PhoneGnome Enables BYOVP

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PhoneGnome Enables BYOVP

David Beckemeyer, former CTO and co-founder of Earthlink (who runs Mr. Blog) has an interesting new SIP-based ATA device that marries the traditional PSTN with VoIP. Essentially you plug in both your PSTN connection and your Ethernet connection to the the ATA device. What's really cool about this device is that you can BYOVP (Bring Your Own VoIP Provider) that supports the SIP protocol - no monthly fees, no subscription costs, and no activation fee. Thus, you pay $120 for the PhoneGnome and that's it. Of course, you still need to sign-up with a SIP-based VoIP provider.

The other advantage of this device is that you can simply dial a phone number and if the person you are dialing also has a PhoneGnome, for instance 212-555-1212, it will route the call over IP and the call will be free. I assume when you register the device, you enter in your home phone number, and then this information is then pushed out to other PhoneGnome users ATA devices and stored locally. However, more likely David Beckemeyer has setup a SIP registrar that is queried by the PhoneGnomes when you make a phone call. Actually, scratch that. I just figured out that David has setup a website called (obviously hosted) which is where you enter your SIP-based contacts. Guess that answers that question.

I should point out that since your PSTN connection also terminates on the PhoneGnome device, any incoming PSTN call will ring your telephone as well. So whether it's an incoming PSTN call or an incoming VoIP call, you only need a single phone to worry about. That reminds me, I wonder what the REN (Ringer Equivalence Number) of the PhoneGnome is? The higher the REN, the more phones you can connect to the ATA. A higher REN means the device can provide ring voltage to more devices connected to it. Hopefully, the PhoneGnome has a decent REN so you can simply connect the ATA to your home wall jack and power all of the PSTN wall jacks and phone devices in your house.

Unlike Skype, obviously an ATA does not require your PC in order to work. The PhoneGnome solution makes the most sense in broadband DSL environments, as opposed to cable broadband, since in DSL broadband homes they usually keep their phone line active (although "naked DSL" with no phone service is available in certain areas). I have cable broadband myself with no land line, (cellphone is backup) so I am not a good demographic for this product. Aswath, correctly points out that PhoneGnome is not unique in providing PSTN/VoIP integration. He points to SIPPhone's Call-In-One ATA. David responds to Aswath's comments in his new PhoneGnome blog you should check out.

The concept of buying an ATA not locked to a single VoIP provider is not a new one. Sipura (now Cisco) offered unlocked ATAs, as did several other manufacturers. What is "somewhat" unique about PhoneGnome is its integration with the PSTN, a Web-based SIP contact manager, as well as its BYOVP. Look for Cisco/Linksys to follow suit soon. Then again, Cisco/Linksys probably have their hands tied with partnership deals, contracts, etc. with the likes of Vonage to start offering BYOVP unlocked ATA devices.

(last I checked, Linksys did offer an unlocked ATA, but then pulled it from the market. I could have sworn they started offering an unlocked ATA again, but couldn't find anything conclusive on their website. Anyone know? Post a comment)

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