Skype apologizes for the worldwide outage last week that had most users unable to use Skype services. Below is an email from skype CEO regarding the outage and offering 30 minutes of free calling to landline phones (note: some information in email letter has been modified to protect privacy).
Sorry for any inconvenience
A Boston-based company called MobileSphere has just announced a service called Slydial to send a voicemail to any mobile phone in the U.S. without having the risk of the called party answering the call. Anyone can send a voicemail by calling 267-SLYDIAL (267-759-3425) and entering the phone number of any U.S. mobile subscriber. The service is free, but you have to listen to a 10-second audio advertisement.
What MobileSphere has done is to figure out a way to connect you directly with different U.S. cell phone providers voicemail systems.
Harris Interactive, a market research firm, has conducted a survey of 9,132 adults conducted in 4Q of 2007 to find out the telephony usage patterns of U.S. adults. The survey shows that about 14% of adults are cord-cutters, up from about 10% in 2006. The percentage of adults with landline phones has dropped slightly to 79% from 81%. This shows that the number of people who use a cell phone exclusively for voice communication (i.e. have no landline phone), also called cord-cutters, is increasing.
The Chart and the table below show the telephony usage patterns among U.S. adults
T-Mobile USA has launched a wired phone service for $10 a month, plus taxes and fees, to its wireless subscribers in the Seattle and Dallas-Fort Worth areas. The service, called “Talk Forever Home Phone”, comes with unlimited local and domestic long distance calls. This is a VoIP service that runs over a broadband connection, and in that sense, it is similar to VoIP offerings from the likes of Vonage. Talk Forever Home Phone will likely be available nationally in a few months. It works via a special Wi-Fi wireless router that you must buy, with a two-year contract, for a $50 one-time fee . The router has two phone jacks to connect 2 standard corded or cordless phones.
Verizon Wireless introduced an unlimited calling plan for $99.99 a month on last week. Verizon Wireless is the first major carrier to make an “unlimited” plan available nationwide with no domestic roaming or long-distance fees. At that time, it must have seemed like a good plan to upsell subscribers to “move up” to the unlimited level, including possibly getting new customers from the other cellular carriers, and to create some extra ‘buzz’.
Netzero has decided to shut down its PrivatePhone service on February 19, 2008. Subscribers of Netzero’s PrivatePhone can keep their number by transferring the service to Packet8. Netzero has worked out a deal with Packet8 to transfer existing PrivatePhone numbers to Packet8 at a special price.
What is PrivatePhone? PrivatePhone is a free phone numbers with voicemail – in other words, a free voicemail service where all incoming calls are diverted to a voicemail number. The customer is notified of voicemail via email or SMS/text. Customers can check voicemail via the web or by calling the PrivatePhone number from any phone. Each customer can store up to 10,000 voicemails.
PrivatePhone was billed as “Just a life-changing social tool and revolutionary movement all rolled up into one”. The proposition being that it is another number one could give out to for specific purposes (e.g. hotties, potential employers, etc). Netzero envisioned this as a social networking opportunity, thinking that people would leave cool voicemail messages, which then could be embedded on a Myspace, mashed up with Gangsta rap, or do something ‘kewl’ in the social networking space.
It didn’t strike me as a valuable social networking concept and I always wondered how feasible this free voicemail service would be. The revenue model seems to be based on advertising and perhaps by selling people’s email addresses (??). Even though the website was supported by advertising, subscribers didn’t have to utilize the website, as they could simply check voicemail by phone. In fact, regular users would find it a lot more convenient to check voicemail by phone!
Hey, this was a free phone number and probably the main reason people signed up. So I doubt subscribers will migrate their phone number to Packet8 and convert it to a paid service. That’s one of the pitfalls of offering free service – once you offer something for free, it’s very hard to charge for it. Of course, in this case, Packet8 service offers a lot more than a phone number with voicemail.
Last month, I wrote that US Voice over IP (VoIP) subscriptions are skyrocketing. That was about VoIP in the U.S., but the VoIP story around the Globe was no different. Worlwide revenue from retail Voice over IP (VoIP) services almost quadrupled (4x) from $1.834 Billion in 2005 to $6.908 Billion in 2006, according to research by Point Topic.
North America, with the third highest number of VoIP subscribers (8.6 million), generated $2,411.7 million in revenue. Western Europe, with the highest number of VoIP subscribers, generated $2639 million in revenue. The Asia-Pacific region, a close second in terms of VoIP subscribers with about 14.5 million generated $1750 million,
Interestingly, North America had the highest Monthly average revenue per user (ARPU) at $20. Western Europe and South and East Asia had comparable ARPU at $15, while both Asia-Pacific and Latin America had an estimated ARPU of $10.
While some of the better known U.S. based VoIP providers, ala Vonage and Skyrocket, may bring up concerns about the viability of VoIP (and there are strategic issues with standalone VoIP service), VoIP is a phenomena that is here to stay – primarily because of the cost advantages and the flexibility and extensibility that comes with IP technologies. The cost advantage is because an IP network can be shared by multiple services or in other words, IP allows multiplexing of services. For example, with an IP network, a user can have both a VoIP session and a Web browsing session at the same time (whereas with traditional circuit switched voice service, both voice or fax cannot be used simultaneously on one connection). The flexibility and extensibility comes from the ability to transform voice into multimedia seamlessly as well as transform the service experience with enablers such as Presence.
Fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) and the quest to make quick, smooth hand-offs between cellular and WiFi got a shot in the arm when Agito Networks formally launched this week. Agito Networks is founded in 2006 by Pejman Roshan (VeeP of marketing) and Timothy Olson (CTO), both formerly of Cisco’s Wireless Networking Business Unit, and backed by $9 million in investments led by Battery Ventures.
FMC is one solution to spotty cellular RF coverage within buildings (another answer is Femtocells, which Sprint Nextel launched recently). Furthermore, FMC helps leverage the increasing number of WiFi networks in offices and hotspots to make low-cost VoIP calls.
So why jump into a pit with hundreds of FMC players such as Tecore, T-Mobile HotSpot@Home, Kineto Wireless, LongBoard, and Motorola? Turns out that no-one has adequately solved the problem of transitioning from cellular to WiFi quickly and smoothly.
Agito Networks claims to achieve sub-second handover between WiFi and cellular RF networks through a patent-pending location-aware technology that utilizes RF to tell when an individual is approaching “predefined points at an enterprises WiFi coverage edge” after which a mobile-based client cooperates with a RoamAnywhere router (which integrates with the company’s IP PBXs) in order to hand the call over.
Agito Networks’ is targeting its products at medium-to-large businesses looking to save on cell phone bills – Agito claims a 60% reduction in phone charges by routing in-building calls over dedicated IP infrastructure and connecting outgoing calls originating indoors over VoIP.
Agito plans to introduce models ranging from $9,995 to $24,995 in the US later this year. The RoamAnywhere 2000 series Router is designed for small to medium deployments and scales to 100 simultaneous users per appliance, while the 4000 series, designed for medium to large deployments, can handle up to 1000 simultaneous users..
Agito also provides “Zero touch” client deployment which helps administrators to pre-provision groups. In addition, the location-aware policy engine enables users and administrators to create and enforce corporate-wide mobile policies. The Network/IT Admin can even set up RoutePoints and instruct calls to be directed to voicemail when users are off duty.
Seems like an interesting approach – but the FMC space is still at the early stages and feasibility cannot be assessed until products/trials are available.
Jaxtr has raised a $10 million Series A round led by August Capital with Mayfield Fund, Draper Richards, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Luxemburg-based Mangrove Capital participating. Jaxtr’s registered user base has been doubling every month since its March launch. Most recently, it jumped from 500,000 to 1 million in just 27 days. So, it’s no surprise that Jaxtr needs more money to continue its expansion.
The interesting thing is that three of the investors, Draper Richards, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Luxemburg-based Mangrove Capital, were early investors in Skype. Overall, there’s a lot of venture capital flowing into voice startups. Rebtel grabbed $20 million, Truphone collected $23.4 million, Jajah hauled $20 million, and last month newcomer Ooma topped the list with $27 million.
Why would the same folks invest in Jaxtr? Does Jaxtr have a better future than Skype? The investments indicate that Venture Capitalists, who have insight into these companies and know the market, feel that the voice market is still up for grabs. Perhaps they feel that Skype can be beaten at its game, especially since Skype is not a great solution for mobile phones and seems to be losing its way at EBay.
Here’s the thing. In the voice world, the mobile phone is king, primarily because of the anywhere, anytime convenience of mobile service. Whoever makes voice easy to use (and cheap-er) on mobile phones will be king.
It’s clear that Skype is not this king. Skype has made little progress with being on mobile devices because Skype requires a special client and it is very difficult to facilitate mobile clients. For one, users don’t know how to and cannot be bothered to download and install a client on their mobile device. Second, a lot of wireless phones are pretty much closed to unsanctioned 3rd party applications. More reasons can be found at 4 Reasons You Won’t Have Skype On Cell Phones Anytime Soon.
On the other hand, Jaxtr gives users a unique phone number and web address, so a mobile user can make and receive calls without any special software on a cellular phone, like Skype, or without having to access a web browser, like Jajah. The numbers show this too – Apparently, between 70 and 80 % Jaxtr calls involve a mobile phone.
Jaxtr will incorporate advertising into its services and may also pursue new services on social networks. Longer term, Jaxtr plans tiered monthly minute plans like that kind available today with cell phones. Jaxtr also plans advertising within user accounts. Jaxtr hopes to get 20 million users in the next twelve months and expects around one percent to purchase for additional minutes.
This indicates that Jaxtr has an uptapped market that Skype cannot easily reach. Especially with EBay fumbling with the Skype acquisition (EBay’s acquisition of Skype never made much sense to me). My bet is that Jaxtr will give Skype a run for its money!