Videophone service coming to US for $30 a month

Private carrier with IP network to offer US$200 videophone next year

An IP-based videophone service called GlobalLinx will launch in the US in the second quarter, offering a US$200 videophone and US$30 monthly service for consumers and businesses.

The service, from privately held 5Linx Enterprises, will rely on interconnection agreements with other carriers plus a voice-over-IP network that 5Link owns and operates with facilities in New York and Atlanta, 5Linx officials said.

GlobalLinx will use videophones from Grandstream Networks, and has already purchased 5,000 videophones for use in the US and for a February launch in Sweden, where the brand name will be 5LinxGlobal, officials from both companies said.

Both deployments rely on small variations to Grandstream's GXV3000 videophone, including the addition of GlobalLinx logos. The resulting GlobalLinx model will be branded the GL3006, officials said.

The US service price of $30 includes unlimited calls in the US, the UK, Canada, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Ireland, France, Australia, China, Portugal, Spain and Italy, said Michael Machonkin, GlobalLinx vice president of sales and marketing, in an e-mail. He said the Swedish offer will be "very different from the US," but could not divulge details. While GlobalLinx has facilities in neighborhoods called "points of presence" in New York and Atlanta, Machonkin did not specify where the GL3006 and the videophone service will be marketed.

Machonkin said it is GlobalLinx's first deployment of Grandstream phones, although the carrier has been deploying videophones since 2005.

"The ability to see the other person you are talking to is very powerful," Machonkin noted. "When talking to a family member across the country or halfway around the globe, the call typically lasts much longer than an audio-only call because you now have the enhancement of video to make a call that is much more personalized."

While the pricing GlobalLinx envisions would be attractive to consumers, Machonkin also said that businesses find the devices "a very efficient tool to communicate with other offices, remote workers or individuals who travel."

Desktop and room-size videoconferencing products are available today from a variety of suppliers, such as Cisco Systems, Polycom and Tandberg. Those companies and other smaller vendors also make a range of videoconferencing products that are sometimes comprised of large desktop phones with oversize video monitors, or phones with four or five-in. screens and typical desk phones. Additional competitors include Avaya, LG, OJO and Zyxel Communications, analysts and Grandstream officials said.

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