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.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Truphone brings free VoIP calls to the iPhone

Now that's great news: Just two days after that Om Malik and his fellow VoIP blogger James Seng from Singapore declared that there is no excitement in VoIP anymore comes the next breakthrough. The UK company Truphone is the first to bring VoIP to Apple's iPhone. They showcased it yesterday at the startup fair DEMO. The Launchpad for Emerging Technology in San Diego. Blognation USA has a comprehensive report:
To say the application isn’t yet ready for prime time would be a pretty major understatement as it currently requires the use of terminal on the iPhone to tell the iPhone to use its on-board SIP stack to place the call over WiFi instead of via the SIM card. To use the terminal application, in turn requires that you first Jailbreak the phone using an application like iBrickr or iFuntastic. This is not an application for the inexperienced or the faint of heart.

That will all change however as the company tells me that it intends to finish development on the application which will include simplifying the activation and adding seamless switching back and forth between VoIP when open WiFi is available and the use of the SIM card when out of WiFi range. It is important to note that it is NOT NECESSARY to break the SIM lock to use TruPhone’s iPhone VoIP application.

Voip User's Dean Elwood is glad "to see that Truphone got an industry first in getting VoIP onto Apples latest device - a lot of hard work has gone into that. Good work Team Truphone". I couldn't have said it better. Kudos come also from all over the world and Andy Abramson, acknowledged VoIP blogger and Truphone PR consultant, even made a video.

Meanwhile the first impatient Truphone fans already ask where to sign up with their iPhones. Until now Truphone worked only on Nokia's E and N series. But at their stand at DEMO Truphone showed versions also working on the Nokia N800 Internet Tablet, the new HP Smartphone running Windows 6.0 and another Windows Mobile device that goes by various names like the DASH, reports Andy Abramson.

In fact TC40 and DEMO made VoIP fans quite happy these days with the launches of Maxrom and the Tru(i)phone. I hope that Truphone can soon make a full fledged iPhone application out of their demoed command line tinkering. And hopefully they consider to extend their free calls offer to iPhone users for a longer time, like they do to the Nokia users yet for months now. This would spice up their PR strategy and assure to be mentioned in media all over the world. One has to show off as long as one is sexy! Soon other companies will follow to bring their VoIP to the iPhone. The Apple factor is always a great tool to get some media attention.

After all the Nokia E and N series users are few because of the high price tag. But the iPhone is a mass product with very much sex appeal. (Although it isn't cheaper than the Nokias it makes people clutch stacks of twenties until after midnight in Apples 24 hour store in New York's Fifth Avenue.) Also I imagine that Truphone can soon bring VoIP to the iPod touch. It already works on Sony's Playstation Portable and the Touch seems to be a mere iPhone without GSM.


The Truphone press office has more information on the iPhone, also about a new Facebook application from Truphone.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Free calls MVNO Blyk goes live with goofy questionnaires

Since I cannot attend personally the launch of the free mobile phone calls MVNO Blyk that is being held in these very minutes in London, I can only present the press release. I also got a Powerpoint presentation as PDF that explains more comprehensively how the advertising sponsored MVNO works.

Before becoming a customer you have to fill in a long questionnaire about your consumption preferences. Later you get advertising in every SMS you receive from a friend. Apparently before every phone call you have to answer questions like "Which of these celebs are you the most like: Eva Longoria, Penélope Cruz, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, ... ?" and Blyk recommends you the adequate L'Oreal lipstick.

That makes me wonder what happens to customers who don't look similar to super models. Are they not allowed to talk?

Reference: Press Announcement
Release Date: 24 September, 2007

Blyk goes live
The world’s first advertising funded mobile network for 16-24 year olds launches in the UK

London, 24 September, 2007 - Blyk, the new mobile network for 16 to 24 year olds today announced the launch of its UK service. The announcement was made by the company founders Pekka Ala-Pietilä and Antti Öhrling at a press launch event in London this morning. Blyk is an invitation-only mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that links young people with brands they like and gives them free texts and minutes every month.

For brands, Blyk is an innovative, new media channel, providing direct access to the 16-24 year old market; enabling them to create awareness, build relationships and drive sales to this hard to reach audience. Since its conception early last year, Blyk has been undertaking extensive research in the UK with user group studies and live user trials. These have helped to make the offering extremely compelling for young people and advertisers alike.

Pekka Ala-Pietilä said: “We have spent the last year developing a unique, robust advertising content engine and whilst the technology we are using is incredibly advanced, the main premise of Blyk is driven by 3 basic principles – ease of use, interaction and relevance of the communications.”

Blyk understands the importance of relevancy in communication and has built its system to enable this. By means of profile questions at sign-up and ongoing SMS polling during membership Blyk Media enables brands to target messages like no other medium. Response rates have also been exceptionally high, with some testers reportedly missing the service at the end of the trial.

Further to this Öhrling said: “We found that what is 90% familiar and 10% new leads to the best user experience. So, the Blyk communications formats are based on the most dominant and most familiar pattern among 16-24s: Getting a message and responding to it. Both picture and text.”

Brands will be able to engage Blyk members in question/response type interactions. For members these interactions are free. For advertisers all responses and interactions by members are tracked, giving great accountability to the campaign.

“We found throughout our research that this simple, familiar type of interaction leads to tremendous response rates. “ says Öhrling. Speaking at the network’s launch in London today, Pekka Ala-Pietilä said:

“Our free offer is 217 texts and 43 minutes every month and this could mean no more phone bills for up to 4.5 million young people in the UK - with no contract. We have the brands that want to speak to them too, with more than 40 already signed up for the launch. This group represents almost every industry sector there is.”

“It’s going to spread because, at the heart of it, it’s got a creative idea. A mobile phone network that’s funded by advertising; that’s something you want to tell people about. Fundamentally it’s the interaction that young people do most on their mobile phone: receiving and responding to a message.” says Antti Öhrling.

About Blyk

Blyk is the new mobile network for 16 – 24s that’s funded by advertising. Blyk links young people with brands they like and gives them free texts and minutes every month. Blyk was co-founded in 2006 by Pekka Ala- Pietilä and Antti Öhrling and has offices in Helsinki, Finland and London, UK. Blyk is now operating in the UK, with other European markets to follow.
For more information, visit


Notes to Editors:

Invitations to join Blyk will be sent out over the next few weeks via channels targeted to reach 16-24 year olds.

For further information, please contact:
UK Trade media:
Karen Keany
The Practice, telephone +44 (0) 20 7812 0662/mobile +44 (0) 7989 429 367

UK Consumer media:
Rax Lakhani
Splendid Communications, telephone +44 (0) 20 7324 7200

International media:
Irene Nyberg-Jarventaus
Blyk, +44 (0) 7747 844 854

Blyk limited
Registered office:
4 th Floor
80 Leadenhal Street
London EC3A 3HA
Registration number: 05778607

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Cubic Telecom and Maxroam compared to other offers

Now it's nearly a week since Cubic Telecom presented their new product Maxroam at TechCrunch 40 (TC40), but still they don't reveal their real prices which should be found here. Still Maxroam says "Rates published soon" while Cubic Telecom's website consists only of a place holder and former price examples have dissappeared.

Sure, they claim that GSM calls are up to 80 per cent cheaper than the roaming rates offered by existing mobile service providers. But that's a usual claim which you can also hear from competing companies such as United Mobile. I would like to compare the prices by myself.

At least Alec Saunders got some numbers from Cubic Telecom's CEO Pat Phelan when they talked one day after TC40:
Calls from one Cubic subscriber to another are free when used in a hotspot. They also come with a MaxRoam SIM with 5 euros of credit. That's the kicker, frankly. The MaxRoam LD rates will make anyone turn their head sharply… for instance, calls in Canada cost .0063 euros. In the US, .0131 euros. In the UK… .011 euros. In addition, you can get a local number wherever you're going, so that when you travel others can call you cheaply as well.

Sounds great, but for which kind of calls do these costs apply? I guess that's just the WiFI rates since the San Francisco Chronicle writes:
You just slip the MAXRoam SIM into your unlocked GSM phone when you travel and then when you make phone calls abroad, it comes out to about 15 cents per minute, thanks to global roaming agreements that Cubic has worked out with operators around the world.

15 Cent is a great price, whether in euro or in dollar, and undercuts for instance United Mobile with its funny mobile numbers from Liechtenstein or Jersey by nearly 50 per cent. Only I would like to see where this rate applies. And why does VentureBeat write that Maxroam "will provide cell phone users with a SIM card that enables global calling for rates between 20 and 30 cents a minute in more than 160 countries"? That's a price difference of up to 100 per cent in two articles from the same day.

Still it's a great idea that Maxroam works also in Wifi hotspots where you don't have to pay two digit cent prices per minutes, but probably about one cent to most countries. Also these prices are not yet published, but I guess that's what Alec Saunders wrote about. The Wifi prices are of course great, but they have to be compared to the Wifi offers from Wifimobile and Truphone. Truphone calls to 40 countries are free until the end of the year, at Wifimobile you get the same for a flat rate price of $15.99 €11.99 £7.99 per month. In both cases you can use your existing cell phone number as caller ID, unless you are from the US or the UK, and don't have to bear the shame of these weird Liechtenstein, Iceland, Jersey, Estonia or the Isle of Man numbers. Wifimobile's new calltrough numbers in 11 countries even let you place calls outside a Wifi area.

Which brings me to Cubic Telecom's most interesting feature to slash roaming costs: Consumers get a single phone number, but can create multiple permanent local numbers for themselves - up to 50 - anywhere around the globe. All calls are forwarded to their Cubic Mobile phone, no matter where the calls originate, at the best rates for the callers. That's a cool idea, but Cubic Telecom is not the first to offer it. Local numbers for global SIMs are the new trend, I wrote two months ago. The German company GlobalSIM started already in july to give local fixed line numbers from 43 countries to their SIM card customers.

Like Nokia, whose Executive VP & General Manager of Multimedia Anssi Vanjoki recently said that they "copy with pride" from the iPhone, Cubic Telecom has taken all these available features and squashed them into one product. That's a real accomplishment. They even took an existing phone and and made media like FierceVoip or the San Francisco Chronicle call it the "Cubic Mobile Phone". Although it's the known Pirelli DualPhone DP-L10 which the German VoIP provider Sipgate already sells since january.

But now, dear Pat, I would really like to know the prices per minute.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Norwegian mobile VoIP company Vyke to buy US VoIP network provider

The Norwegian mobile VoIP company Vyke seems to urge for an own reliable network. Today's news is that they have signed a letter of intent to acquire a USA based VoIP network service provider. The Acquisition is subject to due diligence which is ongoing and final approval by the Board of Vyke. Sounds quite interesting. But who is it?
The Target is a VoIP service provider headquartered in the US with additional offices in China. Its VoIP network, comprised of over 50 international points of presence, delivers approximately 25 million minutes per month of VoIP call traffic and has a total estimated capacity of approximately 60 million minutes per month.

The Acquisition, if completed, would provide Vyke with a vertically consolidated VoIP network presence in key geographical regions such as South East Asia and Africa, allowing Vyke to increase its services and lower associated costs of service supply in these regions. The Target's complementary VoIP network will provide Vyke with approximately 80% more total call handling capacity.

A further announcement with further details will be made later, following the due diligence and definite deciscion about the acquisition.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Cubic Telecom presents Maxroam at TechCrunch 40

OK, the embargo is over. For one and a half hours I already had the press release but wasn't allow to tell. But now, finally, Roam4Free's Pat Phelan has revealed at TechCrunch 40 his new product Maxroam. TechCrunch is blogging live from the presentation:
Cubic Telecom is creating a global Mobile Virtual Network (MVNO). The company aims to drastically reduce international calling rates by lowering mobile roaming and call charges. Founder Pat Phelan “wants a world in which anyone can pick up their mobile phone wherever they are and call anyone in any country for as long as they like without worrying about the price.” Product launch is today. “Maxroam” allows you to add numbers to the SIM. Essentially calls are routed from one number in each place. Every call on the mobile becomes a local call.
Later you can find the per minute prices here. Up to now the web page still says "Rates published later today" or "HTTP/1.1 500 Server Error". Sometimes a price shows up, but this is just a place holder. They are obviously working on it.

EMBARGO – 20:00 Irish/UK Time (19:00UTC / 12:00 PST), Monday 17th September 2007


• “All Global Calls Are Local Calls” with Cubic Telecom’s Mobile Phone Solution
• Company Unveils Both Product and Vision at First Annual TechCrunch40

CORK, Ireland, and SAN FRANCISCO, California. – (TechCrunch40) – September 17, 2007 – Cubic Telecom today unveiled what many industry watchers are calling the world’s first true global phone. Presenting at TechCrunch40 in San Francisco before an 800-plus crowd of hi-tech entrepreneurs, journalists and other industry influencers, the company announced Cubic Mobile, a mobile phone package that effectively turns ‘global calls into local calls’. Cubic Mobile dramatically reduces costs for both callers and recipients of mobile phone calls when roaming internationally.

Cubic designed the product for several large markets of consumers who are looking for ways to reduce the cost of international telephony: (1) the growing population of émigrés who buy pre-paid calling cards to call friends and family overseas; (2) travellers who are looking for ways to reduce the costs of roaming on traditional packages; and (3) globally distributed teams – commercial, not-for-profit, and governmental organisations – that are all seeking better ways to manage the cost of global calls.

“You often hear that the world is flat, so why not telephony,” said Cubic CEO and co-founder Pat Phelan. “We are living in a world where more and more people need to make phone calls across borders and while travelling. Our mantra is ‘all global calls should be local calls’, and we have built a product that can do that.”

Pat Phelan said “It’s great to be at TechCrunch40. Seven hundred companies from around the world applied to launch their products at this event. We were one of forty chosen, and are the only Irish company presenting. For us, this is an exceptional opportunity”.

Cubic Mobile is a dual-band GSM/Wi-Fi phone that comes with several major innovations enabling callers to make and receive low-cost calls around the planet, wherever they roam:

• MAXroam: the world’s first universal SIM card, offering consumers the best country-to-country phone rates anywhere. The MAXroam SIM, which can also be purchased separately, is a major breakthrough, and the result of years of negotiations with GSM carriers around the world.

• As many phone numbers as you like: full PBX functionality on the handset. Consumers get a single phone number, but can create multiple permanent local numbers for themselves - up to 50 - anywhere around the globe. All calls are forwarded to their Cubic Mobile phone, no matter where the calls originate, at the best rates for the callers.

• All Voice over IP (VoIP) calls within the Cubic network are free. All Cubic Mobile customers get a short code that they can use to make free VoIP calls to any other customer on the Cubic network. This is an especially attractive feature to families who live across borders and globally distributed companies and workgroups.

Cubic Mobile has been designed by a team with extensive experience in consumer and wireless technologies. It also has the ability to route a call to the lowest cost network available, whether it is GSM or Wi-Fi. “It’s consumer friendly in many ways, said Pat Phelan. “It is friendly in its utter simplicity, but also friendly in its ability to also ensure that you and your callers are always getting the lowest rates”.

Pricing and Availability
• Cubic Mobile, which comes in two models, will be available from October 1st at The basic model will sell for EUR99.95 and a Windows Mobile version at EUR159.95 (both handsets come with a MAXroam SIM included and an initial EUR5 calling credit).

• MAXroam, which operates on any unlocked GSM phone, can be purchased separately for EUR29.99 (with an initial EUR5 calling credit) and is available on September 24th at


ABOUT Cubic Telecom
Based in Cork, Ireland, with offices in Vancouver, 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 and roaming. Renowned global telecommunications entrepreneur and thought-leader Pat Phelan founded Cubic Telecom in 2005. Pat wants a world in which anyone can pick up their mobile phone wherever they are and call anyone in any country for as long as they like without worrying about the price.

Cubic Telecom is working towards free speech.

ABOUT TechCrunch40
TechCrunch40 features forty of the hottest new startups from around the world, who will announce and demo their products over a two day period. And they don’t pay a cent to do this. They are selected to participate based on merit alone. In fact, the organisers offer a $50,000 cash prize for the best product and line up other in-kind services and awards from a group of corporate sponsors. The selected companies are decided by an amazing group of experts who help recommend the final startups to present at TechCrunch40. And they will also participate at the conference - they’ll watch company presentations and discuss the merits of each with robust audience participation. Confirmed industry experts include Marc Andreessen (Co-founder, Ning), Chris Anderson (Editor-In-Chief, Wired Magazine), Ryan Block (Editor-In-Chief, Engadget), Roelof Botha (Partner, Sequoia Capital), Ron Conway (angel investor and advisor), Mark Cuban (Founder, HDNet), Caterina Fake (Co-founder, Flickr), Brad Garlinghouse (SVP,Communications & Communities, Yahoo!), MC Hammer (Musical Artist and Advisor, DanceJam), Sarah Lacy (reporter and author), Loïc Le Meur (entrepreneur, LeWeb organizer and blogger), Om Malik (Founder, GigaOm), Marissa Mayer (VP, Search Products & User Experience, Google), Rajeev Motwani (Professor, Stanford University), Robert Scoble (Scobleizer and Podtech), and Dave Winer (Scripting News).

Pictured are Sean O'Mahony (left), Chief Commercial Officer, and Pat Phelan, Chief Operating Officer, of Cubic Telecom, which today announced its plans to dramatically reduce international global roaming charges.

For further information, please contact:

Media Contact (Europe)
Comit Communications & Marketing
Keith Martin
Tel. +353 1 215 7675

Media Contact (North America)
The Conversation Group
Giovanni Rodriguez
Tel. +1-650-279-8415

Company Contact
Cubic Telecom Limited
Pat Phelan, CEO
Tel. +353 21 425 0657
Cubic Telecom Limited
Unit 1, Webworks
Eglinton Street
Tel: +353 21 425 0657
Pat Phelan’s Blog:

Free mobile calls with Blyk from next monday

I just got a phone call from the UK. Blyk, the ad-supported MVNO, will launch next monday, 24th September 2007. They wanted me to interview the co-founders, Pekka Ala-Pietilä, former president of Nokia, and Antti Öhrling at their press conference in London.

The new virtual operator is targeting 16 to 24 year olds. Blyk rents airtime from Orange and uses technology from Nokia Siemens Networks to deliver free calls, sponsored by advertisers like Buena Vista, Coca-Cola, I-play Mobile Gaming, L’Oreal Paris, StepStone and, says TechCrunch UK.

Unfortunately I cannot go personally, but I told Ewan MacLeod, blogger at SMS Text News, to ask a question in my name. I would like to know if they are in contact with Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of the airline easyJet and other successful low cost product ventures. He told me three months ago that his brand easyMobile would come back with free mobile calls sponsored by advertising.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

100th blog post: Who am I, anyway?

Since the rest of my website is in German and only this technology blog is written in English many readers may wonder: Who is the author? So I will use my 100th blog post to again introduce myself.

I am Markus Göbel, technology and economy journalist from Berlin, Germany. I work as freelancer for newspapers and magazines like Financial Times Deutschland, WirtschaftsWoche, DIE ZEIT and others. These are all big names in Germany, but probably unknown to international readers. I hold a degree in Journalism from the University of Munich and attended one of Germany's most prestigious Journalism Schools, Deutsche Journalistenschule.

I started this blog seven months ago because I realized that I have opinions and interests that are not well reflected in the other media. 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.

But to me "free" calls as in "free beer" are still the killer application of VoIP. That's a conviction I share with people like Vinay from India whose blog became one of my main sources of inspiration. His VOIP Guide gets over 7000+ visitors each day mainly from USA, UK, India and Singapore because the customers want free phone calls.

Also I try to introduce a more European view because I realized that our technology is often more advanced than in the US. Just last week I had an interview with a mobile VoIP startup that left the US and concentrates entirely on Europe because “the market is more advanced and the handsets are unlocked”. My favourite VoIP device is AVM's Fritz!Box from Berlin which blows away any other ATA with its rich features.

I am always interested in new topics for this blog and the articles I write for German media. That's why I enjoy to be in direct discussion with the decision makers via interviews, blog comments and Facebook groups. You can always send me press releases or devices for testing. I can also write as guest blogger in your company's blog, telling what's hot and what's not from my point of view.

PhoneGnome does the same like Ooma: free P2P phone calls to PSTN. Toll Fraud?

Do you remember PhoneGnome's "Build Your Own Ooma" challenge which they started at July 19th, 2007?
We invite any company that sees promise in Ooma’s recently announced “peer to peer” VoIP model to consider rolling such a service out on the PhoneGnome platform and see how it flies.

It seems that they have succeeded, as you can tell from the latest post in the PhoneGnome blog. The company does not declare a winner of the challenge, so they probably developed the new "Directed Calling / Remote POTS Access" feature of PhoneGnome by themselves. It resembles quite exactly what Ooma already does:
This feature enables remote access to your POTS phone service (the telephone service connected to the PhoneGnome box LINE port). A user with the PhoneGnome box can grant access to other PhoneGnome accounts. Such an authorized user can then use their PhoneGnome account to direct a call to a specific POTS telephone service.

With the new Directed Calling / Remote POTS Access feature, friends and family members in one area can place calls to local numbers in another area. One PhoneGnome box can serve any number of accounts whether those accounts have the PhoneGnome box or not.

That's also the Ooma model: Phone calls are delivered over the internet and terminated for free to the PSTN over an Ooma or PhoneGnome box, since people in the US usually have free local calls. But other than Ooma the PhoneGnome feature can also work internationally. If I had a PhoneGnome at home I could directly allow other users to make free calls to Germany by sharing my phone line. Ooma restricts its free calls only to the USA.

Another big difference is that with PhoneGnome you know at least who is sharing your phone line, while Ooma just accomplishes other people's phone calls over your fixed phone line whithout even telling you. You can find the implications of this in my former blog post "Why Ooma is a security risk". In contrast the "Directed Calling / Remote POTS Access" feature of PhoneGnome adds a sumbenu called "PhoneGnome Users Permitted to Use your Phone Line". That gives a sense of security if people grant that permission only to friends and family members. But I guess that we will soon hear about PhoneGnome users who grant free calls to anyone unknown who gives them free calls in his area in exchange. One PhoneGnome box can serve any number of accounts and so it's theoretically possible to build a network for worldwide free phone calls. Yet there are PhoneGnome users in over 100 countries.

So it seems that the PhoneGnome is now slightly ahead in the funny feature fight with Ooma.

But what about the Toll Fraud?

Only one month ago PhoneGnome's CEO David Beckemeyer reasoned in his blog and in a conversation with The VoIP weblog that the way Ooma operates could be construed as Toll Fraud, or at the very least, against the terms of service of your phone company. He quoted an AT&T web page that says:
You would never allow a stranger to walk into your place of business and walk off with your company’s products or services. And yet, an individual who perpetrates toll fraud on an unsuspecting business is doing just that.

Simply put, remote toll fraud is the fraudulent, illegal use of a company’s telecommunications system by a third party from a remote location.

Very diplomatically he concluded in his blog post that it was "probably just a coincidence that we receive this notice at the same time that Ooma is launching a service that permits strangers remote access to one's telecommunications system (specifically our AT&T landline)".

Now the PhoneGnome does the same.

Friday, September 14, 2007

GTalk2VoIP starts callback

Yesterday my virtual buddy started to chat me automatically when I had my GMail open. He told me about a great new service that's possible now with GTalk2VoIP: Callback.

All users of Jabber based IM chat, Google Talk, MSN/Live Messenger or Yahoo! Messenger can use GTalk2VoIP service to initiate VoIP calls using CALLBACK technique. This means, our system can make VoIP call to your phone (mobile or landline), then make a call to your destination and merge two calls (legs). Callback is initiated by a single IM message sent to

Just talk to the robot! Use your instant messenger to say "CALLBACK +1-111-2223344 +1-555-6667788" to the buddy. This will initiate a call to your phone number +1-111-2223344, then to your destination +1-555-6667788. It even works on your mobile phone if you use Fring or the mobile version of Gizmo Project.

The calls cost the normal GTalk2VoIP rates or the rates of your own SIP provider which you can also use at GTalk2VoIP. Each call leg is billed separately, so if both legs are phone numbers the final cost will "double". But normally it should be no problem to use your Fring to start a free call between your friends landline and the fixed line telephone next to you.

This seems much faster and easier than Jajah to me.

Great overview of VoIP APIs

VoIP is so much more than just telephony. Martyn Davies gives a great overview about new services at VoIP User under the headline "Telco 2.0 - New APIs to Start the Revolution". Great to read. Thank you, Martyn, for summing up all the API information snippets of the last months!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ooma closing critical website?

The website had a very short live. It was set up at the end of August and yet had to close only some days later. Webmaster Mike Pierce, a techie who started the website where he dissected the Ooma service, says in a comment to a blog post:
The web site was taken offline under threat of legal action by ooma, claiming that it contained many untruths and was slanderous. They would not detail what they thought was untrue or try to provide corrections.

September 6, 2007 2:54 PM lived such a short time that there isn't even a copy in the cache of Google or MSN. You can find only some regarding blog posts or comments in other blogs where Mike advertized his site.

I have been told that at first Ooma approached Mike, indicating that they were trying to "reach out" to him. They alledgedly offered him a White Rabbit, which he refused, and told him Ooma technical people would look at the site and get in contact with Mike about issues that they think are wrong. However, instead, a few days later, Tom Cronan, Ooma CFO and counsel, supposedly called and threatened legal action so Mike took the site down.

That's just what I have been told in a private message. I never had the chance to see the website. You would think a company launching a new product would have better things to do. Please use the comments section if you know more or want to correct the information.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Who wants and invitation to GrandCentral?

Since Luca says that a similar offer turned out to be one of his most popular blog posts ever, I will also give it a try: Who wants an invitation to Google's GrandCentral? I still have some to give.

The proceeding is the same that we followed with the invitations to Joost: The person who wants a GrandCentral invitation from me should just ask in the comment section of this blog and tell me why I should choose especially him or her.

Monday, September 10, 2007

PhoneGnome's answer to Ooma's comparison

After the Funny fight between Ooma and PhoneGnome on FierceVoIP don't forget to read today the answer from PhoneGnome's CEO David Beckemeyer!

Last week an interview with Andrew Frame, founder and CEO of Ooma, caused furor among the PhoneGnome users when he answered the question "How is ooma different from PhoneGnome, aside from the physical aspect?". David Beckemeyer immediately demanded his right to answer and comes up with this comparison:

The key distinguishing aspects of the two products, as we see it, are:

- Prepay for hardware plus a bundle of services/features up front
- Service options defined by ooma
- Proprietary, closed, architecture
- Available to users in the United States
- International calls at ooma rates

- A la carte model, with lower up-front costs
- Customers pay less up front and pay for the services/features they want
- Open, expandable and interconnects with other VoIP services/systems
- Embraces open-standards, interoperability, and industry standards
- Available to users anywhere in the world
- Free software extends PhoneGnome-enabled service to a PC or mobile phone
- PhoneGnome box works with VoIP, cable and landline phone service
- Compatible with a variety of international and domestic plans

Also we learn from the article what a tiny company stands behind the PhoneGnome. "We are a typical early stage startup, running very lean and mean. We don't have any Hollywood actors and we don't have a big pile of VC cash to burn", says Beckemeyer with a side blow to Ooma's Ashton Kutcher. They have only ten people working full time and "many terrific folks who work with us, outsourced and under other arrangements to allow us to operate without large capital requirements as we strive to expand and grow organically".

Too sad that Beckemeyer didn't tell the actual status of PhoneGnome's “Build Your Own Ooma” challenge where they try to roll out a similar peer-to-peer service on the PhoneGnome platform.

Sipgate opens API for VoIP mashups

The VoIP company Sipgate, one of the biggest in Germany with also significant business in the UK, offers a special service for developers. "Sipgate API" is a new interface to integrate almost every Sipgate function - VoIP, SMS and large administration tools - in own applications. The Sipgate API enables to use central Sipgate functions within your own software or web projects, so that VoIP tinkerers can set up their own mashup services.

In his latest blog post Thomas Howe, the master of mashup, was so kind to explain again what mashup means:
A mashup is an application that uses
1) modern Web integration technologies
2) to take content or services from two independent sources
3) to solve a unique or niche problem.

The first element of mashups are the integration technologies they use. These integration technologies create a “web as platform” architecture, allowing the mashup developer to integrate his software on top of the world class infrastructures provided by Amazon or AOL, simply, easily and safely. The most common technologies used for mashups include Web services calls, which either come as a SOAP or REST flavors, AJAX, Javascript and Ruby.

The second element of mashups is that they take content or services from more than one independent source. This is where the “mashup” word comes from. Mashups take things that might not go together, and puts them together in a valuable way. The classic mashup is the Chicago Crime Map, that took data from the Chicago Police Department and plotted it on Google Maps, so that you could see where the burglaries happened.

The "Sipgate API" is provided free of charge and can be used for mashups with every Sipgate account. Up to date the fax function of Sipgate can be used only with the German service.

To make integration easy, Sipgate publishes also the source code of the Firefox extension "Sipgate FFX" as well as several Perl examples and a KDE panel application under a GPL 2 license. Further more .NET developers will find with "sipgate API .NET SDK" a comfortable library to use the "Sipgate API" services easily. Over a mailing list developers can also exchange experiences and tips.

You will find all information about the interface and the exemplar applications including detailed documentations under

Or maybe Apple is the real telco disruptor?

Do you remember my post "Google is the real telco disruptor" from july?

Well, it seems that the story could become even more interesting with another player entering the 700 MHz wireless spectrum auction that many didn't have on their list: Apple might also bid for that "bech front property" spectrum, suggests a BusinessWeek article called "Apple Eyes the Wireless Auction".

Taking into account this possible development many pieces of the puzzle would fall into their place. Why is the iPod touch such a cool device, an iPhone without phone? Why did Apple cut the price for the iPhone so soon and drastically?

In Germany the association eco, alliance of 330 big internet companies, hailed already last week the new device by saying "Wifi iPod makes mobile internet a mass market" in a press release. They are fed up with the slow acceptation of mobile internet service on Germany because the incumbent mobile operators keep 3G data prices high and accept only walled gardens on their devices.

"T Zones, Web-n-walk und Vodafone Live all try to keep away the user from the free and open internet", says eco director Harald A. Summa. "Exactly this policy of closed networks has so far prevented the breaktrough of the mobile internet to a mass market. The success of iTunes and Youtube shows that the users know much better than the operators what they really want." The new iPod touch offers direct Wifi access to iTunes and Youtube, circumventing the closed networks of the mobile operators.

So, let's just imagine that the iPhone never planned to sell millions. Maybe it's real purpose is just to create buzz for the new iPods? The iPod touch has every feature that you like from the iPhone. It only misses the annoying part of the phone: A 60 dollar per month cell phone contract. New iPods could work without that contract, using the 700 MHz spectrum, suggests the article in BusinessWeek:
Signals at the 700Mhz spectrum, for example, could provide far faster Internet access than today's cellular or even Wi-Fi networks, and the signals can easily pass through buildings and work glitch-free, even in lousy weather.

Still, even the possibility of an Apple bid is intriguing. For starters, it would mean Apple would no longer need to rely on a phone company to deliver songs, TV shows, and other digital fare purchased at its iTunes Music Store. As it is, the major complaint of iPhone shoppers isn't with the phone, but with the pokey Net access from Apple's exclusive U.S. partner, AT&T (T).

If it owned its own spectrum, Apple could provide the network service itself, possibly for far less than the $1,440 iPhone owners must now fork out over the course of the cheapest two-year contract. For example, Apple could hold down costs by letting users choose a Net telephony program such as Skype rather than develop its own voice software, say analysts.

Apple might even be able to give away network service for free, and make its money off services such as iTunes and possibly by selling subscribers advertising space.

Indeed, cutting out the carrier would probably be in sync with Steve Jobs' view of the world. Before striking the iPhone deal with AT&T, he publicly dissed phone companies as little more than "orifices"—good only for providing dumb pipes to deliver more innovative companies' more innovative services.

"Apple is the most anti-carrier company there is," says the former Apple executive. "They're probably already frustrated with AT&T. If they put a few billion behind this, they could build a kick-ass network." Indeed, on Sept. 5, Apple announced a new iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store so consumers can buy songs at wireless hotspots, something they can't do on AT&T's network. And Jobs made a point of noting Wi-Fi is faster not only than the so-called 2.5G EDGE network, but also than 3G cellular networks.

A very convincing argumentation that matches perfectly with what eco said. That's also the reason why I had to copy such a long passage of the original article. (Sorry for that!) Hopefully it's not only intentionally leaked hot air to lift Apple's stock price.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Can the new iPod touch download podcasts over Wifi?

Does anybody know whether you can download podcasts wirelessly from iTunes to the new iPod touch?

I cannot find an answer to that.

I guess this new wireless device could fulfil all my musical needs. But Steve Jobs shouldn't think that I would buy music over Wifi from his iTunes store! That's a new feature of the iPod touch which has been celebrated in all the news.

But the best iTunes feature are the free podcasts, like Dance Department, winner of the category Best Podcast at the 2007 Miami Winter Music Conference. Every week another world famous DJ is on the decks, no annoying advertising or cheap talk. Just one interesting interview, the best dance tracks of the week and a 30 minutes high class DJ set plus one "educating classic".

But I am fed up with downloading podcasts to the laptop and syncing to the iPod. I would like to download them directly over Wifi and delete them when the memory is full.

This leads me to the next question: Does the new iPod generation finally have a delete button?

What's the purpose of Lypp if GTalk2VoIP already does the same?

VoIP veteran Erik Lagerway, co-founder of softphone maker XTen (today CounterPath), sent me an invitation to participate in the beta test of his new service Lypp.
Lypp is a new calling service that uses IM and command line commands to create one-to-one calls and group calls. By sending a simple command from AIM, MSN, Yahoo, Jabber, Gtalk, or ICQ like "call 6045551212, 7035551212", users can create a quick group call. It will be launching in September. It will be Free.

Lypp uses your existing landline or mobile number, but calls are initiated using Instant Messaging. To make that possible you have to add the robot to your Jabber/GTalk IM buddy list. Currently they support AIM / iChat, Google Talk / Jabber, MSN and Yahoo! The answer to the signup e-mail explains it more:
Once you've added the buddy to your Jabber/Gtalk IM contact list, here's how you use the service:

1. Send commands to the Lypp buddy using the following syntax:

call 6046297990 8774730516

You can enter up to 10 phone numbers (remember we currently only support US and Canadian phone numbers).
2. Your phone will ring, the other participants' phones will ring and you'll all be connected.
3. We've kept it simple. There is no step 3.

For help is using the service just text "help" to


The Lypp Team

PS: If you invite friends to use Lypp and if they sign up, we'll add 10 bonus minutes to your account for each friend. Refer a friend by texting "invite" to

Lypp's concept sounded directly familiar too me, because I know it from the Russian company GTalk2VoIP.

Although they are located in the remote Siberian city of Tyumen GTalk2VoIP has a famous name in the VoIP industry, providing for instance the bridge to make calls from Gizmo Project to MSN, Yahoo, Jabber and Google Talk.

You just have to accept a robot called or as buddy on MSN, Google Talk or Yahoo. Then you can make phone calls with these chat programs by texting messages like "call 1-650-253-0000" to the robot. More information can be found here.

Sounds similar to Lypp, doesn't it?

GTalk2VoIP does this already for 1,5 years, so I wonder what is the purpose of Lypp. A copycat? I already asked this question in the regarding group at Facebook, but I still have to wait for an answer.

It can't be the conference calls, because GTalk2VoIP also states on their website that "any IM user can create one or more conference rooms and invite his/her friends to join the conference".

So let's see what the beta test brings.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Finally Google Reader adds search

Techcrunch reports that Google adds search to Google Reader. Now that's a news that I have been waiting for. Far too long! It's so great to finally have it. You can find the official announcement here.

I already had missed this feature so urgently that I had to install a hack which made use of Google's customized search. It searches through the websites whose feeds I am using. This trick I found via this excellent post "Saving Time for Productivity with Google Reader" from Web Worker Daily. But the disadvantage were too many and too old search results.

Instead the new Reader search ransacks only actual blog posts and presents them in chunks of 40 results.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Funny fight between Ooma and PhoneGnome on FierceVoIP

FierceVoIP has an interview with Andrew Frame, founder and CEO of Ooma. We can learn something, but it's mostly PR blabla for Ooma. Much more interesting are, again, the comments to this article.

Maybe Andrew shouldn't have answered the question "How is ooma different from PhoneGnome, aside from the physical aspect?". It causes an outrage of devoted PhoneGnome users, calling his answer "completely misleading" and presuming that he didn't understand how PhoneGnome works.

In steps Dennis Peng, director product management at Ooma, making an even more comprehensive comparation of the two devices. He asserts that PhoneGnome doesn't have two phone lines, like Ooma does, but just "one and a half". What does that mean? Maybe a half phone line is shorter than a full line? Peng gets it worse from the next commentator who says "Dennis, with all due respect to your position at Ooma, you need to do a little more homework", before he strips down his argumentation.

Too sad that most comments are anonymous, because they give pretty much insight and are funny to read. I hope that Mr. Blog himself, PhoneGnome's CEO David Beckemeyer, will find this article soon and also leave a comment.

I was personally shocked to read that poor Americans pay $65-70 monthly just to get two phone lines from AT&T and PhoneGnome. With the necessary broadband connection it sums up to $100 every month.

I just pay $40 monthly for broadband and VoIP, of course having two phones lines. Two people can call my Sipgate number at the same time. If the first phone is already in use the other rings. Also twofold dial out is possible. Betamax' SparVoIP allows this without hassle, using my Sipgate number as caller ID and letting me call my favourite countries for free for just $3 per month. On top of that I can use 10 different VoIP providers on my Fritz!Box, having lots of inbound numbers from different countries and arbitrating for the best price on outgoing calls. At Voxalot I can install 30 more providers.

I can switch easily if one provider goes belly up or messes with their rates, without getting a new box or changing anything hardware-wise. Ooma guarantees only three years of free service and nobody knows what happens to the box if they go bankrupt.


David Beckemeyer, designer and proprietor of PhoneGnome, aka "Mr. Blog," aka former chief technology officer and co-founder of EarthLink, has officially requested the opportunity to respond to Andrew Frame's comparison of Ooma and PhoneGnome.

You can read more about that in today's FierceVoIP article "ooma versus PhoneGnome". But his response will not be featured untile the Monday, Sept. 10 edition of FierceVoIP.

Too sad we have to wait so long.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Now I have Sitòfono too

Luca was so nice to invite all members of the Sitòfono group on Facebook to try out his service for free. For one year I am a Sitòfono user too and you can call me for nothing by clicking this button:

The bill for these calls pay Luca Filigheddu and his company Abbeynet. Normally the service costs € 499 / year (about $669) and I already have compared it to Voxalot's Virtuall Toll Free in a former blog post, called "Who needs Sitófono when he can have that for free from Voxalot?". Now I will be able to answer this cuestion by myself.

I already tried to hack it by putting a number that I want to call and waiting for Sitòfono to connect us. But it didn't work, although Voxalot's click-to-call button can be used for that. Luca is planning something similar anyway, as he states in Facebook:
Luca Filigheddu (Italy) wrote on Aug 24, 2007 at 12:29 AM
In the following weeks Sitòfono is going to become much more than what it is now. Today customers are using it to receive unlimited calls from any part of the world from their website's visitors. This is helping them to convert more visitors into paying customers.

The idea is to let them use Sitòfono from their backoffice area in order to MAKE unlimited calls to their customers worldwide. For the same annual fee, they can RECEIVE and MAKE calls from and to their customers.

Do you think this feature can increase the perceived value of the service ?

Well, of course I think so, Luca. € 499 / $669 is quite a lot of money and I guess that you can easily cover a fair use flatrate for outgoing calls with it too.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

WTF is Betamax (VoIP)?

Most VoIP users probably know the company Betamax from Cologne (Germany) or one of their more than 20 cheap brands like Voipbuster, Voipstunt, Voipcheap, Sparvoip, Voipwise, Webcalldirect and their latest tongue in cheak attack against Jajah, called Nonoh.

Betamax undercuts nearly every price in VoIP, as you can see in this regularily updated comparison. It already happened that one VoIP company proudly sent me a personal e-mail to announce that they just had lowered their prices to Lima (Peru) landline to 4 Euro Cents. I just yawned and told them that at Betamax I get the same for just 1 Cent. And even they could have offered cheaper calls to Peru if they would have used Betamax' wholesale brand, Voice Trading, as provider where Lima landline cost only 2 Cents of an Euro.

Betamax is no insider tip anymore, as you can tell from thousands of postings in the corresponding internet forums. I guess they are one of the world’s biggest VoIP providers, but nobody knows that for sure because Betamax is so tight-lipped. Betamax' press releases are spare and their customer support is often lousy, as you can learn from many posts in internet forums. My e-mails to Betamax never got an answer. The German webzine tells in its articles that the user forum on the Voipbuster website is difficult to find and that Betamax was reluctant to give any information.

Many people already felt betrayed because Betamax' pricing changes rapidly and the free call routes, which made them subscribe to the service, suddenly have to be paid. At least most customers nearly never need technical support because Betamax' VoIP worked great in the last years. With one short exeption that I covered on my blog: Too many phone calls? Voipbuster's server on fire (Friday, February 16, 2007).

So probably thousands of people are using Betamax. But does anybody know them?

I think that's an important question, because telephony is a matter of trust, especially in times when everyone can start his own phone company for just $199. Until now Betamax is the only VoIP provider that actually gets money from me, because normally I am an advocate of free phone calls. But sometimes cheap prices go together with a big drawback on the long run. Nobody wants his calls to be wiretapped and most people want to be sure that their payments don't go into a money laundering machine.

Betamax' website only states that they are not publicly listed and that "Betamax is a privately owned company. Betamax was founded in 2005 in Germany by a group of marketing experts and received funding from private investors and venture capitalists." I find it really funny how they try to prevent any contacts:
I want to contact Betamax. How?
We are busy developing our products and are a small company. To be honest we have little time. If you still have questions about Betamax, please contact us at service-at-betamax-dot-com.

A little bit more public relations work from Betamax would be great! I would really love to get better press releases and to read an in-depth story about Betamax soon. I still remember the time when they introduced Voipbuster in Germany. They gave us the calls for free, but wanted our bank account data. You had to send them one Euro from your bank account to start to make unlimited calls. This seemed suspicious and many people feared some kind of phishing or another big scam.

But until now Betamax turns out to be a reliable company. Only that they give no face to the customer and the media, which leaves room for conspiracy theories. The recognized VoIP blogger and entrepreneur Pat Phelan even says:
I couldn’t agree more with you on Betamax/voice trading/voipstunt/Nonoh and their almost reversal to norm role of press releases, press contacts and very little public interaction, as a carrier myself and someone who would have strong contacts in large European telcos. I can tell you that Betamax has its own rumour mill around it most of which I would not even dream to write here.

You can imagine that Pat's comment made me really courious. But he doesn't tell me much more, only that in Ireland they use Colt Telecom as provider.

So what do YOU know about Betamax?

Every comment is very welcome, especially if it comes from the Betamax people themselves. Maybe after all I have to be the person who writes the missing in-depth story.