Earlier today, I was talking to Martin O'Donnell about a plug-and-play VoIP terminal called PhoneGnome. PhoneGnome is a small appliance that you can use to make Internet telephone calls, but you "buy and own it" and no monthly subscription fee is charged.
A lot of the VoIP services encourage you to use them for all of your telephone calls. PhoneGnome is designed for users who:
- have broadband already,
- want to keep their local phone line for basic services like unmeasured local calling and 911, and
- want to use VoIP when it's convenient and when it results in significant savings.
The PhoneGnome appliance straddles your regular phone line and broadband connection. It extends to the local telephone line some of the advanced services that VoIP users take for granted, like voicemail with email delivery, call waiting, and three way calling. Once you install the PhoneGnome, you can drop some of these services from your local phone line. Most local phone companies charge at least $7.00 per line per month to provide voicemail service.
When a PhoneGnome appliance is installed, it gets programmed with the phone number for the regular telephone line that's connected to it. That number is registered in a directory of PhoneGnome devices so that other PhoneGnomes know to route calls to it via peer-to-peer VoIP. This is how PhoneGnome delivers VoIP calling that's free of monthly fees and per-minute charges.
If you spend a great deal of time on calls with other PhoneGnome users, you can save a lot of money by reducing the cost of those calls to $0. That's why PhoneGnomes can be purchased in a two-pack (although they can also be purchased individually). I think people with overseas relatives or friends and family members far away will save a lot of money this way.
PhoneGnome is Session Initiation Protocol-compliant (SIP), which means that VoIP calls can be placed using an SIP address rather than a phone number. This feature is unlikely to get extensive use by the non-technical portion of the PhoneGnome user base, but more computer-oriented users will probably figure out ways to put SIP addresses on speed dial and save themselves additional money.
PhoneGnome can also be used to make VoIP calls to any phone number in the world, but those calls must be routed through a VoIP service provider for delivery back to the local telephone network or a mobile phone. A list of PhoneGnome-compatible VoIP services and rates is available.
PhoneGnome seems like a very unique product that approaches VoIP telephony in a new and different way. I'm sure it will be a God-send to people who have large long distance bills today and don't have the technical skill to use Skype or a more computer-oriented VoIP service.
I hope to get a PhoneGnome for review so we can put it through its paces and report on the experience of using it.
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