GrandCentral adds Gizmo Support

21 Comments

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.”

21 Comments

Billy Joe

A feature Grand Central should have is the ability to call contacts in your GC address book from your phone. Currently you can only do this thru the web interface. The feature could work similarly to the “return call” in voicemail. Or even be voice activated like goog 411.

Marc

Also worth noting –

you can forward your GrandCentral calls to your
SkypeIN number, but there’s a catch –

With a SkypeIN number, you get Voicemail for free.
That’s swell and all, but we GrandCentral users
have no use for Skype’s voicemail really. So, we turn it off – or at least we try to!

Unless you have your Skype(IN) Account logged-in
and running, Skype does not acknowledge your Voicemail
(on/off) setting preference. What that means is that
even if you have ‘deactivated’ your Skype Voicemail
(if your Skype account IS NOT ‘online’)
any GrandCentral calls forwarded to your SkypeIN #
will be sent to Skype Voicemail – almost immediately.
So much for trying to answer that call via your cell
or having the call go to GrandCentral voicemail.

Silly Skype!

Hopefully, this ‘auto-on voicemail failover’ attribute
is not present in Gizmo – is it?

Another problem I’ve run-up against is the ‘system status’
of the number you are forwarding your GC # to.
For example, you have your GC # forwarded to your
VOIP-based #, your cell #, and your landline #.
If your VOIP # or cell provider’s system is down for
some reason, that ‘down’ system will prematurely ‘take’
the GC-forwarded call and greet the caller with
“the cellular caller is not available,”
a fast busy signal, or “all circuits are busy” –
they won’t be offered to leave a message on the
GC-provided voicemail. This has happened to me in both
cell and VOIP cases. I’m not sure how this can be
dealt with really, other than to not have your GC
calls forwarded to ‘possibly unreliable’ numbers, I guess.

Marc

I’m sure if someone wanted to tinker with Asterisk/trixbox,
they could chip away at GrandCentral’s appeal as well.
(Thanks for the Fritzbox info, by the way).

I suggested to GC (back in 12/06) to allow GC users to ‘stamp’
all forwarded calls with a Caller ID # (of our own choice)
to fully exploit certain cellular carrier’s ‘MOC number’
features to the Nth degree. GC met my request half-way
and currently allows CallerID to either ‘pass through’ unaltered
or to be ‘relabeled’ with ones GC number.

At least ALL my INCOMING CALLS are now FREE with my cell plan.

If I were able to enter MY OWN choice of # for the CallerID (to be labelled)
I would use my SkypeIN number –
that way, all incoming would still be free for me,
but also my OUTBOUND CALLS would also be FREE,
by using TumaraXS and my SkypeIN number to access my SkypeOUT unlimited US & Canada minutes

(Granted, I have to have Skype running and logged in on my PC to make use of TumaraXS in this scenario)

Markus Goebel

Markus,

The other thing you’re neglecting to give
GrandCentral credit for is their rules
processing. As one of the beta testers, I’ve
found this to be the most powerful feature. I
have groups of callers routed to particular phone
numbers of mine, at particular times of the day,
and can add new rules as new numbers enter my
contact list very easily.

Making that all acronym-free for the masses is
where services like GrandCentral will shine.

Well, the newest versions of the Fritz!Box do this out of the box. No acronyms needed. Just some clicks in the browser.

http://www.avm.de/en/Produkte/FRITZBox/index.html

Incoming calls can be treated individually. You can for instance block unwanted calls or pass them to an answering machine. Friends and business partners can be redirected to a mobile phone, even if the call signal of the phone that’s connected to the Fritz!Box is switched off.

I am using such a Fritz!Box at home. It’s connected between my old telephone and the DSL connection. So all my calls go for free or for very modest prices over the internet. I do the configuration in my browser and it’s very easy. You can see an example here:

http://www.avm.de/de/Presse/Pressefotos/Fotos/AVM_Pressefoto_FRITZBox_Firmware_Upgrade.jpg

In fact the Fritz!Box is an entire PBX and cost me only 30 Euros, because I bought it used. It can do everything that GrandCentral does. Even an ENUM lookup before every call. But this is a hidden function for which you have to tweak the Linux that runs on the box. The Fritz!Box is getting better and better with every firmware update.

Thom

Markus,

The other thing you’re neglecting to give GrandCentral credit for is their rules processing. As one of the beta testers, I’ve found this to be the most powerful feature. I have groups of callers routed to particular phone numbers of mine, at particular times of the day, and can add new rules as new numbers enter my contact list very easily.

Making that all acronym-free for the masses is where services like GrandCentral will shine.

Markus Goebel

Markus,
“Well, if we all would be using ENUM the deal
between GrandCentral and Gizmo wouldn’t be big
news.”
Well i guess since we’re all NOT using ENUM, this
is big news then, right?
If we all would be talking Esperanto,
communications would be easier too

Mmmmmmmmhhhhhhhh, I understand your criticism to my words.

But the point is that it’s totally easy to do an ENUM lookup before every call. SNOM VoIP phones do it automatically before they start the call. The VoIP providers could do it automatically before the VoIP call starts. Also they could enlist all their numbers in ENUM. The client wouldn’t even notice that ENUM is working in the background.

It would just be all over IP and for free. But the VoIP providers don’t do it because the earn very well not doing ENUM and charge for calls that technically could be for free.

I just love things easy that do not require a
dictionary (like figuring out what ENUM even is)

That would be possible if they would use ENUM. You wouldn’t even notice.

Krish

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

If my understanding is correct, Grandcentral is going to offer this phone number and basic routing service for free. Atleast, this is my understanding from their website and blog. Can you then explain me the $10-15 price tag. is it for addons or for the basic service itself? If GC guys are hanging out here, consider clarifying this please.

Keith

Markus,
“Well, if we all would be using ENUM the deal between GrandCentral and Gizmo wouldn’t be big news.”
Well i guess since we’re all NOT using ENUM, this is big news then, right?
If we all would be talking Esperanto, communications would be easier too :-)
Don’t want to sound negative but i could not help draw the analogy :-)
I just love things easy that do not require a dictionary (like figuring out what ENUM even is) and you’ve got to give it to GrandCentral, this is a real sleek service
Keith

Markus Goebel

Well, if we all would be using ENUM the deal between GrandCentral and Gizmo wouldn’t be big news. With ENUM I can already route my PSTN number to my Gizmo account. VoIP users that call this number and do an ENUM lookup can call me for free.

Why bother for another number from GrandCentral?

I can implement the same call routing features of GrandCentryl in my analog telephone adapter (ATA). I actually do. So whenever somebody calls my years old PSTN number I can let it ring wherever I want (for instance on my Gizmo Project soft phone or my mobile phone) and I can also filter the callers like GrandCentral offers.

Why pay extra for a service which I can already use at no extra cost at home?

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