Truphone becomes a true phone
We don't need no stinking Wi-Fi
Mobile-VoIP operator Truphone has expanded its offering with the launch of Truphone Anywhere, giving users access to their Truphone minutes from the cellular network.
Truphone offers cheap calls for Wi-Fi handsets when they're on the data network, but from tomorrow the Anywhere version of the company's downloadable software will use a local dial-up number to access the internet.
So when a punter dials a number the Truphone client will check to see if Wi-Fi is available, routing the call over that network if possible. Otherwise the handset calls up the Truphone gateway and passes them the dialled number for connection over the internet. This is the same way that 3's Skype handsets work, except they don't ever use Wi-Fi.
There seems little reason for a Truphone customer to opt to use Wi-Fi either, which might cause the wannabe telecoms company problems: part of its business model revolves around charging incoming calls for a mobile connection when actually using (free) Wi-Fi connections, but if customers don't bother connecting their handset to the Wi-Fi networks then that revenue disappears.
Truphone users had an incentive to keep connected to Wi-Fi when it meant cheap outgoing calls, but if the cheap calls are available without Wi-Fi then why bother? Truphone does offer presence capabilities that might encourage punters to stay connected, but once they've installed the Truphone Anywhere package they might decide to keep their bandwidth for other purposes. ®
Still not practical though...
I gave truphone a try, mainly because the launch offer included free calls to UK land lines and about 40 other countries. So, using my home broadband, the calls were effectively free. I was very impressed with the call quality - a lot better than skype for example plus the convenience of integration with my handset - but there was one huge flaw in the plan. With WiFi in use, my phone's battery lasted about 30 mins and I usually get pretty good life out of it. Yes, since I was using it from home I could keep it on charge, but out-and-about it renders the service useless...
But if you've got an inclusive package for minutes why...never mind I'm sure there is a use for this service somewhere.
WiFi is still normally lower cost in the medium term
3's Skype handsets only allow Skype to Skype calls, whereas Truphone allows calls to any telephone.
It is true that a given outbound call will often be the same marginal cost for a customer in the short term whether placed over WiFi or using bundled cellular minutes for network access via Truphone Anywhere, but that ignores the medium term opportunity of reducing the bundle size (and paying a lower monthly fee). Also, WiFi is typically much cheaper when travelling abroad. Truphone gives customers two good options, which work well together.
Truphone inbound via WiFi is useful for customers to make free Truphone to Truphone calls, for people who pay for inbound calls, and for those who don't have good cellular coverage. Truphone only makes a very small amount of revenue from inbound calls however, so giving customers more ways to save money on outbound calls is economically more significant.