Speaking of the Future

I have been using Skype for around 6 months or so now. Skype have a service called SkypeOut that allows me to make phone calls to landlines or mobile phones, either locally or abroad, from my laptop or PDA. It’s cheap too, much cheaper than calling from a landline. I always thought it would be cool if you could do reverse: make phone calls from a landline or a mobile that get routed to wherever I happened to be logged in. Well, now you can with SkypeIn.

I now have a brand new phone number. Looks like a regular landline number doesn’t it? Only it isn’t. I have signed up for 3 months just to try it and so far I am very impressed. It cost me 10 euros for the 3 months and within 5 minutes of signing up everything just worked. They even threw in voicemail as well. And that just worked too!

It got me thinking. Yes, me thinking doesn’t happen very often, it can even be dangerous, but I thought I would share my thoughts with you anyway. How long will it be before I can ditch my landline so I can avoid paying for things like line rental and expensive international calls?

As I mentioned earlier you can already make calls to landlines or mobiles using SkypeOut. There are other companies that offer similar services too. I am using Skype as an example here because I am familiar with their services.

Now, with SkypeIn we can do the reverse. People can reach me from a landline or a mobile, makes no difference. Whoever makes the call gets charged at whatever the rate is to call the UK from wherever that may be. It will be cheaper than calling a mobile that’s for sure. Virtual numbers have been around for a while, relatively speaking. Vonage, another VOIP company, offer a similar service.

But Skype has the advantage. Why? Mobility. With SkypeIn, calls get routed to me wherever I happen to be at the time. With traditional landlines, and Vonage’s service, you have to be sitting at your desk. Skype works on your laptop or your PDA (providing it runs Windows Mobile 2003). Sounds like a mobile you say, and you’d be right, only it’s cheaper.

There is a catch though. The final piece of the puzzle is missing: you need always-on access to the Internet. Mobile phones pretty much work everywhere: at home, abroad, in the bath. Mobiles don’t need wireless Internet connection to make or receive calls. With Skype, you do. However, with technologies like WiFi Max on the horizon maybe it will soon be possible to be online all the time. Maybe the government will offer free wireless Internet access city-wide as a public service. Let’s see the mobile operators try and compete on cost then. I think it will be a long time before we see the end of making calls from mobiles, that would require ubiquitous free Internet access worldwide, but maybe it’s not so long before we see the end of calls to landlines.

3 thoughts on “Speaking of the Future

  1. Simon Post author

    Having just re-read what I wrote perhaps I wasn’t clear enough about what I was trying to say. I was talking about in the future people not making phone calls over phone lines, not actually getting rid of the line itself.

    Your comment, however, raises an interesting point: “how” you receive broadband to your home. As you point out, if you don’t have a phone line you can’t get broadband. For example, when I was with Pipex they charged me something like 23 GBP per month but I also had to pay British Telecom 12 GBP per month for line rental. I made very few calls from my landline but I still needed the phone line for my broadband, which effectively increased my costs to access the Internet by about 50%.

    As I mentioned in my blog entry technologies like WiFi Max, in theory, could bring broadband into my home wirelessly. Whether I would have to pay to access this medium is another story, but my point here is that in the future there could be other means of having broadband delivered to your home other than through what is essentially a copper wire. Just a thought.

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