ORTC / WebRTC Pioneers
TMC / WebRTC World & PKE Consulting have published a WebRTC Pioneers press release following a WebRTC Pioneers dinner at WebRTC Expo in Atlanta last week, paying homage to some of the early work being done around WebRTC.
Congratulations to W3C ORTC Community Group founders & core contributors…
Robin Raymond – Hookflash
Bernard Aboba – Microsoft
Justin Uberti – Google
There are however, many names missing from this list who have had a significant impact on early work being done around WebRTC / ORTC. Peter Thatcher (Google), Emil Ivov (Jitsi) & Shijun Sun (Microsoft), Roman Shpount (TurboBridge) and Iñaki Baz Castillo immediately come to mind.
Hookflash posts now on Tumblr
I have decided to stop posting Hookflash content here, all of my new Hookflash posts will appear over at Tumblr.
SIP Trunking Helps Bridge the IP Islands
Businesses are gradually migrating to IP-based platforms and solutions. Frost & Sullivan’s research shows that most businesses that have not yet deployed IP telephony plan to do so in the next few years. But not everyone is ready to make the move. And practically no business is willing to forklift its entire existing infrastructure overnight.
The major holdbacks in IP telephony and UC adoption are typically related to concerns over how to protect existing, unamortized assets and ensure continuity when migrating to new communications architectures. Therefore, most businesses are cautious in their implementation of VoIP and IP telephony and are only gradually migrating individual platforms and sites, thus creating “islands” of IP technologies within the company’s communications environment. SIP trunking helps bridge these islands.
VoIP access and SIP trunking services involve the provision of integrated circuits using VoIP or SIP technologies to enterprises that have implemented premises-based enterprise telephony solutions (Private Branch Exchanges (PBXs)/IP PBXs or key systems). In a VoIP access or SIP trunking scenario, the service provider typically offers local dial tone, long-distance calling, and a limited set of call-management and control features such as extension dialing to intra- and inter-office locations.
VoIP access and SIP trunking services essentially direct enterprise customers toward a path of gradual transition to fully converged, IP-based networks. They allow businesses to enjoy the benefits of IP telephony while eliminating the need to forklift-upgrade their networks. VoIP access services interfacing with a legacy TDM system do require the deployment of a voice gateway at the enterprise premises, whereas SIP trunking services are typically deployed with SIP-based or SIP-enabled enterprise telephony platforms where protocol conversion is not required. Session border controllers (SBCs) may, however, be needed for protocol normalization and security purposes. Typically, VoIP access and SIP trunking services allow enterprises to continue to utilize their existing handsets as well as other TDM voice customer premises equipment (CPE) thereby preventing significant upfront investments.
Increasingly, service providers are bundling VoIP access and SIP trunking services with various network-based communications applications and capabilities, such as hosted auto attendant, voicemail, unified messaging, mobility/FMC or some data services including web hosting, web email, managed security, and so on.
Join Frost & Sullivan and Level 3 for a presentation on sustainable business voice strategies with a key focus on SIP trunking and its benefits to small and large businesses: http://bit.ly/lXeeJw
The PBX is Dead! Long Live the PBX!
Well, maybe the PBX term is dead. Maybe, going forward, we will be referring to the platforms delivering PBX functionality as “communications systems” or “UC solutions” or something else. But it is just funny how industry pundits frequently seek a sensational effect by using strong terms like “death” and “extinction” to refer to certain aspects of technology evolution. The reality is – market trends take a long time to mature and legacy technologies just don’t disappear over night. We were quick to “bury” the TDM PBX some ten years ago, but TDM line shipments, lo and behold, account for an impressive 25% of total line shipments today.
I was reading my colleague Alaa Saayed’s upcoming study World Enterprise Telephony Platform and Endpoint Markets and the following excerpt made me smile so I thought I would share it here.
•Just like in 2009 many observers prematurely pronounced the death of IP desktop phones, today, the same group of people is predicting the impending death of premises-based telephony platforms.
•Our findings show that the premises-based telephony platform market is still very much alive and displaying sizeable growth rates in terms of both shipments and revenue across the world.
•Although Frost & Sullivan recognizes the relentless advancements in communication technologies that are, today, allowing businesses to choose from multiple deployment and architectural options for enterprise telephony, including hosted and cloud-based technologies, premises-based solutions are still the most popular and dominant type of architecture among businesses of all sizes and verticals. The unfamiliarity with other technologies, the uncertainty about the benefits offered by the new delivery models, and the potential risks associated with decommissioning and/or replacing existing solutions are some of the main reasons why businesses continue to choose premises-based systems.
•Instead of the death of the premises-based telephony platform market, Frost & Sullivan prefers to talk about the death of the “PBX” terminology and the continuous transformation of communications architectures. In fact, since the introduction of enterprise IP telephony technologies around a decade ago, the traditional PBX platform has been completely re-designed, enhanced and re-purposed for the ultimate benefit of the customer. The multiple “boxes” required to support an enterprise-grade communications architecture in the past have been condensed into a smaller number of multi-purpose servers. The market has shifted from hardware-centric solutions to software-based, application-centric solutions. The call-control component of the PBX (practically, the heart of the PBX) has been extracted, in many cases, and modified into a software application that can run on any third-party standard servers or treated as a virtualized application in a virtualized data-center environment. Finally, the IP PBX functionality is increasingly becoming just one of several applications in a comprehensive unified communications solution/bundle.
•While all these technological advancements have certainly transformed the communications marketplace, from large, isolated, proprietary cabinets to easily distributable low-cost, space-efficient, rack-mountable chassis equipment (servers for call control and media gateways for port interfaces), this evolution should not be misconstrued as the death of enterprise premises-based telephony.
The study will be published within the next few weeks on Frost & Sullivan’s Enterprise Communications portal.
SIP + RTCWEB marriage in question?
The RTC WEB sessions in Prague made it pretty clear, to me at least, that everyone knows that SIP is broken and we also know that it’s not going away anytime soon. That being said it will likely not be the only protocol to be used in conjunction with RTC WEB.
I think it’s a consensus, at least of the IETF participants of the RTC WEB BOF, that we should not be discussing signaling protocols within RTCWEB at this early stage in the process of creating a WG (working Group) in the IETF.
It’s likely the correct approach. If we pigeon hole the community into using one protocol over another we are not really doing the future of communications any great service. In the same breath I also think it is important that we do not lose sight of the fact that the business world today runs on SIP and will continue to do so for some time to come.
The one thing that stuck out is the obvious gap that exists between what we have today and what we need in order to make RTCWEB a huge success, although I do know of a few companies that can move rather quickly when presented with a challenge as well so maybe it’s not such a big deal.
Prague was great, on many levels. It will be very interesting to see the progress we make between now and Quebec.
XO Taps into Cloud Communications
Today, XO Communications launched the XO Enterprise Cloud Communications services. XO Enterprise Cloud Communications integrates a wide range of IP telephony features, local and long distance calling, enterprise-wide HD voice and video, network services, and IP phone sets in a communications as a service, per-user pricing model. Features of XO Enterprise Cloud Communications include:
- IP Telephony and unified communications applications
- Free local and site-to-site calling within the enterprise
- Long distance calling plans
- Enterprise-wide HD voice and HD video
- Choices of IP phone sets from Cisco and Polycom
- Web portal for managing service for each location and employees
- Quality of Service monitoring
- MPLS IP-VPN network services
- Robust Service Level Agreements for all services
- Business continuity capabilities
XO is looking to target businesses of 50 to 1,000 seats per enterprise, primarily in the education, healthcare, professional services and retail verticals.
What I like about the new offering:
XO has been tremendously successful with its XO IP Flex (also available with a VPN feature), XO SIP and XO Enterprise SIP offerings. The new offering nicely rounds up its SIP/cloud portfolio adding hosted PBX functionality for businesses choosing to outsource their voice communications infrastructure. Leveraging its SIP expertise, intimate knowledge of the BroadSoft platform and MPLS capabilities, XO will be able to deliver a highly reliable cloud-based voice service with managed bandwidth and QoS and carrier-grade SLAs. The option to include phone set costs in monthly recurring charges is likely to appeal to businesses concerned about the upfront costs of replacing existing phone instruments. XO has broad geographic reach and therefore the ability to address the needs of larger, multi-site customers migrating to hosted services. A web portal will allow customers to monitor and manage their cloud services.
XO appears to be a late-comer to the hosted telephony space. Several dozens of service providers have launched hosted IP telephony in the U.S. over the past eight years. However, its cautious approach may prove more successful as it has had the time to master SIP and develop the right capabilities for its target audience. Also, larger businesses are only now beginning to fully understand and appreciate the benefits of hosted/cloud communications which creates more favorable conditions for the delayed launch. Furthermore, XO is looking to position this new offering with a TCO improvement value, rather than the more traditional value proposition of inexpensive long distance or in-house staff replacement of early hosted offerings targeted at smaller businesses of less than 50 users.
Points to be addressed by XO:
Service providers that have been offering hosted voice for some years now are already looking to enhance their solutions with other communications and collaboration application such as conferencing, contact center, messaging, presence and collaboration. XO has contact center capabilities, as well as OCS, Exchange and SharePoint integrations on its roadmap, but immediate comparisons may tip the scales in favor of a competitor. I need to point out that not everyone (in fact, maybe few) larger businesses are looking to immediately outsource their entire communications infrastructure from voice to messaging from a third party. However, the sooner XO announces the ability to deliver a more complete UC package, the greater its competitive advantage is going to be. Also, service providers are increasingly looking to integrate communications with business applications (CRM being the typical low-hanging fruit) based on customer demand, which is something XO will need to explore in the future.
XO claims it has the tools and partnerships in place to manage this service all the way to the desktop. In fact, it offers on-premises probe, usage, network and support services. Hopefully, it handles this aspect properly, because many a service provider have failed associating cloud and hosted with a complete hands-off approach as far as the customer premises are concerned. But a reliable hosted communications service, especially when larger businesses are involved, requires a significant involvement in customer LAN, WAN and CPE upfront assessment and ongoing management.
Mitel Redefines Hosted Communications
The Hosted IP Communications Market
I am currently updating Frost & Sullivan’s North American Hosted IP Telephony and UC Services study. This is one of my favorite enterprise communications markets and I have tracked it closely over the past nine years. To many that may sound unbelievable as hosted IP PBX and UC services have only recently gained popularity, boosted by the cloud hype.
Over the years, hosted communications services have evolved and matured – both on the platform/technology side and the business model side. BroadSoft has gobbled up two of its original competitors – VocalData (aka Tekelec, aka GenBand) and Sylantro; softswitch vendors such as Sonus and Metaswitch have more aggressively pursued feature-rich services; Nortel’s carrier group has been acquired by GenBand; and a host of PBX vendors have launched various hosted/cloud platforms. Fortunately for these vendors, service providers are becoming increasingly interested in hosted IP communications as traditional voice loses ground to mobile and consumer PC-based communications. On the demand side, economic factors coupled with greater awareness of the benefits of hosted communications are making enterprise decision makers more open to discussing outsourcing alternatives.
I will delve deeper into market trends, market size and competitive factors when I complete my research. In this article, I would like to focus on Mitel and its portfolio of hosted solutions. As always, Mitel is at the forefront of technology development, but this time also venturing with some new delivery models.
For about a year now, Mitel has been offering a multi-tenant platform – the Multi-Instance Communications Director (MICD). This solution is targeted at service providers looking to brand their own hosted IP communications services and provide all billing and management support. MICD is a high-density platform that competes directly with the more “traditional” hosted IP telephony platforms (such as BroadSoft’s) and appears best suited for SMBs looking for standard PBX functionality, along with voicemail, twinning and basic conferencing. Its architecture makes it more flexible than most other hosted platforms, however, enabling service providers to deliver more distinct sets of capabilities to each customer, resembling single-tenant hosted PBX implementations.
MICD has so far found appeal with CLECs, traditional VARs, as well as for in-building multi-tenant deployments. Service providers can purchase either perpetual licenses or a licensing subscription. Mitel claims about 15 service provider customers globally.
Mitel has been one of the first communications vendors to offer a virtualized solution – Virtual Mitel Communications Director (MCD). It is available to service providers looking to target a slightly different customer base – typically larger businesses with hybrid (hosted and premises-based) environments. Distributed organizations typically have different needs across their geographically dispersed sites. While larger locations favor premises-based implementations, smaller remote sites are more suited for hosted services. Virtual MCD allows service providers to deliver highly customized communications solutions to businesses that require integrations with premises-based platforms and databases. For service providers, the virtual MCD architecture is comparable to MICD in terms of implementation and management costs. It is less scalable, but delivers some superior features and functionalities, such as virtualized contact center, web conferencing and UC capabilities.
Virtual MCD has been commercially available for approximately one year and, to date, Mitel has mostly marketed it, directly and through its channel, to the traditional CPE base. More recently, it has enabled hosted providers to also take advantage of this cloud-based offering. Resellers can use this solution to generate additional revenues and differentiate, leveraging their existing customer relationships, knowledge of customer CPE infrastructure and close familiarity with Mitel’s portfolio.
For a little over two months now, Mitel has been offering yet another hosted alternative – Mitel Anywhere. With this solution, Mitel steps in as the communications service provider hosting the MICD platform in its own data center. Mitel recognizes that, while demand for hosted communications is growing, a lot of the service providers are not equipped to host advanced communications infrastructures. Mitel has identified the SMB customer segment up to 100 users as the sweet spot for Mitel Anywhere services. It can, however, meet the demand of larger, distributed organizations using Virtual MCD.
Mitel plans to add some advanced capabilities such as contact center ACD to its suite of messaging and audio and web conferencing apps currently available on the platform. Eventually, the full Unified Communicator Advanced capabilities are likely to become part of the offering.
Datacenter Accreditation for Cloud-based Communications Services
On February 7th, Mitel announced a new initiative. The Virtualized Datacenter Accreditation program is targeted at datacenters, and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) providers. The program is intended to certify partners’ infrastructure capabilities required to support Mitel voice and UC applications. Mitel announced three certified IaaS providers: Artisan Infrastructure, Host.net, and Hosting.com, who intend to support or offer hosted voice and UC solutions to the market in the coming months based on Mitel cloud-ready software.
Mitel acknowledges that there are many partners who wish to be between an agent and a service provider. They have the capabilities to interface directly with end users and design and market hosted communications to them, but are not well equipped to manage a datacenter or a sophisticated communications platform with the required billing and management infrastructure and processes. By enabling IaaS and PaaS providers to deliver the appropriate infrastructure to VARs and managed services providers (MSPs), Mitel effectively creates a new business model that leverages the specific skills and capabilities of different providers to extend the reach of advanced communications to a larger number of market participants.
The value chain in the communications marketplace is likely to disintegrate further as vendors and service providers choose whether to develop technologies, manage datacenter infrastructure and/or communications platforms (now increasingly part of virtual datacenter environments), or specialize in marketing, sales and customer relationship management. New business models will emerge and market participants will have to find the formula that best works for them.
Mitel has been fast to market with its hosted/cloud initiatives and is now offering some appealing deployment options to its partners and business customers. It is likely to face competition from other carrier and traditionally CPE vendors pursuing similar strategies. For example, BroadSoft has a cloud service delivered out of its own datacenter in beta trials and claims overwhelming interest from the service provider community. Microsoft is likley to launch a multi-tenant VoIP capability on its Lync platform in the future, even though it has so far declined to support service providers in customizing Lync for hosted voice. Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco and Siemens are developing technologies and strategies for the cloud market as well. As the market evolves, functionality, partner relationships and financial viability will represent key success factors.
Cloud is Great, but I Want my Own System
I know I have dedicated quite a bit of blog space to discussing cloud and hosted communications. I have also, however, pointed out that premises-based solutions will continue to dominate the market for a long time to come. Growth in this market will be driven primarily by the replacement of the installed TDM base with advanced IP telephony solutions.
Multiple trends are converging to drive further penetration of IP telephony into the business market. The technology has matured, and concerns over voice quality related to jitter, echo, and packet loss are rapidly dissolving. Moreover, high definition (HD) voice is now promising to give end users a superior experience compared with TDM communications. Furthermore, the cost of advanced IP telephony solutions (including platforms, endpoints, and media gateways) is continuously declining, making them an appealing investment even for the more cost-conscious customers. The available pool of professional and managed services expertise is also continuously expanding, driving down the cost of IP telephony implementation and support. Finally, SIP is quickly becoming the de-facto standard for voice communications, and its wider adoption is enabling businesses to take advantage of IP telephony’s full array of communications benefits.
The above chart shows the evolution of convergence technologies and their value to businesses over time. Over the past 10 years, IP telephony has evolved and asserted itself as the communications foundation of the future. Today, we are at a juncture where customers have acknowledged the value of network convergence and are rapidly deploying IP telephony. We are estimating that about half of all business telephony users are on IP or converged systems, though only about 30% use IP endpoints. It is important to note, however, that convergence is a gradual, stepped process for most organizations even today. Most start small and then look to grow bigger by adding more capabilities, more sites, etc.
As UC technologies mature and decision makers become more aware of the benefits of UC, forward-looking businesses are beginning to transition to the next stage of convergence – that of application integration. Yet, it will be at least 3 to 4 years before UC becomes truly mainstream and more businesses integrate communications into business processes. For customers to transition to that final stage and realize the strategic benefits of communications-enabled business processes (CEBP), technologies need to mature further and become more exposed to the larger developer community so they can develop specific applications for specific uses.
My colleague Alaa Saayed just completed our World Enterprise Telephony Platforms and Endpoints research and here below are some of his findings.
The year 2009 can be defined as a very challenging, yet interesting year, characterized by landmark events and trends that will have a long-term impact on both technology evolution and competitive dynamics. On the negative side, 2009 was marked by worsened macroeconomic conditions, rising unemployment rates and a significant reduction of technology investments. Not only did the economic turmoil cause the sales of almost all major enterprise telephony vendors to decline at double-digit rates, but it also caused the demise of the former telco giant and one of the world’s premier technology companies – Nortel.
Nonetheless, history has shown that pulling out of recession often comes on the back of innovation and continued investment in technology development. In fact, the enterprise telephony sector has been one of the fastest and most efficient sectors to quickly adapt to these new challenging market conditions. Important actions that were taken to fight back the negative impact of the recession included major acquisitions and reorganizations (e.g. HP/3Com and Avaya/Nortel), the introduction of new flexible IP telephony solutions, the implementation of very aggressive customer programs, and increased focus on channel expansion strategies. Furthermore, 2009 was also marked by a significant uptake in certain advanced technologies and innovative delivery models such as SIP trunking, virtualization, hosted communications/ Communications as a Service (CaaS) offerings, SIP and SOA-based architectures (e.g. Avaya Aura), and professional and managed services. Finally, although it slowed down the pace, the economy did not completely stop the evolution of some of the key trends of previous years including enterprise mobility, collaboration, social media and open-source telephony. Social media, for example, enabled many telephony vendors to use non-conventional marketing methods to promote and communicate the value of their products and solutions throughout the recession.
It is no surprise the market plunged in 2009, but we do expect a modest recovery in 2010, with North America and APAC leading the way out of the recession and Europe maybe experiencing some continued challenges. This year, we expect positive growth in units, but close to 0% revenue growth. In the near term, there may be some continued hesitation in investment decisions– some Nortel customers debating what route to take, others waiting for Wave 14 to prove its value, yet others looking for cloud models to mature.
Over the next 5 to 6 years, however, we are projecting about 1% growth in revenues and about 3% to 4% growth in unit shipments. We expect customers with TDM systems to pursue IP telephony for both cost savings and productivity benefits, laying the foundation for advanced IP apps and future UC implementations. Infrastructure consolidation through SIP and SOA will be the other two drivers for IP telephony migration and further investments in this space. Towards the end of the forecast period, the user base should be almost all converted to IP , barring the impact of some unforeseen disruptive events. Cloud technologies may begin to have a larger impact in the long term restraining PBX line shipments towards 2014 and 2015.
A Fresh Look at UC
A few days ago, I had the pleasure to visit Aastra’s Concord, ON, headquarters and to meet again with Tony Shen, Aastra’s Co-CEO, President and COO. I must admit, he is quite different from other executives I interact with! His practical, down-to-Earth talk is in complete contrast with the inflated marketing bravado of most other high-ranking individuals in the industry.
I also enjoyed listening to Jason Andersson, Head of Aastra’s Center of Excellence for Applications, brief me about Aastra’s current UC strategy and portfolio using Aastra’s ViPr videoconferencing technology. Thank you, Jason, for going back to the office at 9 pm Swedish time to do this video call for me! I have to say video really adds to the quality of the conversation. It helps establish a rapport with the other participants and be more productive. Although I found the ViPr quite good, the Aastra folks hinted at the upcoming launch of a next-gen product that will help bring better and much more affordable video to the mass market.
So where does Aastra stand today in the global communications market? According to our recent research, in 2009, Aastra was among the top 6 market participants in terms of total PBX and IP PBX line shipments and revenues and IP desktop phone shipments. It has a large installed base it can leverage for future growth. It is also on track to gradually consolidate and synchronize its multiple product lines over the next couple of years. But how does it differentiate? What does it do better than its competitors?
It is tempting to quote Shen who addressed the above questions by saying “We all sell sugar,” referring to the fact that communications have become a commodity, adding “we are just easier to do business with.” He strongly believes that Aastra’s main competitive advantage is in delivering technologies tailored to local customer needs and its ability to use local resources who speak the language and best understand the peculiarities of the specific market. “The French buy French”, Shen elaborated, pointing to one reason why Aastra is doing so well in France, whereas Ericsson before couldn’t (and where U.S. vendors are struggling, too).
Aastra has also adopted a very pragmatic approach to UC. While the rest of the market has gotten a little carried away with the desktop-centric approach spearheaded by Microsoft (as it best serves its purposes), Shen and his team see little demand for soft clients. As I have indicated in other blog posts and presentations, I also think it will take a few years for soft clients to populate the marketplace and become a more commonly used interface. It will not be until customers deploy a larger number of advanced communications and collaboration applications such as IM, presence and conferencing, that they will see the value in the unified desktop client. For most users, a basic softphone provides little more than a convenient alternative when travelling. Yet, Aastra is looking to keep up with its competitors and potential customer demand and will soon be launching InTouch Plus, an advanced client that can be used both for voice and IM. So, if you are looking for an OCS-like experience and you believe in convergence at the desktop – Aastra will have a solution for you later this year.
Aastra sees greater potential in mobility. In fact, according to Shen’s definition, UC is more about integrating corporate and mobile voice communications, than it is about the desktop client. Aastra offers both mobile PBX extensions and a solid portfolio of VoWLAN and DECT capabilities, which can meet both outdoor and indoor mobility requirements. Although Frost & Sullivan’s definition of UC is quite client-centric as well, I have to agree that mobile smartphones have a greater potential than desktop clients in replacing the desktop phone as a primary communications device.
Aastra is also one of the few telephony vendors heavily promoting the voice interface. I thought voice navigation remained somewhat confined to the IVR and auto attendant space. Shen, however, gave me some interesting examples of his vision for speech, which included voice navigation of calendars and folders. When I think of the time I waste looking for documents, this sounds like a life-saver to me. Also, the ability to schedule a meeting over the phone, speaking commands such as “book me a meeting with Joe at 2 pm on July 3rd” may be where the market is going next.
Aastra is also offering some interesting collaboration capabilities with its recently launched InReach social networking software. It enables employees to create various interest or project groups where they can post comments (“micro-blogs”) and share files and ideas. This software will eventually become integrated with InTouch Plus, the advanced UC client, so users can IM each other, see status updates and pictures, etc.
Although it feels like Aastra is lacking that single defining characteristic that will differentiate it in the marketplace – such as Microsoft’s message around software-based communications or Cisco’s one-stop-shop approach, for example – it may very well be that Shen and his team have identified a successful growth formula that is not based so much on marketing, but on practical, customer-centric strategies. In the SMB market especially, its local approach is far more important than technology superiority or marketing clout. Of course, this is not to say that Aastra’s technologies are not competitive, it is just to reinforce Shen’s pragmatic view of the commoditization of communications.
Shen stated that Aastra seeks to evolve its portfolio around four main tenets: the voice interface, mobility, video and security. Although I believe these have a very different value for different users, they seem like potential growth opportunities and differentiators for Aastra.
In my opinion, Aastra’s open, standards-based approach and ability to integrate its endpoints and applications with other vendors’ technologies could be its ultimate key to success. Going forward, an accelerated portfolio harmonization roadmap and a stronger message around the benefits it can deliver to larger businesses with disparate, multi-vendor environments could help it maintain and grow its market share in the communications marketplace.
I have been working with the folks over at ImmersiFind on a mobile voip project for the past 8 months, the invite-only beta went live yesterday in the iTunes app store. It’s called “gabpark”. It’s been tested on the iPhone, iPod Touch and the iPad. In my humble opinion, it has some cool features that many should find quite useful.
The service is free during the invite-only beta period. I have a few invites for bloggers who are interested in getting a sneak peak, just email erik AT sipthat.com.
iTunes Store Overview
Gabpark is a new fun way to communicate with your family, friends and colleagues. Gabpark allows you to make and receive calls phone calls over 3G (Cellular Data Network) or WiFi. It works on both iPhone, iPod and iPad devices running OS 3 or higher. Never pay for roaming charges again!
Turn your iPod Touch or iPad into a phone in just a couple of minutes! Use the Follow-me feature and gabpark will call up to 3 of your alternate numbers at the same time! Use your cellular phone, home and work numbers or any 3 numbers in North America! Gabpark Voicemail allows you to see and hear your voicemail without having to call in for messages! Share your voicemails with anyone!
Change your Caller ID to match any of your existing numbers!
Gabpark is currently available via invitation. Invite up to 50 of your friends right from the app so they can enjoy Gabpark FREE calling in North America!
• Free calling in US and Canada!
• Get a phone number nearly anywhere in Canada or the US
• Receive calls even when the gabpark app is not running.
• Choose up to 3 follow-me numbers and gabpark will call them all at the same time.
• Gabpark voicemail can be seen and heard right in the app.
• Share voicemail with friends and family at the click of a button.
• Voicemail to email.
• Record up to 9 new voicemail greetings right from the app.
• Record calls from any phone you receive a gabpark call on.
• Blacklist. Add unwanted callers to your Blacklist and when they call your gabpark number they will hear a busy tone or a “This line has been disconnected..” message.
• Integrated with your contacts.
• See recent calls.
• Calls do not count towards your cellular calling plan.
• Compatible with iPhone, iPhone 3GS, iPod Touch and iPad.
• Built-in VoIP connection test.
Free calling requires free and instant registration to protect against abuse.
*IMPORTANT VOIP OVER CELLULAR / 3G NOTICE*
Because some mobile network operators may prohibit or restrict the use of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) functionality over their network, such as the use of IP telephony over a cellular network, and may also impose additional fees, or other charges in connection with VoIP. As the user of this application, you agree to learn and abide by your cellular carrier’s network restrictions. Immersifind Inc. will not be held liable for any charges, fees or liability imposed by your carrier(s) for the use of VoIP over cellular networks.
*IMPORTANT Non-Availability of Traditional 911 or E911 Service*
END USER MUST MAINTAIN AN ALTERNATE MEANS OF REQUESTING EMERGENCY SERVICES. END USER acknowledges and understands that COMPANY does NOT support traditional 911 and E911 access to emergency services. END USER must maintain an alternate means of accessing traditional emergency response services.