Verizon’s Versatile VoIP Hub

Verizon Wireless this month launched the Verizon Hub, a touch-screen home VoIP system that the company describes a “communications command center in the home”—and which is designed to supplant the traditional home phone with a wide range of additional functionality.

The device itself, designed by OpenPeak Inc., consists of a base station with a 7-inch color touch screen, and a cordless handset with a 1.8-inch screen. It’s priced at $199.99 after a $50 rebate. Additional handsets are available for $79.99 each. Voice service costs $34.99 a month for unlimited calling in the U.S. and Canada plus unlimited messaging to and from Verizon Wireless phones.

John Broten, Verizon Wireless’ director of VoIP consumer products, says the idea is to integrate the best features of a wireless phone with those of a home phone. “We’re really trying to reinvent the home phone, and bring to the kitchen counter a suite of products that’s much different than the phone that folks have become accustomed to over the years,” he says.

Simplicity and convenience
In doing so, Broten says, the aim wasn’t to put a fully functioning PC in the kitchen, but instead to “deliver a set of features that brings some simplicity and convenience to the household and helps them manage their day and manage their family… with things that heretofore haven’t been on the home phone—things like text messaging, rapid search, and MMS messaging between wireless devices and the home phone.”

While the Hub doesn’t have a Web browser, Broten says, “It has a robust lineup of streaming content for pretty much all the players in the household, whether it be mom, dad, or kids, covering the range from sports and news to kids’ entertainment to recipes and things of that nature. So the thought here is to bring to the center of the household a device that brings content and functionality to help people improve their efficiency and their productivity in their daily lives in a way that they hadn’t had before.”

That means a wide range of V CAST streaming video options (news, sports, entertainment, lifestyle, food, and dining) as well as contacts, calendar, traffic, weather, movie listings, messaging, and visual voicemail—with the intention, Broten says, of continually adding more functionality over time. “We fully see this as a dynamic device, in that we can improve and add features and functionality to it as we grow the product… and hopefully at some point in time we’ll be in a position where third party developers may be able to build apps for the device,” he says.

Ensuring call quality
The service requires a Verizon Wireless phone number and a wireless router, but it works over any home DSL or cable connection. Still, Broten says the call quality is excellent. “As an over-the-top service, there is in a technical sense no quality of service guarantee, because you are dependent on the other provider’s broadband,” Broten says. “So while we’re not guaranteeing quality of service, the tests that we’ve done on our call quality on these devices is in a MOS score range equivalent to the PSTN.”

And although the Verizon Hub was introduced soon after Verizon announced the imminent termination of its VoiceWing VoIP service, Broten says there’s no connection between the two. “We had been been in the VoiceWing space for four plus years, and the VoiceWing service was not fully integrated into the telecom side of the business product suite—there were a number of outsourcing components to it—so rather than continue with that offer structured the way it was, we decided that there were other ways to tap that market… of which we believe this device is one,” he says.

Ultimately, Broten says, it all comes down to the tag line that Verizon’s using for the device: the Home Phone Reinvented. “It’s the first device of its kind in the market… so it puts in play a whole household experience that really is new for us in the wireless space,” he says.

The Verizon Hub is available now, both online and at all Verizon Wireless stores nationwide.

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