Free service unshackles VoIP users

The days of having to be locked in to your Internet phone call provider are over, thanks to a free service by a local technology company.

SIP Broker, by H.A. Enterprises, diverts Voice over IP (VoIP) calls through to the cheapest route, bypassing VoIP service provider (VSP) customer lock-ins.

The product uses a communications mapping protocol called Electronic Telephone Numbers Mapping (ENUM) that references Internet resources by using a single global numbering scheme for both Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) telephony and VoIP services.

ENUM replaces the e-mail style of SIP address with a numerical sequence such as +61-2-9875-2222, which allows users to connect through different VoIP providers with a traditional telephone handset.

SIP Broker routes a user's SIP number, for example 456789@mysip.com, through an ENUM route which then connects to the user's VoIP phone for free. If the ENUM-enabled number is not available SIP Broker falls back to dialling the number via the caller's normal provider.

"The explosive take-up of broadband services has created a tipping point for VoIP services," said technical specialist and co-owner of H.A. Enterprises, Martin Burns. "VoIP is a much cheaper alternative than PSTN, and as VoIP numbers go up, so does the need for services such as ours."

However, VSP customer agreements and the limited spread of ENUM-enabled users make this a tough sell, said Burns. This is because many VSPs, in an attempt to lock in customers, only allow users from the same providers to call each other.

"It's akin to Telstra not allowing incoming calls from Optus or Vodafone - it would be unthinkable in the mobile phone market," said Burns. "SIP Broker's objective is to open up the VoIP market for everyone's use, not limit calls to within your own provider."

For those not using ENUM, SIP Broker can allocate individual SIP-Codes to VSPs.

Normally, only users on the same VSPs can easily call each other. A user with a number 555@mysip.com can call a friend on 666@mysip.com by simply dialling 666.

But if that same user wanted to call someone from a different provider (eg, 888@myprovider.com) then they would have to dial 888@myprovider.com, which can only be done on a computer.

SIP Broker allocates SIP-codes for different VSPs. So if yourprovider.com has a code of *222 then all the user would have to do is dial *222 888 to reach the person from myprovider.com.

"This works just like an area code on a regular phone number," Burns said. "The user simply prefixes their desired number with the SIP-Code and SIP Broker does the rest. Now users can use the handset as it was designed to be used."

SIP Broker has SIP-Codes for over 220 providers, including Freecall, Astratel, SipPhone, and Freshtel.

The free service relies on advertising and donations to sustain itself. Registration is also free and gives users the added benefits of speed dialling and aliases for specific SIP-codes.

Burns said the company had over 1000 registered users, but real numbers were impossible to know as registration for the service was optional.

The service can be set up from a user's home with no required intervention from the SIP Broker team. For more information see: www.sipbroker.com

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