Today, sipgate is launching a new free VoIP broadband phone service called sipgate one
. sipgate one is similar to Vonage, Packet8, and other broadband VoIP providers, but with some additional cool features and a fairly unique pricing plan. For instance, you get a free telephone number, no set-up costs and no monthly charges or minimums.
I spoke with sipgate CEO Thilo Salmon to find out more about sipgate one. First, unlike many VoIP broadband providers, sipgate one isn't tied to any specific SIP hardware (locked ATAs, SIP phones, softphones, etc.), so you can use it with your favorite SIP device or use a SIP-based ATA and connect your favorite analog cordless phone. Want to use a softphone but don't want to mess with SIP credentials? No problem - sipgate one has a free softphone app that will autoprovision for you. Those that want to use their favorite SIP device will be pleased to see a helpful drop-down list of many popular SIP devices with corresponding screenshots on how to configure the device to work with sipgate one.What does it cost?
When using a VoIP phone, outbound calls
to other sipgate users are completely free, just like Skype. However, inbound calls
on the free U.S. phone number
are also free
, unlike Skype which I know charges a monthly or yearly SkypeIn subscription. I was a bit surprised sipgate was offering the first phone number for free, so I contacted Thilo a second time to confirm. He responded, "The first U.S. number is indeed completely free. So we are inviting everyone to sign up for a free number and as long as one only uses sipgate to receive calls on a SIP phone the service is free in its entirety. We do not even ask for a credit card. That does set us apart from Skype. While they do not charge per incoming minute, Skype charges a yearly (monthly?) fee as you have pointed out."
When dialing other phone numbers in the U.S. and Canada are just 1.9¢ per minute and calls to toll-free numbers are free
. Other rates apply when calling other countries. Thus, sipgate only charges for outgoing calls and E911 ($1.90 monthly), if activated. No other charges or fees are leveraged on a sipgate one subscriber. Thus, to get started you can initially charge your account with a minimum of $10
with automatic crediting if the balance falls below a user-specified amount ($5, $10, $20, $50). Thilo told me that they aim to keep their international rates lower than Skype's to make them a very compelling option to potential customers. I then asked Thilo who was comparable feature-wise and he responded, "Google Voice. They don't allow you to connect a SIP phone, but the features are very similar."
The true power behind sipgate is its Web-based interface which gives you full access to your voicemail messages, recordings, and faxes. I tested a preview version of sipgate one and was pretty impressed with the features and ease of use. My experiences in my mini-review of sipgate follow below...
Thilo told me that they designed the Web-based interface with Google's Gmail in mind. For instance, you can search, star/unstar a recording, as well as label recordings, which are very similar to Gmail. Additionally, the interface allows users to call someone back with a single click, as well as divert calls to other landline or mobile phones. Starting a call is as simple as clicking the New Call button and then choosing which phone device you wish to use. Below you'll see I have 3 options for a new call - an arbitary connection (specify any phone number ad hoc), phone of Tom Keating, and Mobile or Landline of Tom Keating.
As seen by the screenshot above, you can bridge a call to any of your phone devices by initiating a call via the web. This is very similar to Jajah, who made the web-based calling method famous. This interface can be used on your web-enabled smartphone - Windows Mobile, Apple iPhone, etc. if the device doesn't have an embedded SIP stack or 3rd party SIP softphone installed for making outbound calls.
Mobility features are just as powerful. You can have your home, office and mobile phone ring in parallel. If you are using a mobile phone with a SIP stack, (many Nokia series have SIP) you can be in the car, receive a VoIP call, and then simply press *6 on your mobile phone to record the call. When you next gain access to a web browser you can retrieve the call recording. This is perfect for sales people on the go and who need to enter important call details into a CRM system.
Other features included the ability to customize your outgoing message by uploading an mp3 file, divert calls to another number, create an ad-hoc conference with the touch of a button, and the ability to view missed calls with CallerID info. I asked Thilo what they use on the back-end and he told me they use a fork of SIP Express Router
, which enables Class 5 type features. Additionally, Thilo stated there is no maximum storage limit for voicemail and faxes.
Outbound faxing is a breeze. You can click some fields on the web interface and add the fax number, from/to info, add a signature, and of course body text. You can also attach a PDF and it will render it. I asked Thilo about Word support and he said that was in the works.
Inbound faxing does require a separate phone number, but there is no fee to receive faxes. There is a nominal $2.90 one-time fee per additional phone number. I asked Thilo about CNG autodetection of fax tones using just a single universal phone number, but he said "We have found that most people don't really like that." Personally, I'd rather just have one phone number on my business card, but it's a minor complaint.
"There is simply no barrier to people disconnecting their old phone lines anymore. Phone and cable companies have long been pushing voice plans in the region of $25 to $40 per month--which end up being as much as $60 or more with extra charges--and that's just ridiculous," said Thilo Salmon, CEO of sipgate. "Even with calls to other landlines and mobile phones, most users will spend less than $5 a month using sipgate one
. And for those people only receiving incoming calls on their VoIP phone, the service is completely free."
sipgate is also readying a multi-user edition of the service aimed at small businesses, which will not only replace landlines, but also customer premise phone systems. sipgate is certainly setting a new low-price benchmark with bundled powerful features that should cause VoIP fans to seriously consider them. Free phone number, free toll-free calling, free inbound calling, free inbound faxes, what's not to love?