Another Kind of Phone

Here’s another interesting phone-over-Internet approach that also works over existing telephone lines: the PhoneGnome.

This is how it works: A user connects the PhoneGnome via an ethernet cable to his of her home network, and to a PSTN wall jack using a standard telephone cable. When the PhoneGnome powers up, it automatically reports in to a server to let it know it’s online and what its PSTN phone number is. That’s the entire scope of the basic installation.

Once installed, when the user dials a telephone number, it checks with the server to see if that number belongs to a registered PhoneGnome user. If it does, the call is made directly via the IP network, bypassing all PSTN toll charges.

The PhoneGnome also works with non-PhoneGnome accounts like BroadVoice, VoicePulse Connect. In a nutshell, the service seems to straddle the best of old-style telephony and the best of the new — including the public SIP protocol.

I’m not clear whether the PhoneGnome works overseas; I see no reason why it couldn’t.

Skype Comes To Asia

Skype has teamed up with Korea’s Daum Communications to offer a co-branded Korean version of the pseudo-VOIP free telephony service.

Korea has the highest penetration of broadband in the world, and Daum claims 37 million members, so this could be quite a hit there. There’s no mention of whether the service offers Skype Out services, where Skype users can call reach non-Skype users via normal PSTN lines, but I imagine it will at some point. (A problem outside the big countries is getting Skype credits, something Skype says it’s looking into.)

Daum also plans to offer other services over the network: “Additionally, Daum-Skype will develop unique community building applications to expand the value proposition for Korean users. Programs promoting common-interest study and discussion will be rolled out later this year.”