The big buzz in the VoIP market for the past week has been AT&T’s introduction of VoIP apps for users of some models of its smartphones.
Phone.com has had essentially similar apps for some time. Basically they let you use your cell phone as if it were an extension of your VoIP phone service. So AT&T hasn’t invented anything new.
But to the close observer, the fact that it is a wireless carrier who introduced the app represents a sea change in the telephony business. It’s yet another confirmation that Internet-based telephony is having a major impact on wireless phone service, as well as wired.
Ponder the fact that making an international long distance call over most cell carriers costs a pretty penny. 139 of them (i.e. $1.39) per minute to call the U.K. from the U.S., over an AT&T cell phone, for instance. Now, all of a sudden, via VoIP, AT&T is willing to connect that same call for just 27 cents per minute to a wireless phone, or 4 cents to a landline (plus the minutes count on your cell plan).
AT&T is not giving up all that extra revenue willingly – obviously the market is forcing it to. (Isn’t competition a wonderful thing?)
For Phone.com users there’s yet another point to make. In addition to the Phone.com apps for some smart phones (okay, almost all except Windows Phone, but AT&T doesn’t have that either) your Phone.com account can be used as a “calling card” at an even lower cost. Just call your Phone.com number (and you don’t even need a smartphone, any old phone will do) wait for any prompt (such as a Voicemail prompt) to start playing and dial * plus your extension password. You can then call any phone in the world via your Phone.com account – at Phone.com rates.
And that landline call to the U.K., by the way, will cost zero cents per minute.
Stuart Zipper is currently a contributing editor to Communications Technology, a high tech business journalism consultant and freelancer, and the past Senior Editor of TelecomWeb news break.