Mobile VoIP firm to take on Irish GSM players


10 Mar 2005

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Mobile telcos already threatened by the arrival of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) will have a new bee in their bonnets with the threat of lower cost calls on mobile phones through voice over internet protocol (VoIP) on Wi-Fi networks.

In the months ahead mobile manufacturers Nokia, Samsung and Motorola will be unveiling new mobile phone models that contain a separate Wi-Fi radio aimed at ensuring rapid internet access. However, a Dublin firm founded by technology industry veteran Jonathan Mills, intends to take advantage of the opportunity to reduce call costs for businesses and individuals.

Ireland’s first mobile VoIP service transmitted over a Wi-Fi network — called Talktelecom — has completed successful trials in Dublin and is now rolling out a pilot scheme that allows broadband customers to use the company’s high-speed network.

Talktelecom was established in 2002 and is a fully licensed general telecoms operator selling wholesale telephone minutes to Irish corporate users at discounted rates. Mills previously owned 50pc of Trinity Technology before selling it to a management team in 1999. He then became director of The Hatchery, A business innovation unit at the Smurfit Business School in University College Dublin, where he worked for three years before founding Talktelecom.

According to Mills, the use of Wi-Fi combined with mobile will enable business users to make calls to Australia or the US for only €2 per hour.

He told siliconrepublic.com: “The driver for Wi-Fi is internet or phone access, but implicit with our service is the downloading of our software that will install a special Wi-Fi application on their mobile phone.

“Manufacturers such as Nokia and Motorola will be installing Wi-Fi technology on their mid-range phones (costing in the region of €200) and as a result wherever you have Wi-Fi capability — whether it’s the office, at home or in the pub — the technology will automatically switch to Wi-Fi and enable you to make cheaper phone calls,” Mills said, acknowledging that established mobile operators will be less than impressed with the advent of such services.

According to Mills, 50pc of all mobile calls by executives are made while they are in the office. “This technology is part of a trend that will become known as ‘follow me numbering’ whereby the phone will intelligently recognise where the user is — whether in GSM coverage or if they are in range of a Wi-Fi network for which they have access — and choose the lowest cost route to make that call.”

The service, Mills said, is also significantly more secure than fixed line due to specially encrypted software developed by Talktelecom that ensures that calls cannot be monitored.

“Because calls made on Wi-Fi phones travel over the internet instead of over phone lines there is no cost for airtime and our trials have proved that the sound quality is as good as any mobile or fixed-line phone — often better. Our specially developed software turns the sound of a caller’s voice into packets of data that can travel through the internet, similar to an email, but much more securely,” Mills said.

By John Kennedy