Free, when used in combination with a service, often raises red flags, and that is why I was highly skeptical when Chris Lyman, chief executive and founder of Los Angeles, Calif.-based Fonality called to talk about his “free” VoIP phone service for small and medium sized businesses.
Well it is kind of free!
Lyman’s start-up is going to start offering the basic edition of its PBX software, trixbox Pro for free, and will allow free calling between folks who are on trixnet, a network that connects all trixbox users. “It is free IP calling service that uses your regular phone number,” says Lyman. Here is how it works:
At the time of installing trixbox Pro, the small business owners will be asked to enter their PSTN number. This number is used as an ID, and whenever someone places an outbound call, the system looks up if the number being dialed is on trixnet. If the system finds it in the database, then the call goes over trixnet instead of going over the incumbent phone company’s network. In case the system can’t find a match, the call is sent over the PSTN network. (See video of how it works.)
The company is pushing this new service with a tongue in cheek tagline, “use your phone company, just stop paying them.” Lyman claims that the look up takes less than ten milliseconds, and it would be his way to compete with large PBX vendors such as Avaya, Nortel (NT) and Cisco Systems (CSCO). The company plans to extend the trixnet to its trixbox CE (Community Edition) platform, and in early 2008, Fonality will also extend free trixNet calling to include anybody using GoogleTalk.
For trixnet to have a major and meaningful impact, Fonality is going to need a lot of business owners (and network integrators) downloading and installing the trixbox software.
This also brings up the issue of disparate VoIP networks, that don’t work with each other, even though they are based on open standards such as SIP., and spend all their energies trying to get people on-net.
It is an issue we have discussed in the past. Nothing seems to have changed. There has been talk about ENUM, but it has failed to live up to its promise. Erik Lagerway wrote about this:
… the VoIP industry is missing the most important virtue of this technology, the ability to interoperate with many devices, which ultimately means fair choice to the consumer….Maybe an open communications federation needs to be constructed. An organization that is collectively owned and operated by all communications service providers involved.
12 thoughts on “Fonality Launches trixnet, Free VoIP Service”
These disparate databases of usernames and phone numbers need a standard access protocol such as XML/SOAP. In other words, simply make these system databases web services. Everyone can keep their own system of users and share them at the sametime.
Hear! Hear! There is no need for a central entity; don’t have to wait for Fonality to reach critical mass. Indeed there can be multiple databases and a PBX will consult a bunch of them before determining the end-point address. This way we achieve interoperability between multiple PBX vendors.
By the way Om, does “the call [really] go[es] over trixnet if the system finds it in the database? Does Fonality run a transport network connecting all the PBXs? I would have thought that they are running a kind of “directory” service and with the net services concept anybody can run this service.
It is their directory service and the way i understood is that some of the traffic might be flowing over their managed IP network. I can check with Chris and get back to you.
This has already been available for years – it just uses DUNDi
I don’t think it uses DUNDI. trixnet seems to be a private peering system, sort of like ENUM. DUNDI is a peer-to-peer system. trixnet and seem more secure and allow the various nodes to know nothing about each other and not even be connected.
It also requires no configuration to setup as it seems to be automatically working when you use trixbox.
I wonder what their dealers think of the hosted model? Why would anyone pay for trixbox certification when you can get asterisk certification for around the same amount?
What is so great about trixnet ? ENUM has been available for years and is very easy to setup. Trixbox did run FreepBX at one time which had a one click ENUM enabled. Even one of their employees created an easy how to guide.
Its easy enough even for those not running asterisk and running on an open provider like viatalk.com where you can use your sip address directly.
Aswath and others,
this is from Chris Lyman:
I assume this is handled via IAX. NO?
I would assume hey act like a SIP nameserver and/or router. If you look at Chris’s background you may find some clues to where they are going. It’s not about the PBX or Asterisk, it about Fonality becoming a service provider and they want account control at the end user level. Not a bad move on their part, it allows them to scale up quickly and avoid the headaches of scaling up manufacturing.
I’ve looked at Fonality and TrixBox – both built on top of Digium’s Asterisk. Pretty impressive stuff, I think…though I haven’t had a chance to use it. Still, Skype is in the best position to capitalize on the small business market though it will fast lose that position if it doesn’t take advantage of it.