Talkster

Changing the way the people communicate

LAPTOP Magazine features Talkster

Posted by talkster on May 18, 2007

Turn Your Cell into a VoIP Phone. LAPTOP did a thorough test of 4 services taking various approaches to mobile VoIP and instant messaging.

Talkster received high marks for voice quality and ease of use. Given the relatively small feature set of our beta service (which is just a preview to our upcoming Enterprise service) we were more than happy with how we stacked up.

There was one piece of information in the article that we believe was a bit misleading and warrants further discussion here. It was mentioned that all of the services reviewed (including Talkster) require a mobile broadband connection (3G, wi-fi etc.). This may be true of the other services, but with Talkster it is exactly the opposite.

We specifically designed Talkster NOT to require broadband or unlimited mobile data plans. The Talkster service uses a very small amount of data to get updated information about your instant messenger buddy list (if their status changes) and, when making a call, an even smaller amount of data to set up the call through the Talkster network. Once you are talking on the high quality voice call (thanks for the props Laptop Magazine!) it’s just your regular cellular voice channel that is being used.

Routing the call through the Talkster VoIP network means that you connect at a local point, we carry the call over our managed network, and when it reaches the other end we connect it through a local gateway to the phone you are calling or in the case of calling your Instant Messenger buddies through VoIP all the way to their PC.

There is a misperception that calls over data networks are free. There can be a difference in cost, but you still pay for a connection to a 3G network (your mobile carrier charges you for a data bundle). In the case of using Wi-Fi, you can find free Wi-Fi hotspots but it doesn’t help you when you are on the move as Wi-Fi hotspots cover a very small area and there is no seamless handover from one to another that would allow your voice call to continue.

Regardless, unless you are on a managed Wi-Fi connection that prioritizes VoIP traffic you can experience, as was highlighted in the article, “choppy connections”, “delays” and “poor voice quality”. For consumers looking for just a cheap call this might be overlooked. For business users looking for clear, cost effective voice connections to their colleagues and customers, the networks and technologies need to evolve before they are mainstream in the mobile world.

We at Talkster support the idea that mobile VoIP will take advantage of mobile data networks when they are available. We are investing time, money and thought into making it ready for prime time, while at the same time offering a service that meets the needs of users today with networks and devices they already have access to.


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Roaming caps on calls – will business finally get a break?

Posted by talkster on May 18, 2007

By James Wanless
President and COO of Talkster

For a long time business users who travel frequently have been enduring the price of high roaming charges. A recent vote by the European parliament could finally mean this inflated pricing will come to an end. This week the parliament decided on roaming caps for both wholesale rates between operators (what the mobile carriers can charge each other for users who roam onto their networks) and retail caps (what those carriers can charge to their end customers).

The maximum wholesale rate will be €0.30 (approx $0.41). This rate will drop by 2 cents per year for 3 years.

The maximum retail rate will be €0.49 ($0.66) for calls made and €0.24 ($0.33) for calls received. These caps will fall too. Calls made will fall by 3 cents per year and incoming calls will fall by 2 cents after the first year and 3 cents after the second year.

To add a little intrigue to the whole process, consumers will not be automatically opted-in for these new rates for the first 3-months. After that 3-month period, they will automatically be switched over to the new tariffs whether they request it or not.

This makes absolutely no sense. Why would someone NOT want cheaper rates for the same phone calls? It seems that politics and lobbying play a role in all of these decisions.

For the operators it means that the all important summer holiday season in Europe will still offer one last chance to cream some profit before the caps come into effect.

Note that this vote is not yet legislation but it will be put in front of the EU parliament later this month for final approval and is expected to pass. Even after it passes, it will not likely be implemented until the end of the summer and even then there will be 3 more months before everyone gets the lower rates.

Seems clear? Not really. Tariffs will still exist where there will be a difference in the cost of calls made to various destinations. For example, if I am a UK user roaming in Spain, and I call back to the UK, will the cost be the same as if I make a call in Spain? The intention was that the cost of the call in Spain (the roaming country) would be cheaper than the cost of the call home. Unfortunately, we will have to wait to see the actual tariffs. I will be reporting back on that one when the operators have had a chance to craft their new plans based on these imposed caps.


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Talkster named “Product of the Year”!

Posted by talkster on May 9, 2007

Communications SolutionsIt’s always nice to be recognized for your effort and especially so when it’s a well respected organization like TMC. Talkster was selected from hundreds of entries to be a recipient of the seventh annual Communications Solutions Product of the Year Award. I am especially proud of the whole Talkster team who have worked so hard to take us to where are today. I can’t single any one person out for the thanks and praise as it truly is a team effort. “With this award Talkster has been recognized for our innovative technology in the mobile VoIP and Voice over Instant Messaging space with the judges recognizing the future potential of contact presence as well as the ability to use our VoIP network for long distance and roaming cost savings that works in a truly global fashion, We are happy for the recognition of the innovation which is just the tip of the iceberg here. 2007 is going to be the year when all of the hard work is going to be made public. While awards are nice to have, true satisfaction will come from seeing our partners offer innovation to their customers and bring new revenue to their bottom line using Talkster technology as part of their offering and an ever increasing number of direct Talkster customers from around the world realizing the Talkster advantage.

Well done team! Keep it up. Your hard work is appreciated and worthwhile.

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Wholesale Roaming Rates Capped

Posted by talkster on March 13, 2007

By James Wanless
President and COO of Talkster

Roaming rates are on their way down as I have posted before.

Today these efforts got a boost from the UK House of Lords. It seems like wholesale roaming rates between operators will be capped at 30 Euro cents. A retail price cap was not proposed at this time but it is obvious that this is (to use the British Navy term) a shot across the bows of the mobile operators. In other words – – Bring retail pricing into line, or else.

Jo Best at Silicon.com summed it up, well, Best!


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Gizmo Aggregates Voice over IM – Just Like Talkster

Posted by talkster on March 2, 2007

There was news from E-Tel this week from SIPPHONE and the Gizmo Project announcing that together they now make it possible to place a call from the Gizmo client on a PC to other PC-based Instant Messenger clients such as MSN, Google Talk and Yahoo. The announcement garnered coverage and comments from folks like Om, Rich and Tom.

Federating is where 2 or more networks make an agreement to allow users from one network to communicate with another. This is what Google has pioneered through the use of open standards and to a lesser extent what AOL and MSN did by creating a bridge between their closed networks. Federation between the major players like Yahoo and AOL for text instant messaging has been a slow process with no immediate prospect of inter-network voice connectivity. Without federation these VoIP (and VoIM) islands are getting bigger and yet no closer. Gizmo has taken a good step forward in bridging these islands from the desktop, similar to what Talkster is doing from the mobile phone, as we announced back in October of last year.

While Gizmo enables Gizmo users to call from the Gizmo client on a PC, Talkster has taken this capability and extended it out to the mobile handset in support of our belief that users should not have to be sitting in front of their computer to make VoIM calls. So for the last 6-months, Talkster users with an ordinary mobile phone (no PC or broadband required), have been able to call their Google Talk, Gizmo and MSN buddies from anywhere.

We at Talkster are acutely aware of this concept of communication islands. During our current beta phase we have shown our capability to connect to public voice over instant messenger networks. Much of this work involved codec transcoding and signalling. As we move forward to our end goal of a complete communications solution for the Enterprise, the VoIM "island mentality" becomes less significant. Connectivity to public IM networks will always play a role, but to us they serve as a proxy for how Enterprise users communicate. In the Enterprise world, standards based instant messaging (XMPP) and voice (SIP based IP PBX) communications are controlled through policy. The use of open standards removes the need for technical trickery and places the focus more on the appropriate permissions to allow communications between different networks.

These permissions exist on two levels. The first is within an organization and determines who is able to see the presence of whom and therefore, is able to place calls through the VOIP network. The second is peering. Will company “A” allow VOIP calls and IM traffic to flow directly to company “B” and vice versa? The management of policies to determine such permissions and the tools necessary to implement them are areas that consume Talkster’s focus.

The bottom line is that open standards are absolutely the way forward, and we applaud the Gizmo Projects’ success in adding the Yahoo component to its PC-based service. It’s been well proven with the PSTN and email paradigm. Let’s hope that island mentality doesn’t stifle the future of open communications.


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A Vonage buy-out of Talkster?

Posted by talkster on February 8, 2007

By James Wanless
President and COO of Talkster

I’m not one to gossip, but there is a rumour floating around the Internet that VoIP luminary Vonage may be looking to acquire a company that can add “new, rich” features for their customers, and one such company is Talkster. Is the rumour true? I cannot comment on any discussions Talkster may or may not be having with Vonage, even if we were having them. ;-)

The possibility that Talkster (along with our friends at Iotum) could be a Vonage acquisition target was raised in an article from TheDeal.com – “Clock Ticks for Internet Telephony Provider Vonage,” (that also ran in Law.com and posted on blogs).  In the days that followed this initial post, there has been a growing buzz in the blogosphere about Vonage seeking to buy Talkster as a fast way to better serve its’ customer base by offering new, innovative, add-on services. The buzzing probably started first with article from Voxilla – “Is Vonage On The Prowl” which was followed by this blog post in VC Ratings.

Needless to say, I have spoken to a number of people about this rumour. While the idea has some merit, we have an easier way for Vonage to offer “new, rich” Talkster-like services to their customers. Vonage could quickly integrate our technology and service components into their network and take mobility for Vonage subscribers to a level far beyond the simple access numbers – something similar to a calling card access number – they have today.

The Talkster service is built on a network that can be used by any 3rd party service provider to create new and innovative services that easily integrate into their existing network infrastructure.

Not to introduce yet another acronym, but we at Talkster think of it as NAAS or "Network as a Service". The underlying instant messaging, voice over instant messaging and SIP infrastructure that supports the Talkster service is wrapped up in Web Services and can be controlled from any 3rd party interface that can communicate via the Internet. The idea of web services is not new. It’s a real enabler which is shared by a number of companies including Amazon which has an entire Web Services program championed by Jeff Barr and an elastic computing initiative which allows their network of computer hardware to be provisioned and controlled through web services. Iotum also believes strongly in the idea that web services are an enabler for creating cross platform, network and service opportunities.

Talkster will be many things, including a provider of Network as a Service (NAAS), for all manner of service providers in the market who can benefit from the many pieces of the Voice 2.0 communications puzzle that we have to offer – – all without the need for them to know anything about communications networks. If you want to know more, please feel free to contact me directly.

And as for Vonage, we’re ready to help. We’re also ready to help Packet8, ConnectMe Mobile and any other VoIP provider looking to enhance their mobility services and make them globally available. I’ll discuss rumours that we’re helping these companies in future blog posts.


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Will Free Calls be strong-armed out of business?

Posted by talkster on February 7, 2007

With the closure of FuturePhone as highlighted in an article on GigaOm this morning, it seems like the end is near for the “free” calling companies. AT&T is going to challenge them, or rather the Local Exchange Carriers enabling them, in court. Inevitably, this will take time, but likely will stop “free calling companies” as the payments are withheld until everyone has their day in court. That’s not to mention the (prohibitive) legal cost of defending against such lawsuites which the LECs and the free calling providers are not prepared to do.

This however is not a new situation. Back in the early 1990s AT&T were themselves enabling a similar type of business model. It was called International Settlement and was a means for AT&T to balance out the payments they paid to telcos (often monopolies) in countries like Italy against fees which Italy paid to them. There was a huge imbalance which meant that AT&T paid out much larger amounts to these foreign telcos on a monthly basis and these same foreign telcos had no incentive to renegotiate the rates which AT&T were pushing down at home.

What AT&T quietly did was to let some service providers have numbers in the US which they would on which they would share revenue. Starting to sound familiar? You would pay the equivalent of $1 in Italy to call the US number to listen to your horoscope, football scores, chat etc. etc. AT&T would get their portion of the revenue and share it with the service provider. Now the traffic from Italy started to flow back to the US in much larger numbers and it meant that AT&T was paying out less to the foreign telcos. Italy was just one example.

This practice happened in scores of countries. In some cases, the foreign telco would actually have to pay money to AT&T instead, in effect forcing them back to the negotiating table to talk about reducing rates. Once that happened, the rates were reduced to a point that the shared revenue model would no longer be attractive to the service providers and this flow of "other traffic" for entertainment would disappear.

It was a VERY smart move by AT&T and ultimately a great business. It drove down international calling costs, provided incentive to bring everyone to the table for bi-lateral rate negotiations and ultimately benefited AT&Ts subscribers. I wonder if the LECs in Iowa and Nevada have a similar plan to use this as a bargaining chip for something else they want? It will be interesting to watch it play out.

As I have said before, someone has to pay for phone calls. It’s not free to provide the service and it seems in this case AT&T was the one to pay.


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SPIF Recap

Posted by talkster on February 3, 2007

Ahhhhh Vancouver. When you arrive from the extreme cold warnings of Toronto, the balmy 8c air (that’s 46f for our friends south of the (Canadian) border) can’t help but make you feel good. We arrived ready for the Service Provider Investment Forum (SPIF) event and our fifteen minutes of fame. The event, organized by WINBC and the Kerton Group, proved to be a very worthwhile event to attend with some very interesting companies taking part.

For Talkster, the main event at this two day forum was the presentation session, held on Friday behind closed doors in front of some 25 SPIF members. Each company was allowed a ten minute presentation plus 5 minutes for question and answer. A further five minutes behind closed doors was allotted where the panel would discuss each company as a group, provide feedback, and share their impressions. We are expecting some feedback this week. With a crowd of diverse Telco focused investors you can never expect to hit the nail on the head for all of them, but we do hope that our brief presentation will peak the interest of some, opening the door to more in depth follow-up. That’s the task this week.

Thursday afternoon and evening was for networking. The WINBC group had their regular meeting which included a panel discussion of SPIF members. The discussion was lively and the topics covered were audience driven. A very interesting format I thought, giving the audience members a way to drive a lively discussion around topics of most interest to the crowd and getting the opinions of panel members (who could not benefit from a rehearsal or notes). The panel was followed by a keynote speaker, Jason Cohenour, president and CEO of Sierra Wireless. His speech was a real insight into Sierra Wireless but also for those of us now facing some of the same challenges that Sierra and Jason have faced along the way; a real lesson in some of the basics. "Knowing who’s the boss" (your customers and distribution channels) featured strongly as did "keeping your eye on the ball and not losing sight of your core business". Basic business requirements you may think, but when applied to the timeline of a company in the wireless space where these rules do not always flow, it gained another level of clarity. Thanks for the reminder, Jason!

We also got to meet some interesting companies like Redwood Technologies and Bight Games who were fellow presenters who also traveled to BC for SPIF, as well as also local area companies attending the event. What came up time and time again was the affirmation that Talkster’s network creates an excellent opportunity for 3rd parties that want to add elements of telephony and other person to person communications to their network. Talkster’s network, built on open standards and accessible through web services makes it easy for these companies to use our network for their application communications without having to know anything about signalling, call control and routing. Connections to PSTN, SIP and Voice Instant Messaging networks becomes possible for web programmers and application developers. We will be expanding these opportunities during 2007 and look forward to making some announcements centred around this part of our business.

Another special activity that happened because of our attendance at SPIF was the opportunity to get to know Bill Tam, Colin Quon and Jeff LaPorte, the founders of Eqo Communications. They invited us down for a tour their offices (nicknamed “Eqo Chamber” by my colleague) then to a pub nearby to talk about the industry. These are some of the nicest guys I’ve met who work in Telecom.

Thanks to WINBC and the Kerton Group for putting together a high calibre event. We look forward to more of the same.

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Talkster presenting at SPIF event in Vancouver this week

Posted by talkster on January 23, 2007

Talkster is heading to Vancouver this Thursday and Friday (January 25-26th) to attend The Service Provider Investment Forum (SPIF). The SPIF event is hosted by the Wireless Innovation Network of British Columbia (WINBC) and The Kerton Group.

Talkster was selected from a field of telecom applicants from across Canada to present to the group as part of the event.

As the WIN-BC site explains, “SPIF is a monthly meeting of representatives from both wireless and wireline carriers, venture capital and R&D divisions from around the world. SPIF investors are focused on strategic investment and partnerships and have the pulse on wireless, telecom, and Internet – from components, devices and enabling technologies to enterprise solutions and content.”

Talkster looks forward to hearing from industry heavy-weights like Sierra Wirless CEO, Jason Cohenour, who will be delivering the day-one Keynote; and to rubbing shoulders with the representatives from the VC arms of France Telecom, DoCoMo, Telus, British Telecom, and others.

Thanks in advance to the folks at WIN-BC for organizing this event. We’ll be sure to post our impressions after the event here on the Talkster Blog, and hope that if you are also attending the event that you come by to introduce yourself and say hello.

For the details on this event, go visit WINBC’s SPIF page.

For more information about The Service Provider Investment Forum, go to:
http://www.kerton.com/papers/ServiceProviderForum.pdf

James

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Talkster Network Bridges Mobile and VoIP Services

Posted by talkster on December 11, 2006

Talkster unveils network that consolidates the communications services people use everyday on a device they already have and take everywhere they go – the mobile phone

TORONTO, ONT – December 11, 2006 – Business mobility company Talkster Inc. today unveiled a groundbreaking voice over Internet (VoIP) network that allows users to place calls from ordinary mobile phones to traditional and next generation voice services. As an important component of the company’s forthcoming enterprise communications service, the Talkster network connects mobile phones to VoIP networks and devices without phone numbers, such as IP-PBX office phones provisioned inside a corporate IP network.

To demonstrate this network capability, Talkster is offering an individual user beta service that substantially cuts the cost of international long distance and roaming, and is also the first service to enable mobile phones to call instant messenger with voice services such as MSN and Google Talk. The Talkster beta service can be used by the widest number of mobile phones without requiring software, special networks or convoluted calling methods. During this beta, calls to instant messaging services are free. People can sign up at www.talkster.com and start using the beta service today.

The Talkster beta service and the company’s international network of access points adapts to calling, long distance and roaming plans worldwide, making it possible to lower costs on any calling plan with simple direct outbound or callback calling options. Such features will be of particular value to the nearly 400 million Europeans with mobile phones in the 25 EU countries. Today these European callers can realize cost savings immediately, and stand to realize even greater savings after the enforcement of new European Union roaming regulations expected in 2007.

“Today Talkster launched its network, but soon businesses will have a comprehensive solution from Talkster to give them unprecedented control over the mobile communications services and devices their employees use,” said James Wanless, president and chief operating officer of Talkster. “The first step in rolling out this solution is unveiling this network and the capabilities and intelligence we built into it. Beyond mobile VoIP and Voice over Instant Messaging, Talkster is also demonstrating the future potential of contact presence as well as the ability to use our VoIP network for long distance and roaming cost savings that works in a truly global fashion.”

Talkster architected its VoIP and presence network with patent-pending intelligence to reduce the cost of mobility while increasing workforce productivity. The Talkster network utilizes web services to integrate and manage calling services, and to provide contact presence features – used by instant messaging services to indicate a person’s online status – to drive a dynamic contact list, features that will be enhanced in the enterprise version. When released next spring, Talkster’s fully-featured voice and text communications solution for enterprises will consolidate the many different work and personal communications services and phone numbers already being used by employees into a centrally managed, policy-based service used from a basic mobile phone.

“Talkster’s VoIP services are a good example of Voice 2.0 – the marriage of web services and telecom,” says Rebecca Swensen, research analyst for VoIP Services at IDC. “Talkster’s beta service differentiates itself from other mobile VoIP companies by using web services to increase functionality, usability in more countries, and extending service capability to a large number of mobile devices.”

The Talkster beta service is open to users worldwide at http://www.talkster.com. Enterprises interested in Talkster’s forthcoming enterprise service can send an email to “enterprise (at) talkster (dot) com.” Resellers and system integrators interested in adding Talkster’s enterprise mobility service to their portfolio of top-selling solutions can send a request for more information to “partners (at) talkster (dot) com.”

About Talkster
Talkster, the first service to let people place free calls from their cell phones to instant messaging services like MSN, Google Talk and Gizmo Project, consolidates the many voice-based communications services people use every day into an easy-to-use service that works from a single familiar device: the mobile phone. The Talkster beta service showcases Talkster’s Web services-based technology, the foundation for Talkster’s enterprise service offering, coming in 2007. For more information or to sign-up for the beta please visit www.talkster.com.

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