In the wee-early days of the Internet telephony industry -- and during the first
few issues of this publication -- we sought to define (and to set boundaries on)
the embryonic industry that was unfolding around us. So we asked ourselves,
every time we were introduced to a new product or service, "Where's the
voice?" It was our first, early Mantra.
This mantra worked for a while, as it kept us tightly focused on the first
generation of VoIP enabling technology and early gateway, gatekeeper, and
software products. Pretty soon, however, the industry started to flex its
newfound muscles and extend solutions into all nooks and crannies of the
communications space. Suddenly "voice" alone didn't cut it -- new fax
and video over IP, collaborative computing, and myriad enhanced services,
started to emerge. So the mantra became, "Where's the IP?"
This focus on IP, packet-based communications seemed to cover all the bases.
It allowed us to holistically cover a broad base of innovative new products and
services -- and effectively encapsulate the industry in these pages. While the
mantra "Where's the IP?" still holds water, lately I've come to the
conclusion that the inward focus it implies -- that we will cover all things
"all IP" -- allows for some leakage in terms of giving due credit to
some of the newest products and services that build upon the Internet and the
Web to provide new functionality and features to traditional PSTN phone
services. I'm talking about stuff like voice portals, Web-based enhanced
services activation, unified messaging, Internet call waiting, and the like.
Some of the most exciting activity is occurring in the CASP, or communications
application service provider, space. (See sidebar for more on
CASPs and a special announcement). Take for example a new company called acallto,
which touts its innovative and (as far as I know) unique service offering as
"Internet Controlled Telephony," or ICT for short.
Launched this past July, acallto fuses the power of the Web to the
reliability of existing telephone networks creating a unique self-service
communications platform that allows users to personalize and control the way
they communicate. acallto offers users distinct universal resource locators
(URLs) instead of phone numbers, allowing customers to initiate old-fashioned
phone calls from the Web while keeping their personal telephone numbers private.
For calls that are taking place immediately, the caller sends a secure URL to
the callee, then enters his or her phone number into the acallto site, waits a
few seconds for their land line or mobile phone to ring and then picks up the
call. Neither party has the other's number. This is great for a number of uses
(i.e., a publisher working from the road who doesn't want to give out his cell
phone number to contacts).
The acallto service uses the Web as the medium for initiating, controlling,
and organizing communications between individuals -- regardless of whether they
are at home, at work, or in the field. Users subscribe to acallto's Web site as
individuals, through their employer's corporate subscriptions, or via affiliated
Web sites that are offering these communications services to their customers.
Other typical uses for acallto might include a small business or personal
interest group that wants to queue calls to a call center without expensive
hardware; clients of a dating service that want to invite prospective dates to
call them on the phone, while keeping their number private; individuals that
wish to manage how their friends, family, business associates, and others
contact them; or to allow casual chat room or auction site acquaintances to call
on the phone, retaining the ability to disable repeat calls.
Recently, acallto announced a free giveaway program to spur people to give
their service a try. The company is giving away free U.S. calls to subscribers
and waiving the monthly subscription fee for first time users. Under terms of
this promotion, first-time subscribers will enjoy the acallto service free for
the first month, and new and existing subscribers will have free, unlimited
calls in the U.S. International calls are billed separately at reasonable rates.
During subsequent months, subscribers will be charged a $5.95 monthly
subscription fee to be a member of acallto.
Marc Robins is Vice President of Publications, Associate Group Publisher,
and Group Editorial Director. His column, Mind Share, appears monthly in the
pages of INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine. Marc looks forward to your feedback.
To The November 2000 Table Of Contents ]
TMC Launches Communications ASP Magazine
Communications ASPs, or CASPs, are a new breed of service provider focused on
providing, in an outsourced capacity, a variety of communications services to
other service providers as well as corporate enterprise end users. The types of
offerings run the gamut from the wholesale outsourcing of PBX and switching
functions to a broad array of messaging and collaboration-oriented services.
Other types of service offerings involve unique ways to access Internet-based
information by phone, the outsourcing of CRM-related applications, and
innovative "Internet Controlled Telephony" services that leverage the
power of the Web with traditional PSTN connectivity.
Communications ASP magazine is a new bimonthly publication that will serve
the needs of communications ASPs, service providers, and resellers building a
business delivering these new communications solutions. The first issue is
slated for January/February 2001. To subscribe, visit our Web
To The November 2000 Table Of Contents ]