Tag Archives: VoIP

Skype of Babel

Skype introduces real time translation for 150 languages.

Delivering on its promise to deliver a translation service, the VoIP market leader has tied up with Voxeo and Language Line Services. Skype is also bringing social networking to crowds as it introduces a service enabling online conversations by groups of up to 100 people at one time.

Just take a minute to consider the implications of this: a free/cheap global internet based phone service which translates.

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This Week’s Voice of Portent: Skype

“They (the telecom giants) have enjoyed 130 years of good profitability”. But now, their star is “reaching the end of its life cycle. It’s going to die.” Niklas Zennstrom, co-founder of Skype.

So here are the facts:

  • Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) uses peer to peer networks to make free telephone calls between computers.
  • Skype has 68 million users worldwide.
  • It is currently adding 175,000 users a day.
  • Skype doesn’t advertise — it uses its users to recruit their friends.

Last September, eBay bought the company for $2.6bn with the promise of a further $1.5bn subject to performance. The auction site is already using the service to provide phone calls for high value/stress transactions such as cars and property. It has also introduced ‘click to call’ advertising via Skype on the site — direct response advertising that doesn’t require a website.

Speaking in today’s Independent, Zennstrom sounds eerily like Google and Gates in their heyday,

Skype is bigger than a product. We are going to make it into the world’s largest communications company… Probably in 20 years’ time we won’t even be talking about VoIP. VoIP will be the way telephone networks are.

Want more proof that Skype are set for world domination? They’ve just signed a wi-fi deal with Google which they hope will become the biggest in the world by the end of the year.

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Triple Play

It’s coming to a home near you.

A report by Booz Allen Hamilton has predicted that more than half of European homes will be plugged into ‘triple play’ services of TV, broadband internet and telephony from the same provider by the end of the decade.

The study also suggested that these digital homes will trigger more than €100bn (£60bn) in investment and generate more than 100,000 jobs, mainly among infrastructure providers such as cable and telecoms operators. A further €35bn is expected to be invested by content providers. However, the consultants warned that heavy-handed regulation, blocking competition, could cut the cumulative investments by 40% and wipe out 90% of job creation.

The report comes days after France Telecom confirmed that it had lost 600,000 fixed-line subscribers last year, mainly to ‘triple play’ competitors such as Neuf Cegetel and Alice in France, Europe’s third largest economy. Issuing a profits and sales warning, the group’s finance director said that Internet based telephony (VoIP) would account for 40% of fixed line traffic by the end of the year, compared with 15% in 2005 and 1-2% in 2004.

Full details of the report are available via Mediaguardian.

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Tesco Calling

UK supermarket chain introduces ‘user-friendly’ VoIP service.

8.1 million UK households have broadband internet access, giving them the potential to make voice calls via the Internet . All they need is a provider, and a demystifier. Companies like the recent eBay acquisition Skype are already marketing VoIP, but a huge brand like Tesco could see internet-based telephony shed its geeky image altogether. Tesco has teamed up with Australia-based Internet Telcoms company (intelco anyone?) FreshTel to provide the service, which will (like Skype and GossipTel) give customers an area-coded telephone number so it ‘feels’ like a conventional telephone service.

Tesco is the UK’s top supermarket by market share and one in every £8 spent on the UK high street goes into its coffers. By leveraging both its brand and reach, Tesco could potentially make internet-based telephone calls the norm – especially given that the landline is giving way to mobile. According to Andy Dewhurst, chief executive of Tesco Telecoms (how easy was that?): “Consumers have not yet caught on to internet calling but this is now set to change.”

Story via the BBC.

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It’s Dotcom all over again: EBay buys Skype

Online auction site eBay confirmed today that it has bought Internet telephony company Skype in a £1.4bn deal.

eBay chief executive Meg Whitman said of the deal:

Communications is at the heart of e-commerce and community. By combining the two leading e-commerce franchises, eBay and PayPal (eBay’s online payment tool), with the leader in internet voice communications, we will create an extraordinarily powerful environment for business on the net.

The company said that the move would “strengthen eBay’s global marketplace and payments platform, while opening several lines of business.”

Certainly there are synergies between the two businesses. eBay’s global auction model is all about ease of communication and trust. Skype’s Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service could enable eBay traders to chat with each other far more cheaply than over traditional phone lines. Skype also has 53 million registered users and says more than two million people are using its software at any given moment. VoIP remains for the moment a bit of a ‘geek’ space technology – it’s bubbling under rather than over. But it is one that is set to explode as people get wise to the ease of use and cost savings involved.

The BBC has the full story.

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EBay to Buy Skype?

Mediaguardian reports that eBay may be about to swallow up the leading Voice Over Internet company Skype.

The Guardian site picked up the story from the Wall Street Journal with neither eBay nor Skype agreeing to comment on the rumours.

The paper claims that eBay is offering between $2bn and $3bn for the company. Skype is the market leader in internet telephony and has attracted interest from companies such as Microsoft and News Corporation. The firm offers free calls to other Skype software users and charges as little as 1.1p a minute to fixed line phones in the UK. It says that an extraordinary 51 million people use its free service, while two million have signed up to pay for connections to traditional phones. Its nearest rival, Vonage, which recently launched in the UK, claims to have 700,000 customers and charges £9.99 a month for unlimited national calls, with additional charges for international and calls to mobiles.

Skype’s founders are certainly channelling the Dotcom Days in their Vanity Fair feature this month. Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom are pictured in what looks like a Lear Jet (sadly just the interior of the Kingly Club, London). EBay had better start counting its pennies.

See also previous post: Google Talks.

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Yahoo! targets the VoIP market

Yahoo! is after a bigger chunk of the internet telephony (VoIP) market which, according to one analyst, is ‘fast becoming the new killer app of the internet.’

Competition for subscribers to services which offer cheap phone calls over the Internet is hotting up in the UK — you may have seen the ads for Vonage all over the tube and Metro this week touting their VoIP service. Late-starter Yahoo! plans to leverage its brand to win a slice of the pie.

Cutesy Skype Technologies currently leads the VoIP consumer market with more than 30 million users. Yahoo! therefore has a lot of catching up to do but its existing user base and brand will be a great help. AOL and Microsoft have both recently included voice capabilities into their messaging services as well. However, Yahoo! has the key emotional appeal that has been so well exploited by TiVo and Google, and now Skype. In The Economist this week, Paul Saffo of the Institute for the Future (what a great job!), says: “MSN and AOL are going nowhere … [they have] no soul, no passion.”

Yahoo! needs to take great care with its brand if it is to leverage this. VoIP has great emotional tug as a thing – Skype on its site talks about case histories of users who have ‘fallen in love via Skype’.

Last week, Yahoo! launched Messenger 7.0 which includes free PC to PC VoIP serice and voicemail. During beta trials in May, the company saw a two-thirds increase in voice usage among users. The full story is available via the rivetting Computer Business Review.

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