More Developments in IM/VoIP Softphone Space

Two new announcements—added to our trio from earlier this week—underscore the arrival of VoIP softphones as a telephony force.

By Ted Stevenson | Posted Dec 22, 2005
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TelTel expands service offerings
TelTel, a provider of free SIP-based PC-to-PC VoIP (with instant messaging), which launched its U.S. beta program in September, this week announced the availability of two new services: TelTel-Out, a gateway to the PSTN, and Call-Forwarding.

Unlike Skype, which operates over the public Internet, TelTel is building a worldwide cluster of managed, SIP-based telephony networks, which it calls the PsipTN (Public SIP Telephone Network). The individual networks are maintained by TelTel's SIP Virtual Network Operator partners, consisting of ISPs, IPSPs, CLECs, and others, linked by TelTel technology.

TelTel-Out, again, resembles the Skype's SkypeOut service: You buy a block of credits—from $10 (500 minutes) to $500—and dial away. Like SkypeOut, TelTel-Out has flat rate pricing (2¢ per minute) to high-traffic locations, worldwide—North America and Western Europe included—with variable rates for more exotic locations.

TelTel's new Call-Forwarding plan, also global, will shunt your incoming calls to any phone, anywhere, and, like TelTel-Out charges a flat 2¢ per minute (U.S.) to PSTN-based phones in TelTel's major calling areas.

As TelTel continues to build it operations in North America and Europe (it's presence is more strongly established in Asia), it will also continue to roll out new services. According to Benedict Tse, vice president of product management at TelTel, "We're planning to offer value-added services—like conferencing capacity, PBX functions, and so on," as part of an overall strategy to maximize revenues. "Those value-added service will be offered to SVNO partners as well," Tse said.

Fonality announces softphone component of PBXtra
The Culver City, Calif.-based company this week announced the release of PBXtra Softphone, which, it says, extends the suite of mobility tools in its PBXtra line of Asterisk-based IP PBXs.

The softphone—which also includes secure 'chat' functionality—will sell for $49, bundled with a Plantronics headset. It will let home-based workers, road warriors, or those in small branch offices connect back to company headquarters using their PCs or other computing devices as extensions of the company phone system—more or less cost-free.

Among the PBX-like features supported by the software are: four-digit dialing to anyone else on the same phone system, least-cost routing, caller ID, unified messaging, call forwarding, and follow-me services. The graphical user interface provides buttons for hold and call transfer, and PBXtra supports conference calling among up to ten participants.

In addition to its standard IP PBX line for SMBs, Fonality also offers PBXtra Call Center Edition, and it is touting the new softphone as the "most cost effective way to deploy a distributed call enter from a field of disparate agents."

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