I met with Todd Carothers, VP of Product Management at TMC's ITEXPO in Los Angeles to hear about Counterpath's latest patents and new product offerings. Todd gave me one of the coolest demos of mobile VoIP I've ever seen! I captured the demo in one of two videos that I've included in this blog post. Definitely a must watch! In fact, this product isn't even announced yet and he gave me an exclusive first look.
Todd told me that Counterpath will be adding SMS to their softphone client sometime next year. They'll leverage SIP SIMPLE to SMS but will also support XMPP. I believe Todd said they'll be adding chat as well. The SMS capabilities (using the CounterPath gateway) have interesting applications for businesses. CounterPath actually leverages DIDs that are mapped to your personal phone. The applications for this are several-fold. Todd explained realtors and sales people can "hide" their personal phone number when sending text messages, which benefits the employee. Further, businesses don't lose customers when employees leave. For example, a realtor moves to a competing real estate agency, then a pre-existing customer calls or sends a text message to their real estate agent saying he wants to sell his house again. If it's the realtor's personal phone number, the realtor agency has just lost their customer and revenue. By using the agency's DID numbers mapped to the personal mobile number, this protects the business.
In my first video with Todd, he gives an overview of the new announcements made by CounterPath. He mentions the messaging capability that enables SMS for VoIP providers to allow their users to send SMS from their desktop and their mobile phones with no special client needed. It helps them compete with the traditional mobile operators. He also discusses their fixed mobile convergence capabilities and touches upon the patents they were recently awarded. I inquired more about the patents and he said they are not looking to be patent trolls, but rather protecting their intellectual property and their customers that use their technology.
Check out the video for Todd's insights into what CounterPath is up to:
Todd also discussed their Bridgeport Networks acquisition and how that lead to some of their patents and FMC know-how. He mentioned that they are working on switching a 3G voice call automatically to WiFi. An example he gave is you're driving home, but as you enter your house, you lose cellular signal, which is common, especially in older homes. But with their solution, their software automatically senses the WiFi signal in your house and automatically switches the call over before the call is dropped. It can do the reverse as well. Though he said WiFi signal drops much more dramatically than cellular signal, so it was very tricky to sense when WiFi is getting weak and then switch the call to cellular.
The most interesting new product is a solution that helps get ITSPs services onto mobile devices for voice, but also enables you to move a call between their network and the cellular network -- and back and forth. This new product is called the Network Convergence Gateway (NCG) which would sit at the "core" to enable this FMC to work. Although NCG is available, the handover feature has yet to be released on the client side. The benefit of sitting at the core and not the customer edge is you don't have to deploy expensive femtocells or other devices for fixed mobile convergence.
The call goes from packet-switched over 3G (VoIP over 3G using SIP) in the iPhone Bria VoIP app to a Motorola Droid. Obviously, the call could have used WiFi instead of 3G data and would use WiFi in most cases. Then Todd Carothers switched the call from VoIP over 3G to the iPhone's regular circuit-switched AT&T cellular network. In the Bria app, he simply pressed 'More' and then 'Handoff to cell' and the call rang his iPhone. He accepted the call and the two phones were now on a traditional cellular-to-cellular call.
But then it gets even more interesting.
Using the iPhone's multi-tasking capabilities he then switched back to Bria. Bria popped up with a message "Handoff to VoIP? Active iPhone call has been detected. Do you want to handoff the call to Bria?". Wow! The Bria app detected the iPhone's native phone app was in a call and granted the ability to "steal" the call from the cellular side and bring it over to the VoIP side (whether over 3G data or WiFi). Total call continuity from the SIP-based PBX to the cellular network without dropping the call. Sweet!
But words don't do this explanation justice. Check out the demo of this in action in all its glory!
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