Cicero claims industry’s first converged soft phone


6 Sep 2005

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Irish wireless voice over internet protocol (VoIP) software company Cicero Networks has claimed to have developed the industry’s first converged soft phone (pictured). The software, which will sit on the next generation of mobile devices, supports both wireless VoIP calls as well as mobile calls.

Optimised to run on a range of wireless devices including Wi-Fi-enabled mobile phones and PDAs, the CiceroPhone enables fixed-line operators and alternative providers to offer their customers cost-effective VoIP services.

The soft phone also supports instant messaging, local address book integration and advance calling features such as call forward and call waiting.

The company said the CiceroPhone can be fully re-branded and customised according to a service provider’s specific needs and is compatible with all industry-standard session initiation protocol infrastructures. The soft phone is available immediately for Windows Mobile Pocket PC and will also work with Windows Mobile 5.0, which will be available at the end of October. Symbian versions of the soft phone will be scheduled for release by the end of this year.

Elaine Treacy, vice-president of marketing at Cicero Networks, told siliconrepublic.comthe soft phone can be downloaded or preloaded with any Wi-Fi-enabled phone or PDA device.

“If you are in a Wi-Fi area and wish to call somebody using the soft phone the device will immediately make the call over the IP network and terminate on a PSTN network rather than routing the call by mobile. This enables users to make calls for the price of a local call rather than a GSM call. The technology intelligently switches between both the mobile and Wi-Fi radios on the next generation of phones,” Treacy said.

She explained Taiwanese phone manufacturer HTC — which manufacturers O2’s Xda product as well as Compaq’s iPAQ device — will be introducing a range of dual-mode Wi-Fi mobile phones in the coming year. “There are a number of phone manufacturers that have unveiled a roadmap of new phones that will have Wi-Fi capability.”

Treacy conceded that mobile network operators are still dubious about wireless VoIP. “They are quite nervous about it but the potential is being embraced by a new wave of communications players. Mobile operators don’t particularly like this move towards unlicensed networks. A lot of their focus is on getting a return on investment from their existing infrastructure, however, now you have this free spectrum to route calls through.”

Earlier this year, siliconrepublic.com reported on the signing of a deal between wireless VoIP carrier TalkTelecom and Cicero, and Treacy revealed the company is conducting trials with a number of traditional fixed and new-wave communications carriers.

“We have a number of operator trials going on across Europe at the moment. The good thing is that there’s been a great uptake in wireless VoIP and a lot of fixed-line operators and mobile virtual network operators have research and development teams looking at this,” she said.

Treacy concluded by observing that the biggest barrier to the wireless VoIP field is a considerable lack of suitable devices on the market at present, but added it will be late 2006 and early 2007 before there will be significant market growth.

By John Kennedy