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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 AT&T has been replaced by Truphone, a UK-based mobile VoIP company that offers better quality voice calls at lower rates and doesn’t require me to own a landline.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.

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  1. VoIP-Point » Truphone and the Nokia E61 Thursday, April 17, 2008

    [...] 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 [...]

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

  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 .

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

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

  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 :-)

  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.

  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.

  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?

  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 ???????

  11. I am a frequent traveller. When I moved to the UK last summer, I was introduced to truphone (by means of working with Straub Ventures, who are one of the backers of the business).

    I agree with Om and am a total convert. I never even bothered getting a fixed line or mobile plan. I only have a truphone number. Whenever I am not on Wifi (which is not very often), truphone automatically uses the backup SIM (which I can change like my underwear).

    What I really hope for are more social features in the app and business features like conference calling. Also, the recent acquisition of SIM4travel will hopefully pave the way to getting a backup SIM that I dont have to change like my underwear…

    Well done truphone!

  12. so mobivox and rebtel both offer similar functionality–you just want your address book in one place…

  13. McGuire’s Law » Blog Archive » Indicators: Week of 4/20/08 Thursday, April 24, 2008

    [...] $32M for Truphone [...]

  14. I thogh you needed fixed line to have wifi at home, then it’s actually cheaper to grap the phone and dial using an international access number such as briing.com it’s like half price of skype and all that expecially in the UK, seems like lowtech is being overlooked..

  15. @Robert You don’t need a fixed line to have wifi at home. Moreover, with VoIP on a handset, you can make relatively inexpensive calls wherever there’s wifi – not just at home, but also at the office, at the local Starbucks, or anywhere there’s a wifi hotspot.

  16. Ben Whitaker Tuesday, May 6, 2008

    I’ve been using Truphone since its inception back in 2006. I’ve pushed maybe $8,000 worth of free calling over Truphone since then.

    Their original offer was free calling to landlines in 40 countries and cellphones in 6 countries. I have been enjoying that free calling plan for *eighteen months* which has been incredible.

    Why does Truphone sound so much better than Skype and Fring? It absolutely does, just test for yourself and see how the other calls sound. The answer is *transcoding*.

    Truphone uses the exact same AMR-NB codec as is used by GSM for calls. This means calls to cellphones are not converted from one small codec to another small codec, losing a lot of data in the process.

    Fring does not use AMR-NB and the calls sound “furry” and much more quiet than the Truphone calls.

    Skypeout calls; I won’t even comment; I’m sure many of you have had friends call you with it and you immediately know it’s VoIP. Variable rate codec as well – not sufficient for professional use.

    Truphone’s AMR codec is a small codec (17-20 Kbit) so it fits over all sorts of tiny little internet connections you may have available to you, like DSL with only 64 Kbit upload – works fine.

    How about really busy 3G networks that only have about a quarter of the expected bandwidth available? Works great.

    I’m a bit shocked that nobody has dropped the Really Big Shoe which is that Truphone runs nicely over 3G – both UMTS and HSDPA.

    I was talking to a new user tonight (I’m a bit of a Truphone evangelist) and he wasn’t very interested in using Truphone via WiFi because the 3G gives him great quality – why bother with WiFi at home when his 3G is already sufficient?

    I’ve measured a one-hour call, and it used 21.2 megabytes over the 60 minutes. I get 250 Mbytes of data access for $10/month, so my cost in 3G data fees is about 85 cents per hour.

    So even with 3G data fees added in, it still saves between 90% and 95% compared to my alternatives.

    I make an average of about two hours a day of international calls via Truphone, from taxis, the mall, and via WiFi from my house. Call quality is really noticeably *better* than the normal international voice calls I receive or make.

    Anil’s statement “It’s only for Mobile Phones which are connected to WiFi” is not true. Any E-Series phone or about four of the N-Series phones from Nokia will run it, over 3G. WiFi, while recommended by the company, is not needed.

    My users here wonder why you’d use WiFi when the 3G is already indistinguishable in terms of quality. My answer is battery life; Truphone will run down the battery more quickly as it maintains a 3G connection all day.

    So keep a charger at your desk.

    Truphone is the most low-impact experience for the user – just select “internet call” instead of “voice call” on the handset when you call.

    I have also tested Fring and Skype, WiFi to WiFi, 3G to 3G etcetera and IMO the quality is just not acceptable for anything but hobbyist calls.

  17. 7 Ways to VoIP From Your Mobile Phone – GigaOM Tuesday, June 3, 2008

    [...] at GigaOM are constantly tinkering with these mobile services, so we’ve put together a list of seven mobile VoIP apps that we think [...]

  18. WebWorkerDaily » Archive Four iPhone VoiP Services Worth Ringing Up « Wednesday, November 26, 2008

    [...] Tru. It’s a service that GigaOM reviewed almost two years ago and Om still uses heavily to call his family abroad. The application is free, but you will pay for calls to landlines or other mobile phones. Calls in [...]

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