Discovering Mobility!

By Simon Woodhead

I found myself getting very passionate about a new discovery when speaking to a customer earlier this week, and I thought I’d try and get it across here. The discovery: Mobility!

Firstly, you need to understand something about me. I was an early adopter of mobile telephony, and founded this business on the idea that the Internet and mobile phones might a) catch on and b) come together. But, having always had our own telephony service of some form or another, I’ve always been obsessive about using them. For years, I struggled making VoIP calls over appalling DSL rather than using the land-line it ran over as a sensible person might. Similarly, I’ve carried a mobile for eons but it has always just been a conduit for something else, latterly just data. It wasn’t really about the money, and using a third party service always felt like going out in someone else’s pants – nobody else would ever know but I would, and it felt dirty!

So, I’m very different to those who for years have walked around all day making calls on a mobile, despite being within inches of a fixed line. Those people, those far more normal people, are the reason we’ve wanted to make a difference in mobile. My bank manager for example has only ever called me from her mobile, despite a presumably very expensive global phone system sitting there idle. We wanted to converge the two and give the best of both worlds, not simply a single bill as the rest of our industry would have you believe to be “fixed-mobile convergence”.

When we had our SIMs, I came closer to experiencing this – after all, my SIM was on our office PBX – but it wasn’t perfect. Mobile signal indoors was often weak or non-existent, GSM audio is terrible when you’re used to HD codecs, and whilst audio was encrypted to my operator we all know how the world has changed there in recent years.

Now, in early November I began testing things, running our new VoIP app on my smartphone. I’ve always had a soft-phone installed but could count on one hand the number of calls made from them because frankly the experience was dreadful. If the phone battery survived, the quality was affected by underpowered CPUs, and if a call stayed up it’d be cut off the moment there was a GSM call. That has all changed and, as we mentioned last week, using a mobile VoIP client is now very possible. However, there is a long gap between the possible, and stuff that is so cool you can’t help blogging about it.

After some really positive experiences early on with high quality (full-band Opus is way way better quality than mere HD) fully-encrypted calls with all the joy of being able to walk about, I diverted my mobile number of 20+ years to my DDI – my DDI that routed to the app. In other words, for the last month I have exclusively received calls through the app. Moreover, I have only made calls from the app too – I have been completely mobile for all of my calls for more than a month. The desk IP phone is redundant, and the underlying mobile service is nothing more than a dumb pipe when off-WiFi. I have total PBX integration, and have been far more inclined to bring colleagues briefly into an established call with smartphone soft-buttons I was confident in using (rather than losing people trying to conference on a desk phone), and the ability to talk out of WiFi coverage and the call continue over 3/4G has been liberating.

I admit I’ve come from far further back than most given self-imposed insistence on using our own stuff. I’m also conscious that this may sound like forced excitement over plan B – the guy who had a mobile network and now has an app – but truly I’ve had an epiphany!

I’ll stop short of recommending you go out and download a soft-phone and add your PBX account because there are factors I’ve not mentioned. There is a lot that needs doing between the app and PSTN to make the experience awesome, and we’ve been working on that. We’ve taken all the clever IPR from our SIM solution, our awesome IP connectivity, and our SIP creds, and used them to underpin the experience. I can’t wait to tell you more and for you to experience the freedom I now enjoy using it!