NetZero VoIP Play

Tom Keating : VoIP & Gadgets Blog
Randy Savicky
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NetZero VoIP Play

NetZero next to enter the VoIP race? NetZero is strictly dial-up, so it will be a dial-up VoIP play. Davis Freeberg shared an interesting post he blogged regarding a United Online conference call he had. (United Online owns NetZero). David starts with this intriguing teaser, "Usually, United's conference call is pretty dry and lacks the juicy information that Netflix, Tivo and other media companies give out, but yesterday's call was different". He then proceeded to talk about two NetZero annoucements.

First, David explains that NetZero announced they are introducing within a few months, a dial-up product called 3G (3rd Generation) that is supposedly much faster then AOL’s dial up and has an "instant" internet experience similar to broadband. According to David's blog post, "Customers simply click on the Net Zero internet access button and they can immediately check their email and access the net, creating a broadband like experience."

The speed increase is interesting and no doubt leverages some new caching techniques, but how this "instant on" technology will work is baffling to me since dial-up modems take awhile to dial and negotiate/handshake with the ISPs modem before you can then surf the Internet. It can't be a hardware solution, since who is going to rip out millions of modem ports at the ISP level and further, customers aren't going to change the modem hardware they have already invested in. Laptops and PCs often come with an embedded modem, so I am stumped as to how NetZero plans to leverage existing technology. I know many modems are "soft modems" (software that can be updated to support new modem specs), so perhaps NetZero invented some sort of "universal" soft modem code that will speed up the modem negotiation process? But even that isn't "instant on" Internet access like broadband. Dialing the DTMF digits still takes a bit of time. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

The second announcement is regarding NetZero VoIP. Technically, it isn't an announcment at all since NetZero hasn't announced anything other than announcing their intentions to enter the VoIP space. According to David's blog post, Mark Goldston, United’'s CEO said, "that it would be something that was majorly different then any other VOIP product -- something that would really set them apart and not just on price". David goes on to say that Goldston was optimistic that this would really shock the market when they introduce it.

Inriguing stuff! Check out David's article on NetZero VoIP and some of his thoughts.

Update - 5/17/05:
Just one more thought I had. I wonder if perhaps NetZero will offer VoIP to broadband users and then try and "undercut" Vonage, Packet8, CallVantage, etc.? NetZero built its reputation as having the "cheapest" dial-up data Internet service, so why not expound on that and offer the "cheapest" voice over IP service? Heck, I remember the day when NetZero was "free" (ad supported), so imagine if they subsidize their future VoIP offering and make it "free" as well? Of course, I also remember when NetZero changed from "zero" cost to a not-so-zero cost. Annoyed a lot of people - me included since I had a few NetZero accounts setup on some TMC laptops. Still, someone of NetZero's size and financial backing has the fortitude to offer "free" VoIP calling, which really could cause major waves in the VoIP industry.



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