VoIP provider 8×8, Inc. has expanded its MobileTalk service to support 450 different mobile phones. MobileTalk, initially released in mid-November, enables cheap international calling on a mobile phone—the rates are the same as Packet8’s international rates for VoIP service.
MobileTalk’s key selling point is its ease of use. Once the application is installed on a user’s phone, it simply intercepts any call that begins with either + or 011 and directs it through an access number to Packet8’s network, which then carries the call. There’s no additional number to dial, and you don’t have to open an application each time you make a call—the MobileTalk application just runs in the background.
Company vice president of marketing and sales Huw Rees says the key difference between MobileTalk and other mobile VoIP applications is that it doesn’t require any change in user behavior. “You don’t have to program any numbers in anywhere, or register numbers anywhere,” he says. “You simply make a call… and if it starts with 011 or +, the application will intercept and route it over the Packet8 network.”
While the same isn’t true for calls made from overseas, Rees says that functionality should become available sometime in 2008. To do so, he says, will be relatively straightforward—it’s just a matter of catching the appropriate dialing string for a given country and routing it to a local access number. “And Packet8 already has access in numbers in many European countries, and in some Asian countries,” he says.
There’s a one-time activation fee of $9.99 for the service, as well as a monthly fee of $9.99 if you’re not already a subscriber to another Packet8 service. If you are a subscriber to another Packet8 service—which can just be another MobileTalk plan—it’s $4.99 a month. “And the international calling rates are our standard VoIP calling rates, which means they’re really, really inexpensive,” Rees says.
The recent announcement of an increase to 450 mobile phones, Rees says, is largely the result of the addition of support for the Symbian OS. “As you add a new operating system, you tend to add a whole bunch of new phones,” he says. “We’ve now got Windows Mobile, Symbian, RIM and Palm. There’s a few others to add, like Java and Linux, and we’ll do that, hopefully, in short order.”
Most importantly, Rees says, MobileTalk has helped Packet8 expand beyond its historical user base of consumers and small businesses. “Since we’ve launched, we’ve seen some interest from large enterprises, who have thousands of users that make international calls from their cell phones—which is not a market that we traditionally serve,” he says.