Something at VON Besides AOL

There are other interesting things happening in the VoIP universe besides AOL’s new developer program. Here are a few on display at this week’s VON show.

While Skype got its start with people looking for cheaper overseas calls, there are still plenty of people who just aren’t going to leap the paradigm hurdle of making phone calls with a computer. Recognizing this, several vendors have debuted Skype-enabled handsets in the past year. But Richmond, VA-based Ascalade is the first to write the computer out of the equation altogether.

Ascalade’s Skype-certified VoIP phone — which was announced in June – lets users access Skype contact lists (including presence), make Skype calls, change their online presence, and get Skype voicemail – all without any computer connection. The phone also connects to ordinary PSTN lines, according Ascalade’s website, so theoretically your granny can use her 1950s rotary phone to make Skype calls.

Another company jumping on the Skype bandwagon is Boston-based VoxLib. On Monday, the company announced Vox for Skype — a “voice over instant messaging” application – which the company says will enable users to access Skype through any fixed or mobile device. The benefits, according to VoxLib, are shrinking mobile phone bills and more flexibility.

As WiFi VoIP grows, San Jose, CA-based startup Hellosoft wants to minimize the number of gadgets you carry around. At VON, Hellosoft will be showing about half a dozen phones using its dual-mode VoIP-cellular technology – including one currently being deployed by French Telecom company Neuf Telecom that allows subscribers to make GSM and WiFi calls.

A more interesting development in the works at Hellosoft is “seamless hand-off” software — the ability to move a call from a WiFi network to the cellular network without breaking the call. The technology is now going into field test with four large service providers, according to Ron Victor, Hellosoft General Manager, Marketing and Business Development. “Every single cell operator is looking at dual mode phones,” he says. “They’re looking at WiFi covering indoors and cellular outdoors.”

Two years ago, instant messaging applications vendors wouldn’t have been at the VON show. Attesting to the accelerating convergence of communications — and the growing importance of SIP — New York City-based enterprise instant messaging provider Antepo will be showing its new SIP-compatible Rivoli instant messaging and presence server. Antepo is also adding support for a slew of other applications via SIP as well.

In the race to drive down the cost of the “next best thing to being there,” New York City-based deltathree just raised – or is it lowered? – the bar with its new iConnectHere World Plan starting at $6.99 a month. The program is targeting international callers with highly competitive rates for international calls.