I Want My Wi-Fi Telephony

January 4th, 2004

Last February I requested a small, cheap mobile device that:

  • notifies me when I’m within range of an open wi-fi (wireless Internet) access point, and:
  • allows me to call any telephone number on the planet, nearly free of charge, whenever I’m within range of a Wi-Fi signal, via a simple numeric-keypad interface.

    Back then, the hardware necessary to make this a practical reality wasn’t cheap and it wasn’t widely in use. Now it is. Many of the most popular PDAs (personal digital assistants), like my new Palm Tungsten C, provide Web browsers and high-bandwidth wi-fi Internet connectivity.

    We have the hardware. We have the infrastructure — the cities are becoming saturated with wi-fi hotspots, many of them free for public use, and robust Internet telephony networks have been in use for years.

    And we have the client software — but it hasn’t been designed for the right devices. A handful of firms like Dialpad and Net2Phone already provide cheap PC-to-phone voice service. But none of them seem to have ported their client applications for use on PDAs.

    What are these firms waiting for? For a very modest investment in resources, Dialpad and its competitors can make a very compelling offer: global telephone service on the go for prices less than one-tenth what you pay for mobile or even land-line phone service.

    Dialpad: I have my portable wi-fi telephone and I’m ready to pay you to use it. What are you waiting for?

  • 15 Responses to “I Want My Wi-Fi Telephony”

    1. comment number 1 by: Robert Hernandez

      You are very close to your wish! Calypso Wireless has a cell phone that can be used in wifi when available and cell when close to cell tower. It gives you the opportunity to use the convenience of cell + the cheapness of

      telephony and can switch as they say seamlessly. Imagine good bye to the land line! For sure!

      I can wait.

    2. comment number 2 by: house of real estate

      Wouldn’t this require a HUGE WiFi mesh network? Am I missing something?

    3. comment number 3 by: Dav


      Sean isn’t requiring the phone to work everywhere, just wherever wifi is available. And it’s certainly available in more places than you realize (which is why the detection and notification part of the device is important).

      p.s. Sean, congrats on joining the team!

    4. comment number 4 by: sean

      (What Dav said.)

      Thanks, Dav…

    5. comment number 5 by: milk

      /me wonders when mobile phone masts will be replaces by wi-fi masts

    6. comment number 6 by: elf

      Why hasn’t anyone mentioned Free World Dialup? Isn’t this almost what you are looking for?

    7. comment number 7 by: sean

      Elf, that service looks intriguing, but according to the documentation it only works with other special SIP Internet phones; you can’t use it to call standard telephone numbers.

    8. comment number 8 by: bob

      Been calling Europe and Latin America for .10 per minute using Net2Phone. Look forward to using a cell phone. I hear net2phone is partnering with cable to offer voip.

    9. comment number 9 by: bob

      Been calling Europe and Latin America for .10 per minute using Net2Phone. Look forward to using a cell phone. I hear net2phone is partnering with cable to offer voip.

    10. comment number 10 by: chris

      QOS will be a big deal. What happens when you hop on a hotspot where the guy only has 512k DSL and 5 other people are talking?

    11. comment number 11 by: Halifax Real Estate

      I work as a Halifax Real Estate Agent in Nova Scotia, Canada and I was told that blogs were discussions on specific topics which made me interested in searching specifically for a real estate blog. So being new to the computer, I did a search in the search engines on a “professional real estate blog” and I found your professional web blog. It is a very interesting way to see what trends and technology are happening in the real estate market in other parts of the world besides Halifax. I am considering a blog for myself if I can understand the technology of operating a blog and from what I see I am somewhat hesitant right now even though it was interesting reading.

      Respectfully yours

      James B. ,

      Halifax Real Estate Agent

    12. comment number 12 by: Charles

      Check out the Treo 600 and see




      Nokia brought out a radio card for hybrid GPRS/802.11b connections in 2002.

      The Calypso hybrid phone is GSM/GPRS/802.11b

      and China Telecom recently decided to use them

      Calypso first worked with the T-Mobil network

      in the US

      Motorola/NEC either have already or are near

      announcing a hybrid phone

      For something inbetween a phone and a PDA, check

      out the Nokia Communicator 9500

      Finally, I’ve been using VoIP on my Sony Vaio

      laptop for three years. The Vaio is small enough

      to pass for a book but large enough to type on.

      I use the Callserve service

      This lets me call anywhere to anywhere for USD.05/min. This is especially useful when,

      for instance, I am sitting in the Deutsche Bahn

      train station lounge in Germany and calling

      Switzerland. If you use a US card, you have no

      idea what you are being charged to call from

      one European country to another. It can be

      in the USD 7-8.00 range! Ask me how I know.

      With the WiFi/CallServe solution, I use my

      laptop, which I carry with me when I travel

      to reliably make all of my calls at a known price.

    13. comment number 13 by: Vaughn Munden

      Hi all,

      Check out our web site, we help people with VoIP, SIP, etc.

      Also check out they make a SIP based VoIP softphone for the iPaq handhelds. I use their products for my PCs, but I talk to several Americians on a regular basis via VoIP over the Internet, and they are using the iPaq version….they love it.

    14. comment number 14 by: Vaughn Munden

      Also check for a wireless SIP VoIP handset.

    15. comment number 15 by: Vaughn Munden

      As for QoS on the Internet, that is not available today. It is technically available on the Internet routers, but service providers have yet to deploy QoS based services. Now, that said, I make VoIP calls on the Internet on a daily basis, and seldon have an issue. If I do have a audio quality issue, it is because the far end user has poor resources (ie, computer, ISP, etc.) SIP based VoIP will become very big in the next few years.

      Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.