The concept of a mobile to VoIP bridge is nothing new. We wrote about a company doing exactly that back in May. The idea is that most VoIP plans have unlimited calling within the US (and sometimes Canada) and cheap international rates. So, if you could call into your VoIP phone from your mobile phone, and then redirect the call outbound, you could, in some circumstances, save money. Of course, it’s fairly limited circumstances. An increasing number of mobile phone plans include virtually (i.e., thousands and thousands of minutes) unlimited US calls already. So, this sort of thing really only makes sense for someone who makes a ton of phone calls from their mobile phone, and often makes international calls — where mobile rates are likely to be much higher. However, last month, a company named Xcelis, who is selling a similar VoIP bridge box made a lot of news for trying to offer the same thing as a service. That is, rather than hooking up a box to your home VoIP system, they hooked up the box to their own VoIP system and to a mobile phone. Since Cingular and T-Mobile offer unlimited mobile-to-mobile calling, the $10/month service lets you then redirect out your calls. Yes, if you read all of this and think it’s only useful for a small group of people and sounds somewhat complicated, you’re probably right. However, the mobile operators are a bit nervous that they might lose out on some international and airtime revenue and are suddenly trying to see what they can do to stop such a service. The answer is probably “not much,” for now. It’s not breaking any laws, though Verizon seems to think it constitutes a violation of their network (though, it’s unclear how). What’s more likely is that mobile operators will start putting terms in their contracts that explicitly forbid people from doing something like this — which is unlikely to stop the few people who this is actually useful for.
I think this form of convergence is unavoidable and yes, it will create challenges for mobile and fixed operators. VOIP is beocming more interesting by the day.