products, Multimedia of Nokia two weeks ago in an interview with me. How will this affect the mobile network providers like Vodafone if their clients can now avoid their expensive networks with devices they get for 1 Euro? (Because also the Wifi phones are subsidized in Germany.)

5.) How come that much of the technology of the new OpenMOKO dream device, an all open Linux phone, comes from a Linux / VoIP community project in Germany (Berlin)? What did they have to suffer until they found their device maker from Taiwan and GigaOM covered it two days ago?

These are stories that are very interesting to me. And there is much more to cover, that maybe slips trough your fingers because it is not always announced in English press releases that arrive on your desk. If you want I could be helpful as a correspondent. Just click on my website for more information!

Best regards,
Markus Göbel

Friday, March 2, 2007

Google shouldn't be a media company but a great video search engine

On GigaOm they are discussing whether Google is a Media Company, besides of being a search engine. The questions is if Google will ever earn money with Youtube and why companies like Viacom and NBC recently accused Google in court or declined to strike deals with Youtube.
As we all learned last week, Google’s efforts to strike content deals with the major media companies, on behalf of their YouTube division, seems to have hit a wall. Viacom pulled all their video clips, NBC accused them of “Mafioso” negotiating tactics, CBS backed off at the 11th hour of deal talks, while Fox and NBC continued to push their vision of launching a big media-backed YouTube competitor.

All such setbacks notwithstanding, it’s still pretty safe to predict that it’s just a matter of time before one of the big media brands caves in and strikes a ground-breaking deal with Google. And maybe not too much longer before Google starts buying programming directly itself.

What should Google do?

To me the answer is rather simple: Concentrate on search. Their video search at should be like their news search at When I start an investigation about a company I normally type it's name on to know what's happened to them in the last time. is a central point of news search and I don't have to check anymore news site by news site, like I had to do some years ago. should be the same, and it should be just as great. Google doesn't need to become a content provider. It wasn't even necessary to buy Youtube and it seems stupid to me that on their video search they present only videos from Youtube and as search results.
The video content is out there, but we don't know how to find it!
For instance yesterday I found out by chance that you can see entire shows of the Simpsons or Veronica Mars on Veoh. I got to know this only because a hyperlink brought me to this Youtube clone. I would never have landed on this site.
Why did no search engine tell me that the Simpsons are on Veoh?
So Google has to concentrate on video search. When I type "Simpsons" on I want to see search results from every possible video website, like they do with normal text websites on their text search.

I know that it is difficult for search engines to index video content. But who, if not Google, could be able to do it?

For photos there are already search engines like Pixsta that reach beyond the current text-based search approach by automatically extracting visual content from images.

Something similar should be possible with videos on Google. Around the search results they can show their advertising as always. Google would then become the universal remote control for an unbounded tv experience on the internet.


Or maybe Dabble will do this job one day. I learned the following about them:
Dabble gathers video data from hundreds of hosting sites, as well as from tens of thousands of other websites, and then keeps a record of where Web-based videos are located, descriptions about the video, who made it, what it's about, how popular it is, and so on.
Unfortunately Dabble has one basic problem, at least today: It does not work well. I had to wait about five minutes to get my search result after I typed The Simpsons. That's far too much. Also they did not find the complete Simpsons shows from Veoh but only some one minute clippings.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Who wants an invitation to Joost?

Finally Joost let's me invite other people as beta testers for their service. Today I receiced this email:

We have added new tokens to your account, so you can invite more people to participate in the Joost beta testing program.

To invite others, please go to and enter their email addresses. They'll be sent an invitation and a password to start participating right away.

Best regards,
The Joost team
When I entered my account I saw that I had two tokens. I directly invited a friend who had asked me before. So only one token was left. But after some time I had two tokens again, maybe because my friend had meanwhile accepted the invitation. It seems that Joost gives always two tokens to its beta testers.

I am going to verify this now by inviting an other person who asked me in the comments section of this blog. My Joost account actually says "Number of invitations you can send: 1". But maybe soon I will have two tokens again?

The person who wants a Joost invitation from me should just ask in the comment section of this blog and tell me why I should choose especially him or her. Let's wait for the best statements! On thursday, 8th of march 2007, I will choose the winner.