New wireless VoIP service launched

Internet telephony provider Velofone has launched a service offering cheap roaming calls over a VoIP client

Velofone, a UK-based internet telephony provider, launched a wireless VoIP (wVoIP) service called VeloMobile at The Wireless Event in London on Thursday.

The service is based on Cicero Networks' softphone client, CiceroPhone. Velofone offers a pre-installed VeloMobile handset, the Windows Mobile-powered HTC S620, into which the user inserts their existing SIM card. When in range of a designated Wi-Fi hotspot, the phone will then automatically switch over to a cheap IP-based service rather than the network of the user's operator.

"We believe the most critical element in wVoIP is the end-user experience, and the S620 ticks all of those boxes," said Mark Gordon, Velofone's managing director, on Thursday. "Many dual-mode devices today require the subscriber to select the network to use; we have created a solution so that the handset automatically does that for them."

Any Windows Mobile phone can be used, although Nokia handset compatibility is also being tested. As the client has its own SIP stack, it cannot be blocked by operators in the way that Truphone recently experienced with Vodafone handsets.

Brian King, Velofone's IT manager, told at The Wireless Event that the company had a deal with Boingo, a US-based wireless hotspot provider which has a significant global presence in coffee shops and other public spaces. Pointing out that the service was chiefly geared towards business users, King said it included data usage — which is not covered by recent caps on roaming charges — and was priced at £29.99 per month, although the company would consider offering discounts for large customer bases. Call charges are in the region of 5p/min in Europe and 10p/min in the US, China and Russia.

Boingo also announced a deal on Thursday with FON, the Spain-based Wi-Fi-sharing network. The deal will expand both services' range of wireless hotspots significantly, as FON has 150,000 hotspots around the world, and Boingo has around 60,000.