By Simon Woodhead
It has been a while since we mentioned mobile and, for those who enquire about Simwood Mobile very regularly, please be assured we continue to pursue fair treatment from Ofcom. Once we have overcome the gatekeeper to a free and fair marketplace, we will be building a full MNO as some strategic customers already know. We’re 4 years in and whilst we’re putting more resources behind ‘discussing’ matters with our regulator, and have the right team in place to do this, we continue to have no idea whether or how long reasonable, rational, intelligent treatment will take. We are, however, more optimistic than ever!
Meanwhile though, our interest in mobility is undiminished. As I outlined a few years ago now in ‘Discovering Mobility‘, the world is mobile and the nirvana in communications remains a full integrated smart-phone. A capable mobile service is part of the service, but could also simply be considered a transport (of which there are many others such as WiFi) and a low quality voice less secure medium when IP connectivity is unworkable. I hinted then we might be bringing out an app, but the truth is it’s really hard to do properly.
VoIP apps are ten a penny but they are almost universally rubbish. We were using the best of the bunch a few years ago (and continue to do so internally) but the truth is none of them handle NAT universally well, and as soon as you introduce encryption, and the ideal codec for this use (Opus) even more weirdness ensues. The best we’ve achieved with third party apps is slow answering of calls, intermittent audio and variable call quality – certainly not business grade.
At the same time over-the-top (OTT) apps are generally amazing and have none of these issues but in those scenarios people are controlling both ends, i.e. both the app and the server side. They can bypass standard protocols where they choose and enforce interoperability. This has to be the way forwards.
Some of our customers operate these OTT apps and services and have taken them a stage beyond the big well-known ones by integrating with the largest social graph there is – the PSTN. We’re delighted for them and happy to work with them on that journey but we have pre-existing wider aims ourselves too.
So, for the last few years we’ve been experimenting with worthy solutions here and, in the end, decided that rolling our own was the only way to go. Further though, it dawned on me one night that all of these problems have been solved in WebRTC already – NAT handling, mandatory encryption, Opus codec – and WebRTC facilitates so many other things such as multi-party video. Of course, proposing a browser-based app is nonsensical – we needed to be native.
We’ve therefore developed a native app which uses WebRTC under the hood to give high quality, secure connectivity to a WebRTC anycasted edge on the Simwood network and we’re calling it VoxAP (generically named so you can comfortably tell your customers to download it). What’s more it is superbly quick – calls answer immediately with audio, no awkward waiting hoping it will.
Anyone using our auth trunks (e.g. with our registration proxy) will have the ability to simply generate a QR code. This code can be scanned in the app and that is it, integration done. You can have multiple devices linked to the same trunk and then they can all be targets for incoming calls and originate outgoing calls directly through Simwood. Remember each trunk can also have balances and its own unique fraud controls; many customers are already working this way to directly connect SoHo end-user devices directly to the network rather than needing to manage or operate a PBX for them.
VoxAP is initially going into beta on iOS but the underlying code will be ported to Android and MacOS initially. And we’re looking for beta testers! Please sign-up here.
Right now the app is very basic and there a number of interface ‘things’ to further develop before it is released properly, but the hard bit is done. We have a huge list of future features but we really want your feedback on whether and where this might be useful and to know your essential requirements. Some of those will be on our list already, and we’re pretty confident we have things planned that’ll be brand-new and you’ll love! We’ll be diving into some of those at SimCon 2!
Sign-up today if you’d like to get early access and help shape this!