Why VoIP Hardware Is Boring
I know I said this before: VoIP Hardward Is Boring. I gave some perfunctory reasons before. All of those things are overshadowed by the sheer fact that there hasn’t been any serious innovation in VoIP hardware for quite some time. These devices have become a commodity. I know from working with Voxilla for the past couple of years that there is basically little margin on these devices. The manufacturers, on the whole, have shown little ability to innovate, or perhaps a lack of desire.
To me, the last seriously game-changing piece of VoIP hardware was the SPA-3000. Originally designed by Sipura, they are now part of Linksys, which of course is owned by Cisco. I spent a long time with this device, helping to run the beta and assist numerous people on the Voxilla Forums with issues related to these devices.
What made the SPA-3000 so cool? It basically gives you the ability to graft-on Voice over IP functionality onto a traditional PSTN line. It gives you the ability to route calls through either VoIP or PSTN as you see fit as well as “gateway” calls between VoIP and PSTN in a user-defined way. You could use the device to add an FXO port to an Asterisk server. You can use it to extend a PSTN line over an IP link, including a PBX extension. It is a rather complex building block, particularly for the uninitiated, but extremely useful once you understand how it works and, furthermore, how to configure it.
Given that higher-end mobile phones are starting to have WiFi, it seems logical to me that the next game-changing VoIP device involve mobile voice. Certainly the WiFi/SIP-enabled phones that my employer Nokia makes are a step in the right direction, but I don’t believe they are game-changing devices. There are a couple of reasons:
- Battery Life. A problem with all smaller devices, not just WiFi phones.
- There isn’t much of an infrastructure for these VoIP/WiFi devices to participate in.
Meanwhile, Garrett Smith over at Smith on VoIP finds something that could kill those mobile VoIP ambitions: a personal cellular base station. Unfortunately, there isn’t much information on this device. The press release from Ericsson suggests this is quite like an Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) router. We’ll have to see when the details emerge.
Will the ultimate merger of mobile and VoIP be a game-changing thing? You betcha. The real question is: who will be the first to do it right and will that company survive the onslaught of imitators? And what will happen to all those companies that just produce VoIP-only gear?