AT&T will bundle its little-publicized Internet phone service, CallVantage, with its cellphone service during a three-month trial at 14 AT&T Wireless stores, says USA Today. Consumers will get a $5 discount when they sign up for the company’s VOIP-based CallVantage service, which offers unlimited local and long-distance service. AT&T could offer the package elsewhere if all goes well in their trial.
AT&T’s $25 a month VOIP service is competing with Verizon’s VoiceWing (using DSL), Comcast’s Digital Voice (using cable modem) and T-Mobile’s WiFi/Wireless service (switching between DSL at home and cellular).
T-Mobile’s WiFi phone service, called T-Mobile At Home, may be rolled out nationwide this summer, reports the Wall Street Journal. Customers in the T-Mobile trial pay $20 on top of their monthly cellphone bill to use the UMA (Unlicensed Mobile Access) service. The pricing may be tweaked for the national launch and the service will be available in T-Mobile stores and through some retail partners, according to the Journal.
T-Mobile rolled out its @Home service in Seattle last year, reports PhoneScoop. @Home is T-Mobile’s brand name for Universal Mobile Access (UMA) which allows a cell phone to make calls over a Wi-Fi hotspot in addition to the cellular network. It doesn’t use a landline — just T-Mobile’s cellular service and broadband. T-Mobile, with 25 million subscribers, competes with larger mobile carriers like Verizon and AT&T.
Apple’s Wi-Fi-equipped iPhone will be teamed with Cingular. Personnel at AT&T stores Thursday said they are still waiting for pricing plans for the iPhone, which is scheduled to ship next month.
Verizon and Sprint, however, use CDMA architecture which is not supported by the GSM-centeric Unlicensed Mobile Access standard. Sprint’s PPC-6700 and Verizon’s Verizon’s 8525 offer Wi-Fi — but their public WiFi infrastructure is much smaller than the ones offered by T-Mobile or Cingular. Verizon, in particular, does not shrink from disabling any application (such as VoIP) that is perceived as a threat to their revenue stream.
Sprint is going Mobile WiMAX big time next year, as is Clearwire. Clearwire’s Internet phone service has a variety of features for $29.95 a month. Clearwire’s partnership with AOL is expanding system-wide. AT&T is now the country’s largest ISP with 12.9 million subscribers. Comcast is second with 12.1 million, and AOL is in third place with 12 million.
Speculation is that Sprint and Clearwire may combine WiMAX mobile voice using a dual mode phone (using a WiFi/WiMAX hotspot at home). Neither company has yet made any definitive announcements on dual mode phones.
Vonage, the No. 1 independent Internet phone service, with 2.1 million U.S. customers, was hit by a patent-infringement lawsuit brought by Verizon which could knock them out.
Other (WiFi-only) options include the $99 Linksys Dual-Mode Cordless Phone (CIT310) which can make and take VoIP calls as well as place and receive phone calls using their traditional landline/PSTN connection. The Dual-Mode Cordless Phone for Yahoo! Messenger is available through Amazon.com and other leading online retailers.
Skype’s Internet calling service will soon be accessible at The Cloud’s Wi-Fi hot spots across Europe. Skype’s VoIP service has also been incorporated into cordless and WiFi phones made by Belkin, Netgear, SMC and others. But those phones still are pricey (in the $200-$300 range) without the practical convenience of a landline or cellular connection.
The D-Link DPH-50U allows you to accept both regular telephone and Skype calls from the same phone. It includes two telephone jacks and a USB port to plug into your computer.
JAJAH brings VoIP to Sony’s PlayStation 3, allowing gamers to initiate free or ultra-low cost global phone calls directly from their game console. The technology allows users to talk to other gamers around the world on their regular phones. Unlike Skype, it doesn’t require downloaded software. And unlike Vonage, it doesn’t require a piece of extra hardware and a monthly charge to work with a standard telephone. PlayStation 3 also kills Folding@home competition.
Need rural broadband with telephony? A WiFi box fed by WiMAX should solve that problem. Stick ‘em anywhere. You probably wouldn’t need a $4 billion dollar cellular subsidy, either.