VoWi-Fi/Cellular Softphone Announced

Dublin, Ireland-based Cicero Networks today announced an upgrade to CiceroPhone, its lightweight SIP softphone. The new version supports both IP-based Wi-Fi calls and GSM cellular mobile calls—as well as calls to the PSTN via any SIP gateway. The software client works across a range of hardware devices including PCs, PDAs, smartphones, and the newly emerging dual-mode handsets.

CiceroPhone, which is available in several flavors of Windows and Symbian operating systems, offers “superior audio quality,” according to vice president of marketing Elaine Treacy, thanks to acoustic echo suppression, jitter control, and outstanding codecs. The software dynamically selects a Wi-Fi connection when an access point is present, routing calls to GSM when Wi-Fi is not available.

VoIPish features include instant messaging (IM), call hold, transfer, and forward, call history logs, and in-call codec renegotiation (changing codecs to meet changing connection conditions). The softphons also integrates with a variety of local phonebooks, letting users dial by point-and-click.

“We’ve genericized the interface,” Cicero CEO Ross Brennan told VoIPplanet, “allowing it to talk to any third party SIP compliant servers.” That includes industry standard SIP application and media servers, SIP proxy servers, softswitches, and IP PBXs.

According to Ross Brennan, Wi-Fi calling makes sense because the price of cellular mobile telephony is quite high in Europe and the UK—roughly five times the cost of “fixed line” calls. Nonetheless, due to the convenience factor, most business calls are made from mobile phones—even from the office, according to Brennan. Callers who can take advantage of the presence of a Wi-Fi network to make wireless calls stand to save substantially on their phone bills, Brennan asserted.

“We will be marketing this to fixed-line operators, alternative service providers, and equipment manufacturers,” Treacy told VoIPplanet. “Pricing will be roughly in line with other smartphones . . . with a slight premium,” Brennan added. “That would be roughly $40 to $50 U.S.—but with heavy volume discounts.”

Brennan pointed out that the capacities of CiceroPhone let customers bundle services for themselves, picking the most advantageous service providers, rather than relying on providers to package connectivity product—and dictate the terms.

Finally, looking to the future, Cicero has provided CiceroPhone with an automatic public hotspot login feature. “Even thought it’s more announcements than actual traffic these days,” Brennan said. “The industry hasn’t worked out a viable pricing model yet,” he conceded. Nevertheless, when hotspot calling does “arrive,” CiceroPhone users will be equipped.

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