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Summary:

One of the most important calls I make during the week is the one to my mother, followed by another one to my baby brother. These are international long distance calls, and for the first 15 years of my American life, those calls went over AT&T’s […]

One of the most important calls I make during the week is the one to my mother, followed by another one to my baby brother. These are international long distance calls, and for the first 15 years of my American life, those calls went over AT&T’s wired or wireless networks, forging a very special bond with Ma Bell.

This past year, however, that bond has been broken. AT&T has been replaced by Truphone, a UK-based mobile VoIP company that offers better quality voice calls at lower rates and doesn’t require me to own a landline. A WiFi-enabled Nokia phone is all it takes. (These days, I am totally in love with my Nokia E61.)

Truphone has become indispensable to my work and personal life, and perhaps that is why I’m glad to learn it just raised a whopping $32.7 million in Series B funding from “new investors,” although the company wouldn’t name names. Previous investors who have pumped in over $24.5 million in Series A funding — Burda Digital Ventures, Eden Ventures, Independent News & Media and Wellington Partners — came back with more cash as well.

Truphone recently acquired Sim4Travel, a company that made cheap cellular roaming possible. Alec Saunders points out that, with that particular acquisition, Truphone can extend its footprint beyond expensive Nokia WiFi-enabled phones. This has been Truphone’s Achilles heel and had limited the company’s growth prospects.

This is the crucial point. Even though Truphone has made great progress, the mobile VoIP game is still about cheap minutes and low-cost SMS. And that business is all about volume. I just hope Truphone can build that volume — this is one service I really want around forever; if it’s not, I will get an earful from mom.

  1. [...] Malik of GIGAOM has written an article about how he replaced his regular land-line based telephony with a voice over IP service from UK [...]

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  2. I presume it works on the Mac :-) But on a serious note, how is it different than skype ?

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  3. Anil: It’s only for Mobile Phones which are connected to WiFi. Wow, that is some segmentation. That basically means – 10 phones in the world. Works for Om, but I can’t use it .

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  4. Basha: OK I looked at their website – Its predominantly to Nokia powered handsets. I would think an ipodtouch would be a good candidate.

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  5. They’ve demo’d iPhone clients several times in the last few months. absolutely there will be iPhone/Touch traction with them.

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  6. Why not use Reliance India Call or ton of other pre-paid calling cards that cost less than 7cents/min…. TruPhone charges 0.05 pounds which is ~9cents/min….. difference of 2cents does add up :-)

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  7. @anil It’s different than Skype because it uses SIP, an open standard. Skype uses its own proprietary protocol. @Basha Nokia shipped about 10 million Wifi-enabled NSeries phones in Q1 2008. Every call I’ve made so far
    today was a VOIP call (using Gizmo on my N95) – not a huge saving over GSM for local calls, but still enough to make it worthwhile.

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  8. @ANurag Truphone’s one of the more expensive SIP clients (though I grant it has some nice features others lack, such as being able to retain your mobile number without additional payments, and, apparently, the ability to use GSM as well as Wifi). Others average about 0.02 Can per m
    inute, and many offer free calls to or from some locales. One advantage of using SIP over a calling card is the ease-of-use. To make an Internet call on a Nokia phone with integrated SIP you just have to select “Internet call” (or make it the default). No extra numbers or codes to punch in.

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  9. Truphone differs from Skype by being totally integrated into the phone – so making a call or sending a SMS is achieved through exactly the same user interface as GSM calls. When the phone is within range of a WiFi AP, the call goes over the internet (at small or zero cost); when out of WiFi range calls and SMS go via GSM (at higher cost).

    Truphone uses some clever technology to make the phone automatically register using a known WiFi AP whenever it sees it – no user intervention is required. This appears to be achieved with little to no impact on the phone battery – brilliant!

    Oh – and the voice quality with Truphone is outstanding. I have tried most of the alternatives (including Fring and Gizmo)with my Nokia N95, yet neither come close to thee quality that is achieved withh Truphone. Perhaps someone a little more technical than me can explain how/why this should be?

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  10. sivaprasadnvv Friday, April 18, 2008

    hi OM, i love ur idea n it is the next big thing in the mobile comminication but i have an idea does it come true in the next couple of years? that is ——- VOIP Video Call over WiFi networks n Video Chat on 3g enable mobile ???????

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