Such jaw-dropping valuation of a VoIP solutions company simply marked the era of VoIP providers like Vonage (NYSE: VG), DeltaThree/iConnectHere (NASDAQ: DDDC), Net2Phone (also a former darling of Wall Street!), Packet8 etc, becoming serious contenders in telecommunications industry that's presently dominated by PSTN providers like the telco giants of AT&T-Cingular (now branded as the "new AT&T"), NTT, Telefonica, MCI-Verizon, Deutsche Telekom, Sprint-Nextel (and TM in Malaysia) etc, and celcos/mobile operators like China Mobile, Vodafone, T-Mobile (and Maxis, TM Celcom and Digi in Malaysia) etc.
What does this means for micropreneurs and pajamaworkers who could use some savings in telecommunications spending?
In 2006, average workers in Malaysia for instance spend 5% or more of their monthly salary income for phone-related services. That translates to RM30 to RM200 every month, either on traditional TM line, prepaid cards or mobile services. The amount would be even higher for individuals who make frequent long distance or international phone calls to reach family members or business associates offshore.
How about saving RM20-RM150 per month (RM200 - RM1500/year) by placing some of these calls using your broadband-connected PCs instead?
But can VoIP really let you call traditional phone numbers and mobile numbers, for less, or perhaps, for FREE? If you've used Instant Messaging software like Yahoo Messenger, MSN/Windows Live Messenger, Google Talk, AOL/ICQ etc, you'd know that these solutions, including the famous Skype, would let you call completely free only to another PC, or to toll-free numbers in certain countries like the USA and Canada. For calls to traditional phone/mobile numbers, sometimes it would cost even higher than using your conventional mobile phone (My Digi business line for instance, costs me only 20-cent to call another Digi line, anywhere, at any time of the day)!
Then, you'd think that our best alternatives are perhaps VoIP solutions from local companies like TM Net, Nasioncom, Redtone, JARING, VoizTalk, Takalam etc, which let you dial Malaysia phone numbers at discounted rates. Not really! Many of the solutions from these companies are complicated, buggy and plain inconvenience especially when you'd try to obtain customer support at odd hours. TMNET's HyppTalk for instance, was almost useless when I tried it twice. (TM's other solution, iTalk prepaid card, however works fine -- I haven't tried iTalk mobile though).
Enter GizmoProject offering both desktop-based solutions and web-based dialer (called GizmoCall; and FREE SMS sending too thru GizmoSMS!)... For nearly a year now (since July 2006, during the time when GizmoProject already had well over half-a-million users), GizmoProject lets you call FREE to the following 60 countries (with well over a billion phone numbers; or at discounted rates to about 2.5 billion numbers, anywhere on earth!):-
BOTH LANDLINES AND MOBILES
- Hong Kong
- Puerto Rico
- San Marino
- South Korea
- United States
- US Virgin Islands
- Vatican City
- Czech Republic
- French Antilles
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
Is it really 100% FREE? Well, there are several requirements as posted at the Gizmo Project website:
"After 14 days or when your 40 free minutes are used up, users new to All Calls Free will need to follow the All Calls Free Active User Requirements to continue making free calls. All Calls Free active users can also receive up to 60 minutes of free calling per week! To learn more, view the All Calls Free Frequently Asked Questions"
So, what happened if I run out of credits but I still want to use it to make calls to a landline or mobile number in Malaysia? Do the rates like ~10-cent/minute to call landline numbers and ~20-cent/minute to mobile numbers sound like a good deal? You're in luck because those are some of the low rates that GizmoProject offers.
Other popular rates (in USD) are as listed below, i.e. as low as ~6.5-cent (in MYR) per minute for calls to USA:
|North America||Land | Mobile|
|United States||0.019 | 0.019|
|Canada||0.020 | 0.020|
|Mexico||0.094 | 0.319|
|Europe||Land | Mobile|
|United Kingdom||0.020 | 0.210|
|France||0.020 | 0.218|
|Germany||0.020 | 0.242|
|South America||Land | Mobile|
|Argentina||0.030 | 0.212|
|Brazil||0.051 | 0.202|
|Chile||0.029 | 0.26|
|Asia||Land | Mobile|
|India||0.146 | 0.174|
|Singapore||0.020 | 0.020|
|Hong Kong||0.020 | 0.020|
Read on the following announcement from GizmoProject (that first arrived in my email box four days ago), offering a really useful and money-saving communications tool for frugal pajamaworkers and micropreneurs.
Download the software and try it out, if you haven't:
The following additional notes below are based on my personal experience as a user for this tool (formerly called SIPphone) for about five years now:
The softphone: seems to work well all these years, although it crashes sometimes. It's free to download, and your additional costs are probably just a headsets (with microphone) or a microphone with a set of earphones.
The hardware solutions: I failed to get the SIPphone-configured Grandstream adapter I purchased for RM200+ some four years ago, after so many attempts. It's now in my museum of useless-but-cute gadgets. [I've also had a chance to use the Aztech-GloballVillage adapter that I purchase in early 2005 for about RM300 which also failed to work flawlessly -- sometimes it just doesn't receive calls made to it, or failed to offer good sound quality. Though the Aztech's let me use all the included call credits for about ten months before I retired the device -- better save some electrical juice if I'm not going to use it actively.]
I haven't had a chance to try the latest VoIP offerings from Aztech, Gizmoproject, Skype etc, but think I'll stick with softphone for now. After all, seems like not that many home users especially in Malaysia are into the hardware-based VoIP solutions as of yet. It'll be a waste to spend RM100s to have a system that almost nobody would ring up on regular basis. But if you do, try ringing me up at 1-747-66-888-99 (SIP/Gizmoproject userid: "o_nutty9").
Note however that the only one hardware solutions that works flawless for me since late last year is an adapter-based solution from Nasioncom which plugs to conventional TM phone line -- all long distance calls get routed through Nasioncom's and charged at discounted VoIP rates, and all local calls get routed to normal TM line and thus charged at minimal flat 4-cpm rate (minimum: 8-cent/minute). Every month, I get a thin TM bill (with monthly amount of no more than RM40), and a separate bill from Nasioncom, and the savings so far are great.