I’m heading to Bangalore next week and am looking forward to meeting Yusuf Motiwala the founder of TringMe and currently India’s most innovative VoIP company. We incorporated the TringMe flash phone in the Phweet Alpha. I’ve also made it one of my tasks to look at “cheap calls” between India and the US. As TringMe is the homegrown Indian solution it’s only natural that I add it to my testing along with Jaxtr, Truphone and Jajah.
TringMe has built a highly flexible platform in principle offering more choice than most other VoIP consumer approaches. It’s a leading technical demonstration and more importantly works. It also has a split personality offering developers “VoicePHP” and the TringMeAPI while matching Jajah-like offerings, and a Truphone-like mobile solutions for Nokia phones. TringMe also provides the Flash Widget solution for Calliflower.
India is the perfect market for experimenting with SMS approaches to signaling or connecting calls. In fact we are seeing an evolution in progress.
1. The initial cheap call, web-based solutions asked you for your number and then the number you want to connect with. The “bridge” then rang both numbers. When I think about this service I always think about Jajah generation one. TringMe provides this solution in the basic account dashboard.
2. The second approach tried to cut the costs by enabling the user to dial into the bridge with a local number. I think of Mobivox (which Jajah Direct followed). Rebtel also provides the same style of service. The result – only one leg rather than two were being charged to the caller.
3. Both parties dial-in based on notifications sent to them. Pioneered by Phweet and followed by Jaxtr’s FreeConnect. The benefit here is both parties are calling into the bridge so there is no PSTN interconnect charge. Call signaling is done using “text” / SMS. (Note Rebtel has an approach that “arranges” this with a CallBack request.)
So what’s TringMe doing in this regard? And why India? India is a perfect country to perfect SMS based call signaling. Mobiles are simple, few have GPRS and while rates have come down, International calls can still be expensive.
TringMe Product – SMS Telephony
TringMe has an SMS solution in beta for India only at the moment. Anyone with a registered account can send a simple SMS “tringme 1925xxxyyyy” for example. TringMe will then ring the phone and ring the other party. Thus this solution is version one above. To really make it effective, new accounts must be “registered” by SMS alone. Even better if that SMS can be to a free number!
Second, to be competitive, the new trick is to jump to a Jaxtr like “Free Connect” solution. Both parties dial into a bridge. This requires signaling support whether SMS or Twitter or something similar. The trick is to get both on the bridge at roughly the same time. With friends this becomes fairly simple in practice. TringMe must explore this angle to have real success with this service.
India provides further opportunities to innovate around the signaling area. While costs are now “dirt cheap” typically .20 of a rupee for local calls (that’s $.004 per min) and SMS’s. Now that’s still real money in India and we can only “wish” for rates so low. Still there are users that would like that call for free. That’s the “missed call” equivalent. The future will evolve in that direction too.
TringMe has the capability and opportunity to take “low cost” calls to the next level. With their VoicePHP solutions the integration could be even more interesting. My bet is Jajah and Rebtel are likely to follow the Jaxtr example. Rebtel already has an a SMS signup approach. Rebtel doesn’t operate in India.
For me something we began setting in motion over 9 months ago is now just starting to have real ramifications. In the RebTel and Jaxtr examples the connections are based on telephone numbers. By contrast the Phweet / TringMe platform approaches enable additional flexibility over channels (eg SIP, multiple numbers etc.) In the Phweet case we enable even more control over the exchange. The net result is we’re seeing the emergence of new signaling approaches where consumers determine their interconnect route with the exchange and calls maybe “negotiated” outside the traditional interconnect framework. Right now that’s simple. Eg call this number to talk to X now. The recipient can equally decide to make that call later. Thus this is the real first step in managing “call contracts” between one or more parties. More importantly, it provides many new opportunities to insert / negotiate how the call will be paid for.
Perhaps that’s just part of the reason why I remain excited by the potential for Phweet and why we used the URL to represent the exchange!