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cheap VoIP call termination

Why in god's name doesn't ANYONE offer this yet?
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This is "baked" in the sense that the hardware to do it has existed for years, but "half-baked" in the sense that it's still basically unavailable in the US as a commercial product.

Basically, service providers would buy blocks of telephone numbers (ideally, in major metro areas, but I suspect some people really wouldn't even CARE if they had to have a New York or Los Angeles phone number despite living in Iowa or Florida). They'd also maintain a password-protected online database correlating phone numbers sold to customers with the hostname and port address of a VoIP router to which incoming calls to that number should be routed. Incoming calls to the phone numbers would be received by the service provider, and forwarded over the internet to the VoiP router at the specified host:port. To callers, it would look just like a normal landline phone tied to a physical street address somewhere (911 calls would show whatever address the customer registered with the service provider as the router's physical address).

Normally, if the called party's router were unreachable or nonresponsive, the calling party would simply get a message that the number was valid, but the call could not be completed at that time. For an extra monthly fee, customers could have fallback voicemail that would either hold the message or periodically poll for their router and attempt delivery when it came back online.

Associating routers with a hostname (as opposed to an IP) and an arbitrary port frees the service provider from most day-to-day administration. People with dynamic IPs could simply make their own arrangements with a dynamic DNS service like tzo.com, and enabling the specification of arbitrary ports would make it NAT-friendly (just assign the VoiP router a private internal IP and forward its port at the DSL/cable router) and permit multiple phone numbers to terminate at the same physical IP address.

Insofar as target markets go, I'd target the one likely to demand the least: people who use their cell phones for almost everything anyway, work in I.T., and have DSL/cable & question monthly why they're still paying BellSouth/PacBell/Verizon/etc $20-30/month for a phone they hardly ever use (answer: Pizza Hut won't deliver if you call from a cell phone, nor will most credit card companies let you activate a card from a cell phone). Such people would probably jump at the chance to pay somebody a base rate of $9.95/month plus some low per-minute rate like 6-10 cents/minute (the FCC and other tax authorities still insist upon having their fun) -- especially if caller ID and the like were included for free (in most cases, it's the customer-owned VoiP router that would provide most of those features anyway).

The per-customer profit would probably be fairly low (FCC and state taxes would eat into most of the $9.95 and 6c/min), but on the other hand, the service provider wouldn't have to provide much in the way of real service anyway. Remember -- these are people who hardly EVER touch their landline phones... they just need them to be there a few times a year. If they had customers pay 3 months' of base monthly fees at a time and took the per-minute fees out of a prepaid and credit card replenishable $25 fund, the system would basically run itself. A "tough love" customer service policy (telling customers to RTFM that came with their VoiP router if it doesn't work) wouldn't hurt, either -- their responsibilty would begin and end with receiving calls and forwarding the data to the customer-owned and maintained VoiP router alleged to be at the host/port specified by the customer.

miamicanes, May 17 2003

Vonage http://www.vonage.com/
Probably the most realistic current attempt at VoIP via broadband. $29.99 for unlimited US/Canada residential. [jutta, Oct 21 2004]

[link]






       There's not "there" here. Pretty much everything you've written is the way things work with a few exceptions.   

       "Associating routers with a hostname (as opposed to an IP) and an arbitrary port frees the service provider from most day-to-day administration."
I don't understand how you come to this conclusion. A host name is just a human-friendly way to portray an IP address. And who the hell cares what IP address your VoIP calls go to anyway? No one uses it except you and your service provider. If you feel compelled to get a domain name for your VoIP address, go for it.
  

       "Insofar as target markets go, I'd target the one likely to demand the least: people who use their cell phones for almost everything anyway, work in I.T., and have DSL/cable & question monthly why they're still paying BellSouth / PacBell / Verizon / etc $20 - 30/month for a phone they hardly ever use (answer: Pizza Hut won't deliver if you call from a cell phone, nor will most credit card companies let you activate a card from a cell phone)."
I.T. workers would be the service provider's toughest customers, not easiest. They'd know what to expect and wouldn't settle for anything less.
Furthermore, if I have DSL (and I do) the phone service is "free" - ancillary, that is. I'm also guaranteed not to lose my phone number if I change land-based carriers. Cellular companys won't promise that, so don't blame the LECs.
Lastly, if I rarely use my phone, where's the incentive to go out and buy a VoIP router, switch phone service, yadda yadda yadda?
  

       "A "tough love" customer service policy (telling customers to RTFM that came with their VoiP router if it doesn't work) wouldn't hurt, either..."
Until you wanted to capture marketshare beyond the 1200 ubergeeks who actually signed up for your service.
phoenix, May 17 2003
  

       "... A host name is just a human-friendly way ..."   

       It's for the company's convenience, not for the customer's vanity. If the company providing VoiP termination stores the router's IP address in its database, it needs to personally deal with customers who have dynamic IP addresses, or customers who change ISPs, etc. If, on the other hand, it stores a hostname like foo69.mydynamicipaddress.net, the responsibility for making sure that hostname matches up with the right IP address falls squarely in the lap of the customer and whomever he delegates the task of hosting that DNS entry.   

       "... Furthermore, if I have DSL (and I do) the phone service is "free" ..."   

       If you're paying less than $65/month for the combo, pat yourself on the back and consider yourself lucky. In BellSouth land, at least, a plain residential phone line costs more than $22/month after all the taxes and fees are added up. On the other hand, by law BellSouth (in Florida, at least) can't forcibly bundle local phone service and DSL local loop connectivity (they bill the ISP $37.50/month for the local loop). If you want to have DSL sans local phone service, by law they have to let you get away with it. They'll try their hardest to convince you otherwise -- escalating it all the way to their most senior sales force, but if push comes to shove, they have to unbundle the local loop if you insist (I know... one of my friends did it. They fought him like hell, but today he's the proud owner of a DSL-only phone line for which he directly pays nothing to BellSouth and gets his DSL at the usual price).   

       "Lastly, if I rarely use my phone, where's the incentive to go out and buy a VoIP router, switch phone service, yadda yadda yadda?"   

       A VoiP router costs around a hundred bucks. At an average of $12/month ($9.95, with a few minutes of metered usage per month), the router would pay for itself after 10 months, and represent a 50%+ cost savings over the cost of normal phone service from that point forward.   

       "Until you wanted to capture marketshare beyond the 1200 ubergeeks who actually signed up for your service."   

       Who said it's for everybody? As AOL knows painfully well, tech support is expensive. A small service provider with 2 employees besides the owner and 20,000 customers who are mostly self-sufficient can easily make more money than a big provider with 200,000 nontechnical customers who need to have their hands held for six hours to get it working and nevertheless manage to screw it up every few months and require another hour of customer service time to get it working again.
miamicanes, May 17 2003
  

       "If the company providing VoiP termination stores the router's IP address in its database, it needs to personally deal with customers who have dynamic IP addresses, or customers who change ISPs, etc."
Which of the 1200 ubergeeks is going to have VoIP on a dynamic IP network?
  

       "If you're paying less than $65/month for the combo, pat yourself on the back and consider yourself lucky."
~$75 for local, long distance, 256kbps DSL and Internet access. That's with taxes. It's about $30 less than I paid when I had dial-up with the added benefit of being able to be on the phone and Internet simultaneously. Oh, and I have about 5 jacks in my house.
~$140 for the VoIP kit is about right. You're telling me I'm getting VoIP call routing service for, ~10/month, but you're not saying what type of Internet connection I have or how much it costs per month. It would need to be good (these are ubergeeks we're talking about) but less than $55/month. You conspicuously neglect to mention how much your friend ended up paying BellSouth, but it doesn't really matter because it's hearsay anyway.
  

       "Who said it's for everybody?"
Not me. I said just the opposite.
  

       " A small service provider with 2 employees besides the owner and 20,000 customers who are mostly self-sufficient..."
Hehehehehehehehehehehe.
phoenix, May 17 2003
  
      
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