Goodness knows there's no shortage of free/low-cost, on-line VoIP services, what with Skype, Gizmo, Jajah, and voice applications associated with the big instant messaging services from Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and many others that VoIPplanet.com has written about over the past few years. But that's not stopping new entrants to the market.
Last week VoIPplanet.com spotted two new providers: the free-standing VOXOFON, and FreeRinger, a joint effort of the inter-IM-network voice gateway GTalk2VoIP and Talkster, an ad-supported VoIP service.
This newcomer bears some similarities to existing Web-launched VoIP services, and adds a few new touches of its own.
In its basic operation, it offers both the Skype-like ability to call from a PC to a phone on the PSTN and the ability to launch a phone-to-phone connection using a PC.
To do the former, you go to the VOXOFON website and click an icon that shows a PC screen and a phone handset. This brings up the VOXOFON dial-pad. You enter the phone number of the party you wish to reach, and the service places the call through a gateway to the PSTN.
To initiate phone-to-phone connections, you still start at the VOXOFON website, clicking the icon with two phone handsets. The dial-pad then asks for your phone number and that of the phone you wish to reach. You click the Call button and VOXOFON initiated both legs of the call, connecting the two phones.
The beauty of this call-back technique is that you don't have to worry about what kind of phones you're using.
Speaking of phones, VOXOFON points out that you can use its service on the iPhoneby bringing the Website up on your iPhone browser and using the dial-pad.
A bit more intriguing is a VOXOFON application for Android (now available in beta) that automatically detects international calls and diverts them through the VOXOFON network.
While the provider encourages customers to use the service for local calls, it seems to be geared more for international calling. It's ground-floor international rate of 1.3 cents per minute appears to be lower than that of the competition. (You can get rate quotes to any specific phone number here.)
Moreover, for businesses with international operations, VOXOFON is touting its rich supply of international DIDs (phone numbers in 54 other countries that let callers there ring your phone as a local call). Prices vary from country to country, but most of the random sample we checked out involved a set-up fee of between $6 and $12 and an ongoing monthly charge in the same amount (i.e., $6 set-up fee and $6 per month).
To get a handle on FreeRinger, you need to understand about GTalk2VoIP, which is a gateway created to link the IM-based Google Talk, MSN/Live Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger voice applications plus any SIP voice networks. It's a free service that you can subscribe to online (here).
Talkster is an free, ad-supported VoIP network that takes a different approach to connecting callersnamely providing unique DIDsboth for your phone and for those of each of your Talkster contacts, wherever they may be.
(Calling anyone for the first time and getting the phone numbers set up is a bit cumbersome, but after that, it's quite simple, and Talkster users can initiate calls from their PCs or their phones.)
FreeRinger is a Web-based Flash application, created by the GTalk2VoIP developers, that lets you make free calls from a PC to the Talkster network. Any browser that supports Flash will work, and you don't have to download/install any software.
Once you register at the FreeRinger Website, you can begin making calls. Here's what we meant by "a bit cumbersome," above:
You begin by logging in and entering your contact's phone numbercomplete with country code. Assuming this is your first FreeRinger call to this recipient, the system will create a new "subscription," and assigning the recipient a DID.
FreeRinger will then connect the call briefly; you need to tell the other party to call you back on the number they've been assigned to reach you. (You can tell them the number or they can pick it up from their caller ID, and it will also be sent to them in an SMS message.) When s/he calls you back, you can talk as long as you like, then hang up.
Subsequent calls are simple, as FreeRinger creates a phonebook entry for each new recipient, storing their FreeRinger phone number. Moreover, your FreeRinger contacts can call your PC any time using your incoming DID.
All in all, it seems not much different than Skypeexcept for the ads.