A Bevy of VoIP-related Announcements

Pick up your IP PBX at your local shopping club—and other interesting developments.

By Ted Stevenson | Posted May 30, 2008
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We recently wrote about Quadra Computer's Syspine Digital Operator Phone System, a sophisticated PBX that runs Microsoft's Response Point software, which provides highly evolved speech recognition technology, but also is virtually self configuring.

This week, the company announced that an 8-line version of the system with four IP phones is now available from Costco.com, the online sales operation of the discount shopping club.

The Digital Operator Phone System is built around an appliance-style computer box, the DOS A50 that will support ether 4 or 8 analog phone lines, and up to 50 of Syspine's IP310 handsets.

According to Syspine director of sales and marketing Robert Gordon, the DOPS was designed to meet the needs of SMBs, which "do not have the advantage of an IT staff. These customers are trying to find complete solutions that are backed up by a vendor or brand they feel comfortable with," he said.

The Microsoft brand, Gordon feels, provides that comfort level

As mentioned, the system is largely driven by voice recognition technology—which provides Auto Assistant and "speak to dial" functionality whereby you speak the name of the person you're calling and the system looks up the number in your Outlook address book or a company database and places the call.

The speech recognition technology even handles tasks like phone configuration.

As mentioned, Costco is offering the 8-line model of the Digital Operator with four phones, at a cost of $1,799.99. Once purchased, you own the system; there are no additional costs beside service provider access, and, again, it can be expanded to 50 stations. Costco is also offering additional handsets—in pairs, for $279.99 a pair.

You can get an online demo of Response Point here (click the Launch Demo button below the image of the phone on the left side).

PBX in a Flash Picks a Provider

PBX in a Flash, a "Lean, Mean Asterisk Machine," is a slimmed down Asterisk implementation with nice graphical configuration and management utilities, the brainchild of Asterisk maven Ward Mundy, whose blog, Nerd Vittles became its first distribution point.

We covered the free, open-source PBX in a Flash (PiaF) in our VoIPower Your Office series, here, here, here, here, and here. According to Mundy, the package is getting 12,000 to 15,000 downloads a month.

This week, Mundy, now CEO of PBXinaFlash.com, announced that Vitelity Communications has been selected as PiaF's exclusive network provider.

The PBX in a Flash development team has been searching for many months for an Internet telephony provider to support our project and our users," he said. "the key requirement was a provider that enjoyed an excellent reputation in the Asterisk community and a diverse mix of product offerings.

"We are delighted to announce our new relationship with Vitelity. Not only is their service impeccable, but they also now have unbeatable pricing," Mundy said.

Formed in 2003, Vitelity is a leading provider of wholesale VoIP services worldwide with over 12,000 customers. It is a certified SMS/800 Resport that specializes in toll-free origination, domestic origination, and global termination.

For a limited time, Vitelity is offering PiaF customers a special introductory deal: half off its standard retail $7.95 bundle that provides 60 minutes of long distance in the U.S. and Canada

WebMessenger Mobile Catches Up with Nokia

A few weeks back, we published a piece about WebMessenger's solution WebMessenger Mobile, linking Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) to Research In Motion's handheld BlackBerry device, extending OCS's presence and instant messaging functions to members of that user community.

This week, the company followed up, announcing that WebMessenger Mobile for Microsoft OCS now supports Nokia's Symbian-based S60 smartphone platform as well.

Microsoft OCS manages the full gamut of synchronous or real-time communications modes, including IM, VoIP, and conferencing—along with presence (availability) information. WebMessenger Mobile for OCS will now bring these functionalities to users of the popular S60 devices, filling a void for the mobile business community.

"The European business market is in need of mobile unified communications solutions," said Mark Blowers, enterprise architectures practice director for the Butler Group in a statement. "Nokia S60 smartphones have achieved excellent penetration in the region. With the adoption of Microsoft OCS in Europe also increasing, there is the potential for European businesses to enhance productivity among the growing distributed mobile workforce."

Truphone Cuts Loose from Wi-Fi

We met folks from U.K.-based Truphone when they made their U.S. tradeshow debut at Fall VON 2006. They were among the pioneers of VoIP service on mobile phones, with their software client that enabled dual-mode (GSM/Wi-Fi) phones make low cost calls through the Truphone network over a Wi-Fi connection.

As with many proprietary VoIP services, calls among connected Truphone subscribers have always been free, and calls to landlines and mobile phones—not to mention SMS messages—billed at low, fixed rates.

This week, the provider announced a new capability, Truphone Anywhere, that will route long-distance, out-of-country calls across the Internet, whether or not a Wi-Fi connection is available—resulting in big savings and greatly increased convenience.

The Truphone picks up international calls dialed over the GSM network and places a call to a local Truphone server, which then dials the international number over the Internet and connects the two legs of the call.

If the local to the Truphone call is covered by a minutes, the international call will incur only Truphone's low, fixed, per-minute connection charges.

When making Truphone Anywhere calls from an area outside the GSM provider's—where that leg of a call would incur roaming or long distance charges, Truphone works differently:

Dialing an international number triggers an SMS message (bearing the number called) to the Truphone server, which then uses the 'call back' technique: It places both legs of the call—to the mobile phone and to the international number—and connects them.

In operation, Truphone Anywhere is nearly, but not totally, transparent. Users will have to basically sign off on the proposition that any given call will be routed by Truphone Anywhere, but no special numbers or other intervention are required.

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