An interesting service recently mentioned on the PhoneBoy Blog is DID Worldwide. This services sells international DID numbers for about $5 per month that can be forwarded to third party SIP accounts (such as PhoneGnome). While there are free or cheaper alternatives for phone numbers in North America, the pricing is very attractive for many foreign locations.
According to Untangled Life it looks like Belkin may also be developing a Skype-Compatible VOIP Wi-Fi Handset. Let’s hope they have enough sense to also build in a mini web browser so that the phone can be used at public hotspots that require authentication (a deficiency of the soon-to-be-shipped Netgear Skype Wifi handset). The ideal handset would have the web browser of the Linksys WIP 330 phone combined with Skype-software from the Netgear or Belkin phone.
Phil Zimmerman has finally released the Windows version of Zfone. As previously mentioned, ZFone sets up encrypted communications using the ZRTP protocol between two SIP software clients. The Windows version joins existing version already available for MAC and LINUX systems. While this software will be very handy for two individuals that wish to keep their VOIP communications private, in order to truly bring privacy to the predominantly insecure VOIP industry it is hoped that the protocol will be licensed by VOIP handset manufacturers and SIP telephony service providers.
Skype has announced that it will offer free long distance within the US and Canada. This means that a Skype user physically located within the US or Canada can call any landline located in the US or Canada using Skypeout at no charge. The limitations on the calling location appear to be implemented by recognizing IPs used by ISPs located within the US and Canada. Canadian and US residents traveling abroad, and Skype users located outside of North America, are expected to pay the Skypeout rates to call a PSTN number in the US or Canada. However, I suspect that users that utilize corporate VPNs that terminate in North America, or wifi hotspot users that subscribe to one of the pubic VPN services (such as hotspotVPN or PublicVPN) may find they will appear as located in North America even when traveling abroad (this will depend on the location of the public VPN server) and may be able to benefit from the free Skype offer. Another option might be to set up a VPN server on a home computer (for example, iOpus Private Internet Gateway (iPIG))or Internet router.
Not to be left behind, SMC has joined Netgear in also announcing a Skype-compatible wi-fi voip handset, the SMCWSKP100. This handset supposedly works with both 802.11b/g networks but does not contain a built-in browser. So access will still be limited to home/corporate access points or public access points that do not require authentication or clicking through a re-direct page.
Skype has announced the beta release of version 2.5. Some of the neat new features added include:
* the ability to pay for Skype’s various fee-based services from within Skype (instead of needing to use a web browser)
* support for sharing of contact lists between groups
* the ability to send SMS messages from within Skype.
* audio call quality analyzer
* support for Skypecasts (which allow conference calls of up to 100 participants)
I’ve also recently noticed the emergence of third party services that are tied to Skype. For example, Lavalife is running a World Chat for singles and Untye is offering a desktop sharing application integrated with Skype.
Shaw Communications has been hit with a $1.2 million lawsuit filed by U.S.-based VoIP provider ZingoTel which claims that the Canadian cable operator refused to air a ZingoTel television ad because it promoted a competing VoIP-based calling service. The news comes just a couple of weeks after Vonage Canada also filed a complaint with the CRTC about the cable operator’s practices in respect of charging Vonage subscribers a $10 “quality of service enhancement” fee.