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More thoughts on PhoneGnome

Now that I’ve had a day to play with PhoneGnome, it’s becoming clearer to me just what a clever strategy founder David Beckemeyer is driving. PhoneGnome, if you didn’t read my post yesterday, is a small piece of hardware which sits between your in-home phones, and the PSTN, and transparently routes calls you make across the internet.  It can also receive calls from the internet.  Your SIP address is simply yourpstnnumber@sip.phonegnome.com.  Calls between SIP users (PhoneGnome, or other SIP users) are free.  Others cost a couple of cents, or so, per minute, depending on which carrier you are using.  PhoneGnome hosts a few applications and gives access to others.

Does this sound familiar?  It should.  PhoneGnome’s strategy is identical to Skype — give away the voice minutes, and charge for value added services.  The difference, of course, being that PhoneGnome can route those calls to the ordinary handsets in your house, so you don’t have to be chained to the PC.

Things would get very interesting if PhoneGnome were also able to take a call in from SIP, and forward it out to the PSTN.  Or, if you could hairpin a call from the PSTN to the PSTN.  Think of it as a personal CO.  What does that mean?

  • The "features" you pay for today (call return, caller ID, voice mail, and so on) can all be implemented outside the carrier network.  These are the most profitable components of the carriers bill. 
  • The "minutes" you pay for today can be selected from any, and multiple, carriers.  These profits are already on the decline, but this might accelerate them faster. 

If you’re a carrier, better reach for the pepto-bismol.  You might find yourself reduced to nothing more than a local DID, and access.  With PhoneGnome, and products like it, all the other features you sell today can now be priced competitively.

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Aswath October 14, 2005, 3:27 am

    I agree that the most novel thing in PG is that the VoIP id can be built from the phone number. Nobody thought of this before because others were thinking of eradicating PSTN. For example, SIPPhone, (sells Call-in-one, a similar device) uses a phone number like id didn't think of using a real phonenumber.

    It is well known that the current PG is built on SIPURA 3000, which can switch calls from PSTN to VoIP.

    I see how call return can be done outside of the carrier network. Indeed I could do with the cordless phone I have. But how can I avoid Caller ID? If I need voice mail for the call waiting call, then isn't it necessary to have voice mail with the carrier?

  • Alec October 14, 2005, 4:41 am

    Yup. I haven't figured out quite how to do this yet, but I may go the route of provisioning a second VoIP line. A local carrier, Unlimitel, can give me a DID, and unlimited local calling throughout most of south eastern Ontario for under $10/month. If I point that DID at the PhoneGnome, then I can have it all. Otherwise, it's just like having an old fashioned answering machine.

  • Aswath October 14, 2005, 11:00 am

    To be pedantic about it, in this case, Caller ID is provided by Unlimitel; you have not really eliminated the “carrier”. As for voice mail, PG can do that only if Unlimitel delivers the media associated with the second call. But, based on a quick look at Unlimitel, it looks like they offer only a call waiting indication like many other VoIP service providers. That means, you can not depend on PG’s voice mail for the call waiting call.

    Even though I started off saying, pedantic note, this is an important point. Almost all VoIP providers take the “stupid network”, inserted themselves and made it inot the same old “intelligent network”. A stupid network would have delivered the second call as well, because it would not have known better. Alas, there is no hue and cry about this artificially created “intelligent network”.

  • Alec October 14, 2005, 11:38 am

    Your point is well taken Aswath. I am not sure, but I believe that Unlimitel will do the stupid network thing. At least, that’s what I am counting on. Stay tuned for the investigation…

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