Sunday, May 01, 2005

Remember Pagers?

So, why are cell phone companies up in arms about municipal wireless?

Skype is a de-facto VOIP standard, and free. You install it, and calls to anyone else running Skype are free. Anywhere in the world.

Calling a non-Skype phone costs money, and the price varies with who you're calling. For example, calls to phones in the US -- cell or land-line -- cost two cents a minute.

My cell plan costs $40/month for 600 minutes. Those same 600 minutes would cost me $12 on Skype.

There are apples-to-oranges issues here. I get free weekend and late-night calls with my cell phone. I get free Skype-to-Skype calling with Skype --
as soon as everyone has Skype, all my calls are free.

Then, there's coverage. My cell phone only works where I have cell phone coverage. My Skype phone only works where I have IP coverage. Anywhere there's municipal wireless, everyone in the municipality has IP coverage, everywhere.

Remember a couple of years back when the supermarkets and Office Max stores had pager booths, where you could buy a pager? And how quickly cell phones made them disappear?

Cell phones, now a lucrative market, could be swept away by VOIP just as quickly. The phone manufacturers, like Nokia, would just switch to making VOIP phones, but companies like Verizon and T-Mobile would vanish.

Meanwhile, in the big-fleas-have-little-fleas department, cell phones continue to nibble away at PDAs and everything else. Nokia has just announced the N-series, which will have 40G hard disks, 2 megapixel videocameras, MP3 players, USB and bluetooth. And, oh yeah, they'll also make phone calls.

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