Sunday, May 18, 2008

Free Long Distance Calls from your Phone

While I’ve got you folks on the voice bandwagon I just have to rave about yet another up-and-comer in the VoIP space: iSkoot.

I had a most pleasant conversation with Mark Jacobstein, CEO of iSkoot, a little while ago (you may recall Mark in relationship to Digital Chocolate. Yes?).

iSkoot’s value prop for the moment is Skype for the mobile phone. Through a downloadable client you can access all of your Skype contacts on your phone, and call or IM with other Skype users whether they’re on a PC or another mobile Skype phone. This is particularly enticing when it comes to making long distance calls.

iSkoot is not really worried about operator hostility out of concern for cannibalization of their Long Distance business. According to Mark the value prop for the operators is that, unlike some of its popular competitors such as JAJAH, iSkoot uses the circuit-switched data network. From the operator’s perspective it also eliminates long distance termination fees due to other operators. At the same time it is a very good way to drive data minutes of use; the argument being that people would rather wait to get home and make a free call on their PC using Skype than pay for a call right when they want to make one.

But the real problem is not with how sensible the arguments are, but with how rational the operators will be about this. For example, I’m currently lobbying operators to open their WAP environment to off-portal content and services. The reality, and operators know this well, is that the same off-portal content and services are already available through SMS. Yet they still refuse to open WAP out of fear of cannibalization. Hmm...

Execution: Despite of any potential roadblocks, iSkoot is already doing extremely well. It has successfully launched its client on a number of devices. Most include Blackberries and other smartphones; some feature phones, such as the extremely popular RAZR, are also supported.

Also iSkoot is has already received tons of good press and awards. Plus one thing I am certain of is that iSkoot has many other things cooking. An open platform to allow anyone to integrate iSkoot into various use of mobile VoIP would definitely get our attention :-).


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