Pre-paid mobile VoIP is heading to Australia within the next six months, courtesy of US-based Mint Telecom.
The company, formed at the beginning of last year by a group of telecoms, Internet professionals and application developers, offer a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) software-based service that lets customers have their own local Direct Inward Dialling (DID) number which they dial from their PDA or Web-enabled mobile phone, which then gets routed anywhere in the world through Mint Telecom's VoIP network.
Customers pre-pay for the service with a monthly $6.95 fee and blocks of minutes (starting at US$10) which are deducted by Mint Telecom in line with its international rates.
In April, the company plans to launch a J2ME application that will allow VoIP calls to be made from a traditional mobile phone. The J2ME will ping the server with any international number - which will then direct the phone to dial the (DID) number- which rings Mint Telecom's server and then the call is connected via Mint Telecom's VoIP network in conjunction with partners that include Global Crossing, RNK Telecom, and Voxeo.
Co founder and chief executive officer, Jason Jepson believes Mint Telecom's services are attractive because they offer international dialling with the ease of local calling all at VoIP rates coupled with call quality, privacy and true mobility.
"It offers VoIP to the customer without having to push Wi-Fi, extra hardware or a softphone," he said.
"You are not tied to your computer. You can make VoIP calls when and where you want. Our service is also good for travelling - unlike other VoIP options Mint allows users to call from other countries - as they travel globally and still receive cost savings."
Jepson said Mint Telecom will be able to operate more cheaply in Australia than other VoIP providers (such as Skype), because, by making ordinary PSTN calls from Mint Telecom servers, the company boycotts any broadband charges.
All that is needed for the service to work in Australia are DIDs, which Mint Telecom plans to make available in Q2 and then globally in Q3.
"We have several key relationships with DID vendors in North America and globally. We are in process of beta testing new regions for call quality and termination quality," Jepson said.
"We are a SIP-based, back-end software service that integrates easily into any system, so any company in the world could use and offer our service."
Jepson said although the service will primarily be sold online, he is also looking to partner with Australian carriers who would be able to offer his service to customers.
He admitted Mint Telecom's service might shake up the Telco world, but that all industry needed to change and move based on the needs and desires of consumers.
"We will force them to think outside the box. Look what SIP did for VoIP - now Skype is being forced to move to a SIP-based service. We are not going to change the world, but hopefully we will change some people's oil. We believe we are great bridge for the transfer of VoIP to a mobile platform," he said.