VOIP + WiFi = Cell Phone alternative?
Anyone that knows me, knows that I spend a lot of time soaking in the free WiFi network at the Cup of Joe near my house. It’s a great atmosphere to get things done, it’s bustling with activity, free high speed wireless connection, and great food and drinks. My only problem with doing all my work here is the inability to use my voip service that I have at home. I do get emails with audio file attachments whenever someone leaves me a voicemail at home, which is nice. But if I want to call them back, I have to use up precious daytime minutes. I use lingo for my home voip service, and I really have no complaints. It’s cheap (500 minutes for calls to pretty much anywhere for $14.95 a month, including 911 capability). It’s easy to use (I mean come on, who doesn’t know how to use a phone by now. Also instead of plugging the box directly into one phone, which is a drawback for many people using voip, I just plugged it directly into the phone jack in my room. Because there is no phone service hooked up to my home, the lingo service has free reign on my home phone wires, and therefore works on all phone jacks in the house). But currently I’m limited to only using the lingo service from my home. Why, if the service runs over the internet backbone, can’t I get access to it everywhere? I love the idea of skype, and the ability to make free global calls to any other skype users, or cheap skypeout calls to any phone in the world (I think the skypeout rates are about 1.5 cents a minute to anywhere. So it’s 1.5 cents a minute to call your friend across the street or in Tokyo). Skype is great because I can call anyone, anywhere, whenever I have an internet connection. Why can’t lingo offer a skype like program that allow you to make your calls over their network? Vonage offers this very service for an additional $10 a month. Basically it allows you to log in to your vonage account anywhere you have internet access, and make phone calls as if you were at home. Of course you need a dorky headset to allow the other person to hear you, but it’s an exciting option nonetheless. Here’s where I think things get interesting. So there has been this explosion the past few years of smartphones. These are essentially pda’s with built in cell phones. But the funny thing is, maybe we don’t need the built in cellular capacity anymore. If you have a pda with built in wifi and vonage (or hopefully lingo soon), you can essentially have your pda replace your cell phone. You just log in to vonage/lingo and bingo, you instantly have a phone number where someone can reach you and you have the capacity to call anyone in the world for great rates. You also have access to all of Vonage’s great services such as free 3 way calling, caller id, call waiting, call forwarding, and more. So with the continued rapid roll out of wifi networks nationwide, it would seem possible that in the next few years access to a widespread wifi network could be more valuable than access to a cellular network. I realize that in most areas cellular networks will always have better coverage than wifi networks, but perhaps in the bigger cities, wifi pda phones could actually be an alternative to cellular service. Currently internet on smartphones is seen as a luxury, because the speeds aren’t really fast enough for any sane person to do any sort of meaningful internet browsing, besides email. Imagine a wifi connection that can handle all of your internet needs including your phone! All this time it seemed like the generally accepted evolution of wireless browsing would come about over better cell phone networks, but now it seems WiFi has arisen amazingly as an alternative. Ahh, I’m eagerly awaiting my pda wifi cell phone and once I have it, I’ll never leave Cup of Joe.