GrandCentral, the single-phone-number Web-based service launched last fall, is adding support for the free Gizmo Project Internet VoIP service, which may open up a whole new way to decrease spending on international or long-distance calling.
Still in beta, the GrandCentral service is the latest entrant in the often-attempted “single phone number” scheme. The Fremont, Calif.-based startup uses a combination of VoIP technology and softswitch-based applications to give users ways to tie multiple phone numbers, services (voice mail, etc.) and devices to a single inbound number.
Support for SipPhone’s free Gizmo service, scheduled to be announced Wednesday, is a unique twist, since it potentially could allow users to receive calls anywhere in the world where they have Internet connectivity for no additional charge.
According to GrandCentral, here’s how the new Gizmo feature works:
Starting today GrandCentral customers can now designate their free Gizmo Project profile ID (which appears like a 747 area code number in their Gizmo profile) as one of their destination numbers which will ring on their personal computers or select next generation Nokia dual mode Nseries mobile phone or Internet Tablet, whenever a call comes into their GrandCentral number.
So GrandCentral can direct inbound calls to a user’s Gizmo profile, making it an IP call of no additional cost anywhere the user has an Internet connection. GrandCentral CEO Craig Walker said Gizmo’s promise to offer free inbound calling from the PSTN made it ripe for exploitation by GrandCentral, and it may result in some lost revenue for Gizmo, which currently charges $35 to add a PSTN number to a free Gizmo account.
While the GrandCentral plan seems to allow users to circumvent that charge, if it gets popular it sounds like a possible win-for-all deal since Gizmo is fighting an uphill battle for acceptance against free-calling giant Skype. And since GrandCentral’s service is due to emerge out of its free beta period within the next few months, you’d still get dinged the cost of paying for GrandCentral (the company’s web site gives no information about eventual costs, but press reports have put the expected starting range around $10-15 per month).
While there was no formal deal between SipPhone and GrandCentral, Walker says engineers from the companies did work together to iron out bugs. He added that SipPhone’s adherence to standard SIP RFCs made the integration between Gizmo and GrandCentral a fairly smooth call. Walker said that free VoIP call support was an issue that came up repeatedly from the company’s current beta-test audience, which he says numbers in the “tens of thousands.”