Dublin firm to help fixed-line telcos go mobile

6 Dec 2004

A young Dublin technology company is developing technologies that will help fixed-line telecom operators to participate in the mobile communications business by allowing businesses to make massive savings on calls by making clever use of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and voice-over IP (VoIP).

Established in 2002, Rathfarnham-based Cicero Networks has developed a platform-independent solution that offers fixed-line operators solutions for delivery of high-quality voice services over both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth networks at a significantly lower cost than traditional cellular networks. Using Cicero, subscribers can make and receive calls using standard wireless devices such as mobile smart phones, PDAs and laptops at home, in the office or at any public hotspot location. Cicero works by routing calls on to lower cost networks, such as the fixed-line PSTN or the internet, through broadband IP connections.

The company is closely eyeing a development whereby most phones and next-generation set-top boxes in homes will contain an additional radio that would make them ideal for Wi-Fi services. For example, a mobile phone user in a Wi-Fi hotspot anywhere in the world could make VoIP calls for free or at least a minimal payment.

Elaine Treacy, vice-president of marketing at Cicero Networks, said the average price of a peak rate business call over a mobile phone was 75 cent. “By turning this into a VoIP call the cost of that call could be reduced to 15 cent,” she said.

Ross Brennan, chief executive officer of Cicero Networks, demonstrated how the service can also be used on PDAs. The user downloads the company’s Cicero Phone product on to their mobile phone or PDA in a process similar to installing a ringtone and the user can make VoIP calls when they are within a wireless local area network.

According to Brennan, the company is close to closing deals with two locally based fixed-line operators as well as a fixed-line operator in the UK.

He told siliconrepublic.com: “Fixed-line operators are steadily losing customers to mobile operators and with this technology it offers a means for fixed-line players to steer customers back in their direction by offering them considerable cost savings on mobile calls.

“VoIP is a hugely disruptive technology and we see it as a mechanism to allow fixed-line operators to reduce the prices for wireless services. Voice is still the killer application on the mobile phone but the cost of calls are restrictive,” he said.

Brennan said his company’s technology is ideal for the corporate market where large mobile workforces are in deployment but also pointed out the potential for the technology being bundled into consumer offerings along with DSL services. “If you look at the specifications for the next generation of digital television set-top boxes, you will see that many will include a Wi-Fi capability, which means that home users can also make voice over wireless IP calls from their living room,” Brennan pointed out.

In September, Cicero Networks was listed on the 2004 Pulver 100, the VoIP industry’s premier listing of privately held growth companies that represent the future of the communications ecosystem. “2004 is the year VoIP arrived and it is truly set to revolutionise the communications landscape,” commented Jeff Pulver, CEO of Pulver.com. “Innovative products such as the voice-over wireless IP solution offered by Cicero Networks play a crucial role in the spread of IP communications,” he said.

By John Kennedy