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Free conference call providers are a dying breed


The days are numbered for all Free Conference Call services, it’s simply a matter of time. The big telcos have been a bit pissy for having to aid their competitors indirectly via the USF. The emotion over this has been coming to boil for years now and recently Free Conference Call provider Foonz fell, just a few days ago.

I am sure glad we decided to pull out of that Free Conference Call game long ago. Our conference call service “Lypp” (formerly Gaboogie) started by offering free conferencing but quickly decide that was a bad idea (duh!). Lypp is now cash flow positive, growing like crazy and not showing any signs of slowing down.

Google Voice vs. Response Point with ITSP

VS  

I will admit, this is a bit of a silly comparison but the truth is that I have had a few customers (and some analysts) asking for some clarification on the new Google Voice offer and how it may compete with Response Point when coupled with an ITSP. The fact is they really do not compete in any measurable way and they could easily compliment each other.

Major Differences

The obvious major difference is that Response Point is a small business phone system, Google Voice is really a service offering targeted at individuals.

When we combine Response Point with an ITSP (Internet Telephony Service Provider) we start seeing some similarities in the services between the two offers but they are really meant for 2 distinctly different purposes.

Response Point offers an actual premise-based system with a base unit, handsets and features like; auto-receptionist, DID integration, hunt groups, voice mail to email integration etc. All of the things one would expect when purchasing a small business phone system.

Google Voice service is an overlay service on whatever you have today, so if your existing phone system is simply not cutting it, it’s unlikely that Google Voice is going to be able to transform it into the system of your dreams. It’s true that Google Voice will allow you to take advantage of certain features but don’t expect to find a Park, Hold or Transfer or anything fancy like speech recognition.

Google Voice is an inbound-centric service. Most features can only be used with an inbound call, that includes call recording and call joining.

How they play nice together

One could use the Google Voice – simulring feature to call your Response Point phone number and at the same time it could call your mobile.

Google Voice – call recording is a handy feature that is currently not a feature offered in the Response Point system.

Google Voice – voice mail transcriptions is a handy way to receive visual voice mails via email and SMS.

Google Voice – call widgets allow users to put callback widgets on a website. This will allow the visitor to put in their phone number and the system will call them and then it will call your Google Voice number.

Google Voice – SMS is a cool way to compose, accept and manage text messages while maintaining control over the devices associated with that service.

Potential ‘Gotchas’

The Google Voice service is only available in the US. Even US subscribers can only forward/simring their Google Voice numbers to other US numbers but that is likely to change to include international countries in the near future.

In theory, the Google Voice call should go wherever the media is sent. Call Routing results may vary depending on the Response Point ITSP you choose.

When calling out, your existing phone number (Caller ID) will be presented to the callee unless you use the dial-out feature, which is (IMHO) a bit of a hassle. This causes some problems as most of us are used to calling people back on the number we last saw from them. Fortunately, many ITSPs (unlike the conventional phone companies) will allow you to change your Caller ID number to match your Google Voice number.

Google Voice does not address LNP (Local Number Portability) at all right now. Which means you can not bring your existing numbers to Google Voice, you have to choose a new number.

Innovative Phone System Benefits Local Company

As our little telecommunications company continues to grow Microsoft continues to take notice. Most recently our partners in Redmond have completed and published a case study on one of our customers “True North Drafting” (TND) a specialist in creating the detailed shop drawings that guide the fabrication and on-site installation of commercial-grade glass and aluminum structures.

TND has been a long time customer of ours and before purchasing their Response Point small business phone system they were using the Lypp conference call services.

This marks the second Lypp case study by Microsoft. The first was on Lypp itself, as a value added reseller for Response Point.

Thanks goes out to Rex and his team at Microsoft for the mention and to our customer of the month, “True North Drafting”, for their ongoing support.

International Lypp conference call services now in 20+ countries including the United Kingdom

Just a quick post… We quietly launched our International service for Lypp teleconferencing this evening. Users from Australia, UK, Germany and many more countries, can now sign-up and start using Lypp teleconferencing. Existing and new users in North America can also now include participants from 20+ countries. We only charge you for minutes you use and there are NO additional long distance costs if you use the outbound calling feature.

Since Lypp calls you and your attendees there is little or no need for an International Toll Free number. Use the Lypp for Outlook Add-in or the Lypp.com website and simply set it and forget it. Lypp notifies and calls everyone for you at the time of the meeting. The only thing you have to remember is to answer the phone when it rings.

Yes, Conference Calls and now International Conference Calls are just that simple at Lypp.

Toll Teleconferencing is now being taxed by USAC. InterCall appeals and loses?

In recent rulings the FCC has ordered certain Conference Call service providers to start paying into the controversial USF (Universal Service Fund). InterCall (the largest Conference Service Provider) has appealed, apparently unsuccessfully.

Excerpt from FCC 08-160
Adopted: June 27,2008 Released: June 30, 2008
By the Commission:
I. INTRODUCTION
1. In this order, we deny in part and grant in part a request for review filed by InterCall, Inc.
(InterCall) of a Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) decision finding that the audio
bridging services offered by InterCall are “toll teleconferencing” services and that InterCall must
contribute directly to the universal service fund (USF) based on revenues from these services.

As discussed more fully below, the audio bridging services InterCall provides are equivalent to
teleconferencing services and are “telecommunications” under the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (1996 Act) and the Universal Service First Report and Order. Providers of these services must contribute directly to the USF based onrevenues from these services; therefore, we deny InterCall’s request to reverse USAC’s decision in this respect. We, however, grant InterCall’s request and reverse USAC’s decision requiring InterCall to contribute based on past revenues. Instead, InterCall must contribute directly to the USF beginning as of the calendar quarter immediately following the next scheduled FCC Form 499-Q filing after the release date of this order. We further direct USAC to ensure that all similarly situated audio bridging service providers contribute directly to the USF beginning as of this same time frame.

This is interesting for us CSPs (Conference Service Providers) to say the least and it’s likely going to get very interesting for those CSPs who are charging for toll teleconferencing. What this order basically says is that if a CSP is charging for toll conference calls (user has to dial into a local exchange) that revenue is subject to USF taxation.

This could be viewed as another win for Alex cory’s group ala FreeConference.com. They get paid via the USF and other providers have to pay into it, ironic and somewhat comical. Well, you know what they say, if you can’t beat’em, join’em.

Here is the entire document regarding InterCall’s appeal.

Audio Conferencing API

 

Conference Calling and Audio Conferencing APIs are not exactly abundant, likely because conference calling has long been a boring and mundane task that few people enjoy. That smell of martial disdain was not exactly motivating developers to come up with a better solution.

Gaboogie aims to up the happy factor considerably with the upcoming launch of Lypp: Next Generation Conference Calling and version 2.0 of the Lypp API.

The conferencing features for Lypp are vast and the API is dead simple to use, if you know XML you are set.

Stay tuned for more on that during the first couple of weeks of February.

Cheap Mobile Calls in Canada

I had a great conversation today from a new Lypp user who was blown away by the Lypp mobile calling service that is current being offered at Lypp.com. The one thing that this gentleman kept reiterating was that mobile calling in Canada is so costly and how Lypp service all of North America for one low price.

It was so great to have some positive feedback on the service and I hope they will be even happier when they see the new features we are unleashing in February.

Next month we will be launching a new Next Generation Conference Calling service but at the same time we will be enhancing the current mobile offering at Lypp.com. Lypp mobile calling users in Canada will soon be introduced to a host of new features that we believe will enhance their mobile calling experience, at no extra cost.

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