Huge news out of Astricon 2008 — Skype and Digium will begin to collaborate. I will have more details soon but for now this likely means easy integration between phone systems based on Asterisk and the Skype network. I have talked about Skype trunking before — this news will likely mean that there will be native Skype trunking in all Asterisk boxes.
This could potentially give these open source platforms a huge advantage over companies like Cisco, Avaya, Nortel, Etc where an external Skype trunking gateway will be needed to communicate with the Skype community.
This can be huge news for telecom markets as the price to make calls will drop substantially from Skype devices and software to Asterisk-based open-source PBXs.
One other point — the Skype gateway market may now become based on Asterisk appliances/software. This means we could see more interoperability between the Skype network and SIP and other standards.
My theories were accurate. You will now be able to treat Skype calls like any other protocol on Asterisk systems. What this means is you can forward them, transfer them and make and receive Skype calls on Asterisk phone systems.
With Skype For Asterisk, customers will be able to get access to many of the Skype features coupled with the capabilities of Asterisk. For example, the beta version of Skype For Asterisk will allow customers to make, receive and transfer Skype calls from within Asterisk systems using their existing hardware; enable inbound calling solutions like free click-to-call from company websites or virtual offices; and manage Skype calls using Asterisk applications such as call routing, conferencing, phone menus and voicemail.
What this means to Skype is the company has finally found a way to get into the enterprise in an easy way — partnering with Digium/Asterisk which has great traction with developers, resellers, carriers, SMBs and more. Expect more enterprise use of Skype and as this happens, Skype should see more revenue from business users.
For Digium, this partnership allows the company to leapfrog the larger telecom players and gives the company major momentum and also makes them a magnet for more leading-edge deals. I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft approaches the company for a UC partnership soon if they aren’t talking already.
For the communications community this collaboration means more flexibility and lower cost calling for consumers and businesses worldwide. Finally, Skype users should be able to call companies over native Skype and for free. This news could become a major game changer if companies integrate Skype click-to-call functionality on their websites.
In a call with Digium CEO Danny Windham and Stefan Öberg, vice president and general manager for Skype Telecom and Skype for Business, Caller-ID will work with a Skype In number and if you choose you can set your mobile number as your Caller-ID number. This is subject to SMS verification over a few day period.
The companies envision a Skype client running on a desktop with a mirrored desk phone utilizing a Skype name. Although configuration options are flexible, this would allow both phones to ring together.
Any call type can be connected to the Skype client. This means you could get a call over the PSTN or a SIP trunking connection and this call will be answerable on your desk phone and Skype client.
Asterisk version 1.4 and 1.6 and beyond should be compatible with the Skype Connector for Asterisk but prior versions will likely not be. Derivatives of these products should work as well. Resellers should have a tremendous retrofit market to go after.
Businesses can assign Skype Names to Asterisk calling queues allowing a company to give customers a service Skype ID, a sales Skype ID, etc. This allows Skype to become a company’s global 800 number. Moreover, agents can log in via Skype and be connected from anywhere to a calling queue.
After a limited beta, Skype for Asterisk will be rolled out into a wider beta and finally a public product. The commercial product will support Skype presence but there is no release date for this product as of yet. In addition, it will eventually support video and every other Skype feature.
Skype chose to work with Digium instead of other PBX companies because both companies support affordable communications solutions. Skype’s Öberg feels the companies have a great deal in common.
Skype appliances allowing things like Skype trunking are not scalable according to Öberg and this partnership should allow Asterisk to be a good choice for companies looking for large scale Skype trunking/connectivity. This is because the native Linux Skype client which these boxes are based was not designed for scalability.
Carriers may be able to take advantage of this collaboration — and in fact some carriers have allowed their wireless customers to connect seamlessly with Skype. Still, Öberg reminds us the target of this collaboration is the small business.
Once the Skype for Asterisk module is installed, unlimited calls to Skype names can be made. To call a phone number via Skype you will be able to use Skype credits. There will be business packages allowing premium support which will include chat and voice.
LCR (least cost routing) will now include Skype — allowing a system to utilize Skype as a way to connect a phone call if the price is lowest.
Skype devices such as standalone Skype phones cannot transfer calls and thus cannot connect to Asterisk like a typical Skype client.
In addition, the Skype Connector does allow clients to be associated with a company and managed centrally.
You can assign Skype names to numbers allowing easy access to a phone directory of Skype names.
In short, this collaboration is unprecedented and brings the flexibility of the open-source Asterisk platform together with the size of the massive Skype user base. Now things like global 800 numbers are possible for free for companies and consumers.
Going forward, we may see Skype support as a must-have feature in the PBX/communications server wars. I am sure the industry is watching closely to see how much traction there is in the Skype integration market.