Florida-based xG Technology, which earlier this year launched a pilot deployment of its xMax VoIP technology in Arkansas, has announced that its solution can be fully integrated with Google Voice, allowing xMax users to combine the company’s low-cost access technology with Google Voice’s full range of functionality.
As company director of business development Chris Whiteley puts it, since an xMax network is an all-IP network that operates in unlicensed spectrum, what follows is straightforward: An xMax handset can easily be set up with a Gizmo5 account, which then connects to Google Voice. “What that means is that the cost of making and receiving calls is reduced—it’s a fraction of what… other telephone providers or VoIP providers are offering in the market,” Whiteley says.
Ultimately, Whiteley says, the plan is to let customers select from a range of available choices when signing up for service—including xG’s own VoIP solution, which it currently wholesales through TelCentris. “A customer would walk in the door to an xMax retail store and sign up for service, and they would be given a list of options: Would you like your phone provisioned with Skype? Would you like it provisioned with Google Voice or Vonage? Or we have our own in-house brand as well,” he says.
And Whiteley says that’s been the idea from the beginning. “The xMax mobile network is transparent to the VoIP service or the VoIP application,” he says. “We designed it so that we can embrace whatever services in the cloud we choose.”
As a result, Whiteley suggests, the entire billing structure for mobile voice could change. “If you chose, say, a service that was provided by a Skype or a Google Voice or a Vonage, all of the wholesale costs for termination, and/or the billing or payments for any termination services, would be paid directly to Skype, Vonage, or Google, whereas you would pay xMax for the access to the cellular network,” he says. “So we would basically be splitting the termination revenues off from the access revenues.”
In the meantime, Whiteley says, Google Voice is the only one of those services that has actually been tested on the xMax network. “We’ve actually provisioned the handset and we’ve started to make calls using the Google Voice service,” he says. “We’ve not done that with Skype or Vonage—there is some work that need to be done to make sure that the system is ported over to our network.”
The company currently has a trial network set up in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for demonstration and testing. “Essentially, we’re getting a coverage area off of five towers—over a 30 square mile signal coverage area, we are covering about 110,000 in population,” Whiteley says. “The signal coverage off of that network is as good as and in many cases better than GSM, and… the radios are extremely agile: they can do hand-offs 33 times a second.”
Whiteley says the company has filed 50 U.S. patent applications (100 international) for its technology. “You never know when you’ll get that one patent that everybody else has to come through, but that’s the goal: to be out there ahead of everybody else,” he says.
The company’s current focus, Whiteley says, is on demonstrating the technology to potential carrier partners. “The spectrum is available from Greenland all the way down to Chile, and so we do have an interest in deploying it in some other markets as well—but as a next step, what we would look for is a… customer-facing service provider that would be able to operate an expanded showcase network in the Fort Lauderdale and Miami markets,” he says.
The point, Whiteley says, is that, regardless of the network technology, the writing is on the wall in term of the future of voice. “The introduction of services on a low cost wireless network, like Google Voice… are going to hasten a decline in voice revenues,” he says. “And to the extent that it is a race to the bottom on cellular minutes, consumers benefit—but so does the lowest cost network.”