Liar, Liar, VoIP on Fire: At Industry’s Low-End, Highbrow Boasts Ring Hollow

NetTALK and MagicJack

NetTALK and MagicJack: Masters of hyperbole

In the fierce fight for cheap VoIP supremacy, hyperbole reigns supreme.

In one corner sits MagicJack, whose decidedly unpolished commercials have run rampant through late night television and who issues press releases describing itself as “a cloud communications leader that invented voice over IP (VoIP)”.

In the other corner sits newcomer NetTALK, a “cloud technology company” that claims its newly released NetTALK Duo WiFi is “the world’s first wireless VoIP telephone device.”

Are either of these claims correct? Did you really have to ask?

First, let’s look at MagicJack’s whopper.

The Florida-based company is now giving away its MagicJack Plus phone adaptor that can be used to make and receive unlimited US calls over the company’s VoIP network for $19.95 a year. The company says a typical internet connected home can save bundles of money by using its service, and that’s certainly true. Less true, however, is MagicJack’s claim to having “invented Voice over IP”.

The claim appears to be based on MagicJack’s 2010 purchase of Israel-based VocalTec, a high-flying telecom start-up back in the 90s who, after a series of mergers, buy-outs and near-bankruptcies, had fallen on harder times in recent years.

Back in 1994, VocalTec patented what it then called the first ever VoIP software product, an audio transceiver that allowed two computers in separate locations to handle an audio conversation. When VocalTec released its softphone (called “InternetPhone) in 1995, it was definitely a trailblazer, but the release did not mark the “invention of VoIP”. More than a decade before and long before the consumer internet was born, military operations in the US, Israel and probably elsewhere were utilizing TCP/IP networks to move packets of voice data between locations, or what we now call VoIP.

It is plausible, though debatable, that VocalTec was the first private business to commercially exploit VoIP. But it’s a reach to claim that the release of the softphone marked the beginning of VoIP. It’s much more of a reach, then, to suggest that MagicJack invented VoIP because it purchased a moribund company that came up with the softphone 15 years earlier.

And what of NetTALK’s, MagicJack’s main competitor in the low-end VoIP space, claim to having released the first “wireless VoIP telephone device”? Equally bogus and even less defensible.

The company recently added the $69.95 NetTALK Duo WiFi to its product lineup, a small device that can be placed within the reach of a WiFi router to make or place unlimited calls through NetTALK’s proprietary network. Calls within the US are free during the first year, and $29.95 per year after.

Like MagicJack’s, the offer is pretty good. But the company’s claim that its gizmo is “the world’s first wireless VoIP telephone device” is way off base.

It’s unclear what company can claim such a title, but many have been manufacturing WiFi VoIP devices, or add-ons that give a VoIP device WiFi connectivity, for several years.

In 2005, Linksys/Cisco released the first of its “WIP” WiFi IP phones (the WIP300, WIP310, WIP320 and WIP 330). Two years later, Cisco released its SPA525G, a five-line IP phone that could connect wirelessly, followed by the SPA525G2 in 2010, also with WiFi capabilities. Several other companies, large and small, have released WiFi VoIP devices over the years, including Snom, Pirelli, Unidata, and others.

Also, VoIP manufacturers Cisco, Snom, Grandstream and others have released USB add-ons that add WiFi to their wired devices.

So here’s some free advice to VoIP press release writers: Al Gore invented Google . . . use it.

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  • GumboJumbo

    Al Gore invented the Internet, not Google. But you already knew that, right?

  • mrpete

    Today, the day that the netTALK Duo WiFi has been released, my “normal” Duo that I just got a few days ago has become unable to make a call or get a call. Is netTALK having a serivce outage today? I would love to hear from other netTALK users whose sevice is (presumably) working.

  • mrpete

    It appears that there is some “issue with my account.” netTALK is work to fix the problem.

  • Michael Collins

    The sound you now hear is the joke flying over your head at MACH 2.
    -MC

  • mrpete

    netTALK fixed the problem after a day and a half. They were supposed to send me an email so I would know that my service was restored. They did not.

    Since then I’ve had other outages. All I have to do is unplug the power from the Duo and then [power up/reboot] it. The problem is that I cannot know when such an outage has happened. Have I missed incoming calls because of this? Unknown.

    I’m not happy with this service. This device simply cannot be trusted.

  • Jerry weinberger

    Were you to do your research, you would find that the invention of switched VoIP was made by Jerry Weinberger the President of Rates Technology Inc (RTI). RTI has covered more than 370 telecommunications companies under its patents. The patents preceed those others you have mentioned.

    Jerry Weinberger
    Rates Technology Inc.
    50 Route 111, Suite 210
    Smithtown, NY 11787
    (631)- 360-0157

  • Brittwit

    Magic Jack Plus S.U.C.K.S. it freezes up every one to 3-days and has to manually be rebooted by physically removing from the router/ethernet port. VERY undependable and it has the highest phone number porting costs in the world. $20+$10 +$10 a year inperpatuity. (And they don’t explain that on there FAQ site when you do a string search)

  • Meme

    NetTalk is crap. Problems with weird loud noises, called into NetTalk and waited 2 hours in line of OTHER callers. I was next in line and then the unthinkable happened…..got disconnected! So, I tried again a week later……….you guessed it!! got disconnected. They also froze my ability to call out and said read the fine print (I guess you really only get 100 minutes per day- 3,000 per month) if you go over you won’t be able to use your phone or even contact them, except through email and then wait 2 days for a response.

  • Bubblehead Beach Blond

    Al Gore invented Google? No, wait! He invented the Ozone Layer, right?

  • JSpyder

    I worked for you once. You were using lots of Tandy TRS-80 computers and had water all over the floor from a leaking water pipe somewhere. You also left an oily stain on the wall from the back of your head on the wall in your office.

    Now all you do is sue people and have not really made anything.