VoicePulse Opens Service to Softphones

On the heels of last week's announcement by Vonage that it would soon be releasing a proprietary software client for use with its service, VoicePulse will be releasing it's own softphone plan this week, allowing its subscribers to use any telephone software, including XPro, SJPhone and the open-source Asterisk PBX. Unlike Vonage, VoicePulse plans to share previously secret user settings with its customers.

The feature wars between U.S.-based IP-to-phone VoIP providers is heating up again.

Last week, Vonage announced that it would soon release a proprietary "softphone" that will allow its subscribers to make and receive calls without the use of a telephone adaptor.

Not to be outdone, VoicePulse will be releasing its own softphone offering that allows its subscribers to use any software program, including the popular open-source Asterisk PBX, to make and receive calls.

According to VoicePulse CEO Ravi Sakaria, beginning Tuesday, Sep. 30th, VoicePulse subscribers on any of the company's plans can sign up for "softphone" service for $4.99 a month, which includes an additional phone number.

Sakaria says those signing up to the plan — called VoicePulse Open Access — will receive the actual user settings — user login and password — in order to use the service with any of the currently available software phones, including XPro and SJPhone.

Vonage does not plan on sharing settings information with its users. Instead, the company's proprietary phone will be provisioned on a single computer and network MAC address.

Some VoIP providers, specially those offering unlimited calling plans, have in the past kept user-setting information secret as proprietary information because releasing it would allow a user to share his or her account with others.

Sakaria says that only the settings information on the softphone line will be provided to the user. In order to reduce the risk of line-sharing, Sakaria says, the softphone will not have an unlimited calling plan.

"There will be a certain number of monthly outgoing minutes allowed for $4.99, and any additional calls will be charged at $0.039 a minute," Sakaria said, adding that the number of guaranteed monthly minutes has yet to be determined, though it will be "in the 100-minute range.".

Sakaria said that VoicePulse's web pages will include step-by-step instructions to configure the service with a number of the more popular softphone clients.

"In the long run, this has to be the way the industry goes," said Sakaria. "With the traditional phone companies, the endpoint technology didn't advance until customers had the ability to choose and provide their own devices."

Sakaria said the service "offers a degree of mobility that many of our customers, particularly business travellers, are looking for."

He added that opening up service to software clients will lead to even more innovation.

"We'll probably see some creative uses that we haven't even thought of," said Sakaria.