sipgate one, a VoIP service that's well established in Europe, has just launched its offering in the United States. Like many Internet-based voice services, it is free for certain on-network calls. Unlike most, it provides each user with a free DID (def.) phone number, so the rest of the telephonic world can actually call you.
(Note: Currently, sipgate numbers are available only in a limited number of states. Users in states where numbers are not yet available will get California-based DIDs and will be able to trade those in at no cost when more local numbers do become available. You can check DID availability here.)
However, the differences don't end with the DID. sipgate one service includes fax capability, free voicemail, easy optional call recording, multi-party conferencing, and an online 'communication center' for storing contacts and other information.
Moreover sipgate works with any phone you may have, including SIP-based IP phones, analog landlines (using an ATA (def.), and mobile phones. Plus, the service lets you manage all your phones, ringing those you choose in parallel, forwarding calls to a specific phone, and the like. To ensure maximum flexibility, sipgate also provides a softphone for use on PCs, both mobile and otherwise.
For those who only take incoming calls (using an IP phone), sipgate one is completely free. But calling out to the PSTN is cheaper with this service than with most others. Calls to the U.S. and Canada are billed at 1.9 cents/minute, as are calls to most European countries. A complete rate listing for international calls is available here.
sipgate one's faxing capability really sets it apart from the rest of the VoIP pack. It's not freeoutgoing faxes are 49 cents each (plus phone minutes), and incoming faxes, while free, require a second phone number, billed at $2.50 per monthbut many users will find it indispensable. There's a web-based interface for composing/sending faxes (to single or multiple recipients), and PDFs can be sent as faxes rather than e-mail attachments. Incoming faxes go to the user's on-line management interface. If you like, you can continue to use your existing fax machine; just get a fax-enabled adapter.
The company's mantra is definitely 'It's time to get rid of your local phone company.' "There is simply no barrier to people disconnecting their old phone lines anymore," said sipgate CEO, Thilo Salmon. "Phone and cable companies have long been pushing voice plans in the region of $25 to $40 per monthwhich end up being as much as $60 or more with extra charges. Even with calls to other landlines and mobile phones, most users will spend less than $5 a month using sipgate one."
While the sipgate service is currently aimed primarily at residential customers, that will change soon, as the company is readying a multi-user version of the service. "This service will be targeted toward innovative small businesses and will not only replace landlines, but also costly and complex local phone systems," the company said in a statement.