Free Phone Calls?
IPFones Founder and General Manager Thomas Bui speaks on VoIP
By John Virata
While cell phones gain a huge foothold in the U.S. market with devices that do everything from schedule daily work weeks, to play video and MP3 files, in addition to their traditional phone capabilities, Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP phones have a miniscule marketshare when compared to traditional land lines and even the almost ubiquitous cel phone. Data research firm IDC pegs VoIP use in the United States at around 3 million users by the end of 2005 yet sees a growth to about 27 million households by the end of 2009.
Meanwhile, VoIP phones are gaining in popularity worldwide, especially in countries with phone service providers that charge exorbitant fees for landline connections. IDC said it expects subscribers to US residential VoIP services to rise to 27 million households by the end of 2009. The market research firm said the number would grow from an estimated 3 million subscribers at the end of 2005. To get a sense of the current market for VoIP phone services, DMN senior editor John Virata spoke with Thomas Bui, founder and global managing director of IPFones (www.ipfones.com), a France-based global VoIP phone manufacturer.
DMN: Why VoIP?
Thomas Bui: VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is nothing new....It's just basically carrying, transmitting and receiving voice over the Internet through its Internet protocol. VOIP is the application of what the true Internet originally intended purpose when it was created and harmonized back in the 1960's by the U.S. Department of Defense for its military personnel to communicate in case the regular telephone and or telegraph would be brought down by enemy bombs or sabotage... VOIP today is very different from five years ago because most of the backbone that carries the Internet data has been upgraded to the new IPV6 standard as IPV6 gives much more IP addresses handling and most importantly for us, IPV6 has QOS (Quality of Service) built-in. QOS is a prioritization of voice over data and allows voice data to go first in case the bandwidth is limited. It is like a carpool lane on a freeway or buses and multiple passenger car. VOIP is most beneficial in case of long distance calls as it is protocol where each Internet relay must pass on the data without taxing or levying any type of fees... So international calls are possible at no cost or very very little cost.
|IP phones such as this one from IPFones connect to a computer via USB. With the Skype service, you can call like minded phones for free.|
DMN: What services does your company provide?
TB: IPFONES is a new manufacturer specializing in designing, manufacturing, concepting and bringing new IP communications devices for the next VOIP generations to come. IPFONES sets itself apart by supporting the world's best and most popular VOIP operator at the moment, and that is SKYPE. SKYPE signs up more than 200,000 new customers a day. Since 2003, its free VOIP software has been downloaded more than 140 million times. IPFONES has set its goal to always bring the best quality product, service, and support at always a price that anyone can afford. IPFONES also provides a flexibility of choice by never locking customers in any VOIP operator and also always provide a hardware solution that's upgradeable and of open source and platforms. So any customers of IPFPONES products can always switch from MAC, to LINUX to WINDOWS or even from one VOIP operator to another by just simply loading the right software interface when available. IPFONES believes in open source code and will not lock its offerings with any particular operating systems nor VOIP operators, unlike many of its competitors.
DMN: How does the Skype service work? What are the fees involved?
TB: Skype services are free for the most part. All calls, chats, conference calls and soon video calls are and will always remain free of any charges, fees, and most important also free of any Ad wares, Malwares or even Spy wares unlike many other free offerings.
The only time any customer is asked of paying up front for any service is when they want to subscribe for a real telephone line number tied to their Skype account (called SkypeIn service, only about $2.50 per month), or the customer wants to make phone calls to a land line or mobile number (called SkypeOut service, with 1.7 million users and only about $0.02 per minute throughout the USA, Canada, Europe, China and over 25 other nations). Skype does not believe in any type of other contracts, fees or lock-up agreements. Skype is absolutely great for individuals or companies that call, sends messages or files, to each other on a regular basis and all of that without any fees or charges whatsoever. This results in substantial savings for those users.
DMN: What about a phone number? How do you call another VoIP phone without incurring any fees?
TB: Skype lets the user call any regular number for the most competitive cost anyone can find on the Internet today as it has served over 9 billion minutes already and is in the best position to negotiate and get the best terminating price any phone company can get. The SkypeIn service, which let's the user receive calls is 100% free wherever he is located and the cost is only the cost of the calls from the caller to the SkypeIn number location and is incurred by the caller, not the called party. However IPFONES strongly promotes end users to take advantage of VOIP by referring each other to adopt ipfones/Skype to benefit both from the higher quality of calls and the FREE calls of course. Why pay when you can get better quality calls for FREE?
DMN: How much market penetration has these types of phones made in Europe and Asia?
TB: Our IPFONES is sold throughout Europe and some parts of Asia and Africa and has gone as far as Tahiti. IPFones was introduced in the beginning of 2005 and has captured most of the big distribution channels in Europe and has many private labels going on as well.
DMN: The United States is slow to adopt mobile technology. Text messaging has been big in Asia for several years, yet it hasn't caught on as much in the United States. Phones in Europe and Asia are always way ahead technology wise than in the United States. Why isn't the presence of VoIP phones as prevalent in the United States as opposed to other countries?
TB: Text messaging has been big in Asia and Europe because phone calls are much more expensive than in the USA and end-users are very sensitive on saving any money they can as they have much more limited income than in the USA. Phones in Europe and in Asia are a way of life. VOIP has taken off in Europe and Asia mostly because telecom companies are much more expensive than in the USA. Calling within France for example with France Telecom costs more than three times than calling the USA with Skype.
Customers in the USA are fed-up and tired of VOIP offerings in the USA because they all are about the same prices, have all the same monthly lock-up contracts, and VOIP based on the current technologies known in the USA has many technological hurdles it still cannot overcome such as firewall issues and NAT configurations and ports closed and secured environments etc.
VOIP with Skype being based on a totally new and revolutionary concept of peer to peer and proprietary protocols and a unique way of handling firewalls and network configurations etc? has emerged as ?the world largest and leader in VOIP users. Even Vonage being the largest VOIP operator in the USA cannot claim more than 500,000 users mostly in the USA especially when they have already burned over 100 million dollars meanwhile Skype has not even spent one fifth of that amount for over 140 million downloaded programs by users around the world.
DMN: The hook seems to be free phone calls via the Internet, yet in the United States, more and more people are using mobile phone services. Why would they want to invest in a VoIP phone when these types of phones are tied to a computer/Internet connection?
TB: Today the offering is a low cost USB connection handset phone the size of a mobile phone. The service allows the user to have multiple chats up to 50 people at the same or individually and sending files and making up to five conference calls at the same and all of this over secured and encrypted connection when made from IP to IP. No cell phones can ever provide that capability. This VOIP phone not only lets them make pure digital calls but also lets them be able to make phone calls and receive phone calls anywhere around the world and not incur any roaming or extra cost or modifications of dialing patterns or anything. No other cell phones or even VOIP operators and equipment is as plug and play as IPFONES/Skype will ever be. WIFI and WIMAX is coming soon as the wireless service standard and IPFONES/SKYPE is well entrenched into the development of devices and services that will serve that customer who cannot go without wireless.
DMN: Skype just announced a beta version of its video phone based software. When do you expect to see widespread use of video phone cameras?
TB: Yes we are very aware of Skype Video Services coming out before year's end and we certainly will come out with video camera equipped phones to serve our customers. However I believe video phones are not going to be such a big item because myself I rarely use and want to be seen when I am on the phone. Also it requires that everyone must have the proper bandwidth to carry the voice, video etc. . . I just think they must come out with video just to have it so that people cannot say Yahoo or MSN or whoever has it and they don't. But when Skype releases it's video services, do expect something awesome just because its peer to peer backbone technology allows things that no other platforms can.