A few weeks ago I wrote about two new London based companies Truphone and ConnectMeAnywhere which offer cheap international calls on your mobile by redirecting a local call via VoIP. I also briefly mentioned the Swedish company RebTel which offers a similar service.
Although I am unclear why the investment was so significant, what this investment does show however is that even though the VoIP market is beginning to become crowded with many me-too services, it’s only now that the VC’s are beginning to place their bets on who they think will eventually become the next big 21st century “digital” phone company.
Of course the 20th century analogue (POTS) phone companies, such as BT, hope they can remain our incumbent communication providers by [slowly] transitioning their 18m users over to VoIP based services such as the BT SoftPhone and BT Fusion.
Personally I prefer to use Skype and Skype mobile on my T-Mobile MDA Pro to achieve much the same things. For example whilst in France recently, I recieved both free Skype to Skype calls as expected as well as Skype in-calls from the UK i.e people called my local Skype UK number and only paid for the local call charge even though I was in France. Equally by using Skype it also means I only have one Skype contact list to manage both on my PC and mobile device.
At the moment I try and use my Skype enabled mobile phone as much as possible to make free VoIP calls where and when I can but due to the limited wifi access i.e at home or in hotposts, it is rather infrequent. But everytime I do so, I either save money on my international call charges and/or I save money on my local call charges.
I can imagine therefore that once the metropolitan wifi networks, being installed right now, become ubiquitous, I will begin to use my VoIP phone more often to replace a number of GSM/GPRS calls.
RebTel of course isn’t Danny Rimer’s only investment. One of his other ($18m) investments is FON. FON is a mesh network of users freely sharing their home/hotspot wifi for the benefit of other FON members. IF (and I have my doubt’s) FON can manage to create a nationwide and/or international free mesh network, then services like RebTel will become immensely valuable which is why I guess Danny invested in RebTel?
Personally I am not sure if any of these companies, RebTel, CMA, TruPhone or FON will eventually become the next 21st century [purely digital] phone company. But what do I know, Danny was one of the earlier investors in Skype, so maybe he can see something I can’t in RebTel and FON but thankfully I am not alone in airing my concerns and doubts.