Telecom innovator sipgate, which has been giving Skype a run for its money as a free phone service in Europe for years, has launched a new, free phone service in the US with the ability to replace many of the nation’s 100 million landlines.
The new service, called sipgate one, operates over an Internet connection and offers a fully-featured phone service, complete with a free telephone number, no set-up costs and no monthly charges or minimums.
Calls to other sipgate users worldwide are free, as are incoming calls to a user’s sipgate number from any softphone, mobile phone, VoIP phone or landline in the world — a distinct advantage over many broadband and mobile phone services. Outbound calls to landlines and mobile phones enjoy inexpensive rates, starting at 1.9¢ per minute to phones in the US and Canada.
sipgate’s main UI is a web-based, email-like dashboard from which users can place calls with a single click, divert calls to other landline or mobile phones, and browse their inbox and outbox for a complete history of voicemail messages, calls, recordings and faxes.
The new US service, which comes with 200 free minutes of calling in the first month after sign-up, boasts all of the features users have come to rely on in standard landline service, such as Caller ID, Call Forwarding, Call Waiting, Transfer and Three-Way Calling. But sipgate’s true value-add lies in advanced features made possible with IP telephony, such as:
- free fax and voicemail services
- one button call recording
- generic Caller ID
- one button call bridging
- setting calls to ring multiple phones
“There is simply no barrier to people disconnecting their old phone lines anymore,” said Thilo Salmon, CEO of the San Francisco-based US provider in a comment on the launch of the new service this week.
“We have been offering a first generation of our service in a number of European countries for more than 5 years now and had a chance to learn from our experiences,” he added, saying, “we believe we can deliver satisfactory quality to virtually all customers who are interested in sipgate.”
In reality users won’t be able to avoid spending some money with sipgate — receiving faxes requires a 2nd phone number at $2.50 per month, for example, and E911 services are another $1.90 per month — but as Salmon pointed out, “Even with calls to other landlines and mobile phones, most users will spend less than $5 a month using sipgate one.”
The company is working on a multi-user service targeted to small and medium-sized businesses and intends to introduce a traffic managing device for customer deployment “in due term” to help customers deal with the potential problem of prioritizing voice over data traffic on their local broadband links.
sipgate is now arguably the most popular “network agnostic” phone service in a number of European countries; it will be interesting to see if the company can achieve such status – and how long it might take – in the US market.