Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA) has been a common sight when it comes to VoIP services. The do-hickey that connects to your broadband connection on one end and an old fashioned phone handset on the other, has been the only constant in the fast changing voice over the internet business. I have often said that we will soon see the end of ATA whose functionality will be subsumed either into new fangled WiFi Phone handsets or in other devices such as the set-top boxes. Well, San Francisco-based TelEvolution, might have on its hands the next evolution of ATA, (I like to call super ATA) PhoneGnome.
The device, which is expected to sell for about $120-a-pop, is creation of David Beckemeyer, aka Mr. Blog. The former CTO and co-founder of Earthlink has created a device that marries the PSTN comfort with VoIP goodness. Let me explain. The box that is twice the size of a Dunhill packet, has two input ports – one that connections to your LAN (and broadband) while the other connects to the PSTN network. On the out side you have a port that connects to a traditional phone handset (including a wireless phone unit.) It is actually a clever idea.
Since most of us are forced to keep a PSTN line (either for DSL or for 911) purposes, the device lets us leverage a connection we are already paying for. But the masterstroke of the device is that it allows you to connect to SIP enabled networks. You can go a web-page and create a list of your SIP contacts, and using the web-page you can do one click calls to others who use SIP clients such as The Gizmo Project or FWD. David explained to me that this is an adjunct (VoIP) service to your PSTN.
Unlike ordinary broadband phone services, PhoneGnome is an appliance that one buys and owns, with no monthly fees, no subscription, and no activation. Even though there is no subscription or sign-up process required at all, PhoneGnome is fully plug and play. You go to PhoneGnome website, and there select a long distance provider or providers. At the same time you can enter the information for all your contacts that have SIP addresses. You can simply click and call these folks, regardless of what SIP service/client/device they use.
But the best part about the gizmo is that, when you try and outgoing call, it basically uses your selection of service provider to place that outgoing call. For someone else with a PhoneGnome to call you for free. They would not have to dial any different number or address. For instance, if my # is 415-555-1212, (and I have PhoneGnome), as a PhoneGnome user, you call 415.555.1212. In case I don’t have PhoneGnome, your call will get routed over the PSTN. On this website, my.phonegnome.com website, PhoneGnome can select a provider for national long-distance, international calls, or both, and select separate providers and plans for each.
David points out that Vonage made it easy to make calls using real phones and regular phone numbers. Skype allowed users to make really FREE calls, but using a computer instead of phones. After Skype, VoIP products could be divided into two kinds: Vonage and Vonage-like services and Skype or Skype-like services. PhoneGnome in many ways takes best of both, and combines it with real world (PSTN).