On September 29, I wrote a tip about mobile VoIP that indicated several big telephony players were manifesting strong interest in building, licensing, or dealing in mobile VoIP equipment, including wireless VoIP handsets. On October 18, 2004, Net2Phone fired what I believe will be the first salvo in an ongoing series of product announcements, licensing deals, and new service offerings from VoIP service providers.
Net2Phone announced its VoiceLine XJ100 Wi-Fi handset, which is designed to work with Wi-Fi 802.11 wireless networking links to Net2Phone's VoiceLine broadband telephony service. This allows service providers who already support VoiceLine to add SIP-based hosted wireless telephony services to their existing offerings, by remarketing the Net2Phone VoiceLine handset along with other related offerings.
The Net2Phone handset supports inbound and outbound calling, and will work with designated area codes for US local, US toll-free, and UK toll-free telephone numbers, irrespective of actual customer locations (for a list of local and toll-free area codes offered see the company's Calling Plans page, and check out the phone number pull-down list). The XJ100 handset also includes voicemail, caller ID, and call forwarding services. Calls to other VoiceLine IP addresses don't count toward monitored minutes, as is common in many VoIP calling plans. Reports also indicate that future Net2Phone Wi-Fi offerings will likely support PDAs, laptops, and desktop computers with a variety of VoIP link-ups and capabilities.
The foundation for wireless VoIP telephony from Net2Phone rests on its SIP-based VoiceLine platform. The VoiceLine component handles call routing, call management, billing, provisioning and other enhanced services, and mediates connections with the local public switched telephone network (PSTN). For additional coverage on the Net2Phone product release, a Business Wire story is also available online.
I expect this new product to be just the first of many competitive products, each linked to some underlying call-handling/management/billing platform (as the XJ100 is tied to underlying VoiceLine capabilities in this particular case). It's going to be very interesting to see if first-to-market translates into enhanced market share, and how offerings from other vendors will vie for commercial adoption, especially among the largest broadband service providers.
Ed Tittel is a regular contributor to numerous TechTarget Web sites, and the author of over 100 books on a wide range of computing subjects from markup languages to information security. He's also a contributing editor for Certification Magazine, and edits Que Publising's Exam Cram 2 series of cert prep books. E-mail Ed at firstname.lastname@example.org.