Feeds

BT squares up to Google Voice with Ribbit Mobile

It's all internetty but also very telecommy

High performance access to file storage

Industry comment Carriers may be watching Google Voice with trepidation, especially as it goes mobile, but one unlikely telco is determined to make sure the search giant does not have it all its own way. British Telecom has extended its Ribbit internet telephony platform to cellphones (despite having no mobile network of its own) with the unveiling of Ribbit Mobile.

This is a cloud-based service that combines internet voice, smart call routing and voicemail transcription. It builds on a proof of concept mobile service, Amphibian, which Ribbit developed in 2007 before it was part of BT. As with the disruptive Google Voice, users can transfer calls from an existing mobile number and as well as gaining the features of more open IP telephony platforms, can also forward calls to Skype, MSN or Google Talk Accounts.

The strategy is not just about BT trying to become an open web services provider and take on Google - an approach adopted by some other carriers seeing their walled gardens and customer control collapsing. It is also about injecting new value into the existing voice platforms and deriving new revenues and customer bases from an apparently declining market. Its broader aim is to merge its voice business with the web and push ahead of Google and Skype in also adding value to the mobile voice experience.

BT acquired Ribbit for $105m last year and made its founder Ted Griggs CTO of BT Voice. Ribbit had been set up a year earlier with the goal of being "Silicon Valley's Telephone Company". With uncharacteristic prescience, the deal showed BT taking positive action ahead of most carriers round the world to face up to the collision of the fixed and mobile voice business with the internet.

Voice still accounts for the huge bulk of carrier revenue and gives them greater account control than the open web, but operators have to support alternative communications methods and vehicles.

Ribbit Mobile leverages BT's core software platform, network infrastructure and APIs to deliver an advanced call management service that combines a user's phones, a web interface and mobile apps (running first on the iPhone and BlackBerry, assuming Apple doesn't block the service as it did Google Voice). Ribbit Voice is available for a free trial and later will cost $30 per month for the full offering.

Its features are more wide-ranging than Google's, including 'Voice 2.0' elements like multiple ring and web-based calling. It aims to be a full platform, with the APIs open to third party developers to extend the services - BT hopes one of the first results of this will be an Android client.

At the back end, there is integration with BT and Level 3 networks, and the ability to terminal calls on VoIP systems like Skype and Google Talk. "We don't talk a lot about it, but our network is really telco grade," Griggs said in an interview, pointing to the support for the UK emergency service 999. "The back end of what Ribbit does is very 'telecommy' and 'Internetty' - we bring the two together."

He added: "What used to be a sacred cow, voice, is becoming just another app on the mobile phone. What voice service you use and what you do with it have become up for grabs."

Copyright © 2009, Wireless Watch

Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
A black box for your SUITCASE: Now your lost luggage can phone home – quite literally
Breakfast in London, lunch in NYC, and your clothes in Peru
Broadband Secretary of SHEEP sensationally quits Cabinet
Maria Miller finally resigns over expenses row
Skype pimps pro-level broadcast service
Playing Cat and Mouse with the media
Beat it, freetards! Dyn to shut down no-cost dynamic DNS next month
... but don't worry, charter members, you're still in 'for life'
Like Google, Comcast might roll its own mobile voice network
Says anything's possible if regulators approve merger with Time Warner
EE dismisses DATA-BURNING glitch with Orange Mail app
Bug quietly slurps PAYG credit - yet EE denies it exists
Turnbull leaves Australia's broadband blackspots in the dark
New Statement of Expectations to NBN Co offers get-out clauses for blackspot builds
Facebook claims 100 MEEELLION active users in India
Who needs China when you've got the next billion in your sights?
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.