Telephony in the English cloud: Twilio launches in the UK

Telecommunications has moved to the cloud, inevitably. We have a tele-cloud in East London now, where Twilio has opened its first office outside the U.S. today. The reason I’m excited about this is that telephony infrastructure in the cloud is as technically simple as economically cheap. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Twilio, as you might know, is a simple API for developers that allows them to integrate phone calls, text messages and IP voice communications into their phone applications. Through that it has become something of an enabling layer on top of telecommunications, allowing for innovation in the field. One of the key things about Twilio is its simplicity. Developers with no background in telecom whatsoever can build sophisticated applications using their existing skills faster than you can say API. Well, pretty fast anyway – airbnb built their Voice Connect service on top of Twilio in 48 hours.

Now that they’ve settled in the UK, where the service has been in beta for the past few months, developers can buy phone numbers in the region from Twilio’s API or its website and use them for easier communication in the area. The service was also launched in beta today in Poland, France, Portugal, Austria and Denmark. If you think that sounds like a massive expansion, note that they’re rolling out 11 more in the next couple of months, from Italy to Finland. It’s obvious that CEO Jeff Lawson is “really excited about bringing [Twilio] to Europe”. According to him, spending  “3 years focusing on building a killer product in the U.S.” will help the service reach a wide developer audience in Europe.

Twilio’s launchpartner Zendesk announced the launch of cloud-based call centre Zendesk Voice today. The company started out as an e-mail support service and last month “branched out into the world of call centers”, so Lawson explained at the launch event in central London today. Zendesk Voice lets users set up cloud-based call centres for minimal costs compared to traditional set-ups. It simply converts messages and calls into a digital format. “[Zendesk is] not a telecom company, it’s a software company that now expanded with Twilio into the world of phone calls,” he said, underlining the technical simplicity of the service.

Immensely reducing the time it takes to build communication apps means that the structures built can grow and be re-designed in reaction to the users’ immediate needs. It’s in the power of the cloud that scaling up and back down is easy, depending on the communication service you need at different times. That’s why making Twilio a pay-as-you-go service was a smart choice. Geographic telephone numbers cost $1 a month through Twilio and freephone numbers cost $2 a month.

Twilio serves about 60,000 developers globally up to today, including eBay, Sony and LinkedIn. Their London office is growing and hiring.