RealTime IT News

Embedded VoIP Aiming For The Mainstream

Internet phone service, initially bloated by the need for extra hardware, is going on a diet and entering the mainstream.

Thomson, which makes phones under the GE brand, said today it would launch next year cordless phones that include Voice-over-IP features.

Thomson, the U.S. branch of France's Thomson SA, said the cordless handsets will embed the adapter technology needed to make phone calls over the Internet. The new devices will work with SunRocket's VoIP service.

While consumers would still need a broadband connection and a service provider, the agreement eliminates one step in the process for VoIP users to place calls.

The pact is just the latest bringing Internet calling closer to the retail mainstream.

"When reliable brand names in the consumer telephony business such as GE and Thomson look into VoIP it adds tremendous credibility to the entire Internet phone service category," Brian Lustig, a SunRocket spokesperson, told internetnews.com.

The revenue from North American residential VoIP services is expected to reach $13.2 billion in 2012, up from last year's $1.22 billion, according to Frost & Sullivan.

Tom Bratton, Thomson's vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement the deal would allow consumers to "take advantage of the broadband-enabled features."

"The residential VoIP market is moving to mass-market consumers who are not interested in technology and novelty; they are looking at VoIP services based on convenience, control, and cost," agreed Frost & Sullivan senior analyst Lynda Starr in a statement.

Other future GE products will use SunRocket features, as well, according to Lustig. Along with VoIP calling features, future GE products could include synchronization with address books or enhanced messaging, he said.

Rival Vonage says it has offered similar phones from VTech and Uniden for more than a year.

"Consumers tend to buy the devices from companies they are familiar with," Michael Zema, a Vonage spokesperson, told internetnews.com.

Zema added the VoIP-enabled phones from VTech and Uniden "have the look and feel as any cordless phone people use in their home."

Nicole Klein, a VoIP hardware analyst at Yankee Group, called the VTech ip800-2, which includes a VoIP-enabled router and two handsets, a half step.

The integration of VoIP services and the traditional phone is a natural fit, she said.

"It's just one less step for the consumer. People are so used to picking up their phone and using it," she said.

Mobility is the next step for VoIP, say the experts. The goal is a phone that can connect at home or on the road, akin to cell phones. Indeed, when Vonage last year introduced its UTStarcom phone, the device was squarely aimed at mobile users.

Joining Vonage, is Web-based VoIP service Skype, which this year unveiled a Wi-Fi phone from Netgear. Yahoo Messenger with Voice is even available on Siemens' Gigaset cordless phones.