SIP Phones and Voice In The Cloud

Snom m3  Yesterday evening, I got a SNOM M3 phone that I had ordered from Amazon. I unpacked it and charged the phone. While it was charging, I pointed my web browser to onsip.com and set up a 30 day free trial account. It took me about five minutes to set up an account, one user, and get a phone number. I then took down the sip configuration data from the onsip account I had set up.

I went back to the M3 which was still charging, and plugged the base station into my home network. The phone gave me its IP address on my home network. I then pointed my web browser to that IP address and entered the sip configuration data into my phone's configuration. And then I rebooted the phone's base station.

That whole process took about ten minutes, maybe less. I then picked up the M3, dialed a number, and made a phone call.

I realize that voice over IP (VOIP) has been around for over a decade. I invested in a VOIP company in 1997 so this is not new technology. 

But there is something really powerful when voice moves into the cloud. In about five minutes, I was able to provision myself a phone number in the cloud that had dialtone. And then make a phone call.

I chose to use the M3 phone, but I could have chosen any number of SIP phones. Here are four pages of SIP phones you can buy on Amazon.

I then walked down the street to our new apartment. I plugged the base station into our internet network in our new apartment, picked up the M3, and made a call.

Contrast this to the experience of getting a phone line provisioned from Verizon or any other traditional phone company. That requires talking to someone, getting a tech to come out and provision the line, and then running wires around the house or office.

It has taken VOIP at least a decade to get here. We needed it to get into the cloud, and we needed get a wide selection of high quality sip phones. But we are here now. You can provision a phone line from the cloud in five minutes, you can connect any number of high quality sip phones to that cloud-based phone number. And you can use that phone and phone number from any internet connection you want.

I am so happy to see voice and data converging and moving into the cloud. It's the way I've always wanted voice to work. I think we are going to see a lot of big changes as a result of this convergence.

#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

Comments (Archived):

  1. rohitkhetan

    It is difficult to leapfrog all the initial setup problems though since you need a phone line to get internet at home and that process still takes a month and a lot if back and forth with customer services. Even optical fibre broadband installation is not easy as there is little coverage and a lot of back and forth.Any idea on how to bypass this?

    1. fredwilson

      i got a 50mb wideband service from our local cable company. that did take aphone call and a tech had to come install it. but i would have had to dothat anyway to get data and video over the internet. the big deal for me isone big high bandwidth connection and then every service coming in overthat.i think the next step is high bandwidth wireless. maybe wimax, or maybesomething else.

      1. Fernando Gutierrez

        Wireless should be next for sure. But if we look at what has happened in the last decade, the day when we get in wireless the same speed that we have now with wired, wired will probably be much faster. And with much faster wired connections, apps will make use of that, so wireless will seem slow… hopefully some of the new wireless technologies will change that.I tried a two years ago a couple of wireless broadband (kind of) routers and the experience was amazing in terms of convenience. I just needed a power plug. And today, with MiFi routers you don’t even need that, as long as its battery lasts. Give me some more speed and I’ll gradly cut my landline.

      2. adamsussman

        How did you get 50mb? I live on the UWS and every option I’ve seen is not even close.

        1. paramendra

          It’s a new offering. I think you have that option too.

        2. fredwilson

          you have to go commercial with TWC and its $300/monthbut then i can run voice, video, and data over one pipe

        3. kenberger

          I have a TWC “Roadrunner Turbo” account in the East Village of NYC. They claim for that plan “up to 15Mbps”, but I consistently get close to 30Mbps as measured by speedtest.net. It’s screaming fast. (Disclosure: it’s a comped account for me). Normal price is around $50/month. They also have “wideband” 50Mb plans for $99/mo.

      3. Morgan Warstler

        So glad to see you on board with DOCSIS 3.0 Fred. It is warming the cockles of my heart.Hopefully you’ll decide that cable connection is the cheapest best deal in your life.

  2. Dan Ramsden

    I still wonder though how much of the excitement centers around a particular type of user with a particular niche product. Bypassing the procurement and provisioning via a telephone company rep is nice, but only happens once and it’s done, either way. Will the mass market of consumers really care about the benefits and features described to the same extent they care about having a cell phone, an internet connection, and cable access? I’m not only thinking about the vast population outside of downtown NYC and San Francisco, but the average person inside those places. I don’t know, I’m asking.

    1. fredwilson

      great points Dan. i agree that some of the things i care so much about are not mainstreambut there’s another big factor here and that is pricea very good cloud based voice provider, http://www.phonebooth.com/, offers a fully featured cloud based voice platform for $20/line with unlimited local and long distancei see the cloud bringing those numbers way down in the coming yearswhen you don’t have to have sales people and truck rolls, you can deliver high quality voice at much lower prices

      1. Dan Ramsden

        Yes, absolutely, the price will be hard to match. So it really comes down to two things: (1) Will the product quality be comparable to traditional phone service, so that the price comparison is apples-to-apples, and (2) Will the truck-roll CAPEX advantage last… because it isn’t a question of no truck-roll (still need that to set up broadband access), it’s a question of on whose dime… and this will determine if $20 is sustainable. Point (1) reminds me a little bit of wireless cable in the 90s, which made similar arguments but had to always deal with line-of-sight issues. I think point (2) comes down to net neutrality and how that all plays out.

        1. Rocky Agrawal

          I don’t know that consumers care about having quality comparable to traditional phone service. People consistently show a willingness to trade down in exchange for a) better price b) additional flexibility. e.g. being able to answer your number anywhere in the world.One of the best things that has happened to VOIP is the proliferation of cell phones… that has dramatically lowered the acceptable level of quality for phone calls. In the 80s, I remember Sprint advertising “pin drop” quality all the time. Companies don’t talk about that anymore.

          1. fredwilson

            i wrote a post a few years ago now called convenience trumps qualityi also think low price trumps quality

          2. Lawrence Sinclair

            Convienience Trumps Quality: I think that would argue against SIP – as it stands. With HD voice, it has higher quality (and other features). But even if phones came pre-configured for a service provider and one just needed to plug in an ethernet cable, DSL and cable modems, and even certain ISPs, frequently have settings that prevent these devices from working. Debugging and resolving these problems can be complex and baffling, and hence far from convenient.

      2. zackmansfield

        And Phonebooth is the product of a nice startup in NC – Bandwidth.com. Know that mgmt team there and they’re smart, talented guys.

    2. robertavila

      The demographics are strongly in its favor. Aging baby boomers may hold on to traditional phones, but almost no one under 35 has one. A significant component of the college educated class under 35 have close friends scattered globally and VOIP is the norm for communication. Cohort demographics will drive volume which is what has driven the quality improvement Fred describes.

      1. fredwilson

        the interesting question is whether mobile simply replaces wireline voice/voipwe are going with both for a bunch of reasons, but my kids may choose to abandon wireline voice entirely

  3. Tereza

    How’s Gotham Gal with the setup?

    1. fredwilson

      so far so goodshe loves the M3 phone and her headset that plugs into itand she said the voice quality is “excellent”you asked the right question tereza 🙂

      1. Tereza

        I highly value what GG says.She has an uncanny ability to cut thru to what will work and why.Happy wife, happy life!

        1. ShanaC

          Yup. Smart woman.

        2. Chris Swan

          I ended up with a confused wife in the early days of having a SIP phone in my home office. She called my mobile, which was forwarded to the ‘find me’ functionality in the cloud, which rang the phone at home, which she answered – not a thrilling conversation. The next step for all this stuff is much smarter (location based) presence based rules so that the right device rings when you’re in a place that you can answer it.

      2. ShanaC

        Well, the consumer who is more average always matter, especially when you love her.

        1. paramendra

          You mean more mainstream. Fred can be branded for a power user.

          1. ShanaC

            early adopter. (crossing the chasm) most people here are for a lot ofitems- thought certainly not all.A power user is someone who uses an item heavily. Just because you are anearly adopter doesn’t mean you are a power user. You could use an itemlightly, and still be an early adopter. You can be a late adopter, and turnout to use an item really heavily.I don’t know her, though she seems very nice (she let me use a picture ofhers after I went to the armory show for my facebook photo). She seems moretowards the center of the adoption curve- Fred has written about this beforeand how it is changing. (http://www.avc.com/a_vc/200… She does have an amazing blog though if you like food, cooking and aninteresting perspective on life. And want simple-ish recipes (a good chunkare one pot or two pot, which I’m thankful for- I’ve even sent some tofriends, because hey, who doesn’t want simple recipes that are interesting?)

          2. paramendra

            I have n-e-v-e-r used a recipe to cook anything, although I consider myself a fairly good cook. (I have limited vocabulary in cooking, I do have to point out.) At some point I want to start being able to do recipes. The thing that gets me is recipe talk makes you believe anyone can cook anything. I find myself not buying into that. I don’t think I could cook beyond the things I cook.

      3. kenberger

        beautiful and practical design on the M3– the tradeoff is it lacks HDVoice (G.722 wideband codec), With that on both ends, she’d change that vote from “excellent” to “omg the person is in the room next to me!”we use Polycom IP 650’s (not cheap) in our Asia office, and give them to US-based clients. The results are so consistently great, they steal the show.you might consider adding such a unit to your system (or we can always swap!)

        1. fredwilson

          we are buying some Snom 300s as well. i’ll have one in my office. you get HD on themi bet the next version of the M3 will support HD and we’ll swap out then.

  4. Chris Swan

    It’s great when it all works, but even after more than a decade of development VOIP is a pretty fragile beast (as I’ve been finding out over the past week or so setting up a small office system).NAT traversal issues, poor upload speeds over DSL connections, latency and jitter are all there to catch the unwary. When you dive into the guts of SIP it just wasn’t designed for the Internet as we know it (it would probably have worked fine a decade ago, and it probably will fit well into an IPv6 world).SNOM is a good choice. I’ve just got a 300 for my desk, which seems to work well. Sadly the Cisco 7940 I had before stubbornly refused to accept incoming calls from hosted VOIP services in any reliable way (a shame as it’s an otherwise very nice piece of kit). I can also recommend Linksys PAP2T and Grandstream 286 ATAs for those that want to turn their existing phones into SIP phones.I didn’t keep track of whether you went for Ribbit in the end for voicemail transcription etc., but if you did then you’ll find that they also work as a SIP service provider.

    1. fredwilson

      i use phonetag for voicemail transcription and love it

      1. paramendra

        There you go. I guess that was the name I was looking for.

      2. onsip

        I just tried phonetag from this suggestion and like it a lot. Thanks, Fred! Going to blog about it…

    2. Graham Siener

      Chris raises an excellent point about the infrastructure being lacking. You’ve rolled your own “Vonage” and are finding good results in portability between apartments. BUT — we are still a long way away from true portability. If that M3 were instead a wifi phone you’d be really upset with how often it didn’t register on someone else’s network. (Or, better example — you run a sip app on your iphone/nexus one and save yourself the cost of another physical device a la your remote.)IPv6 will potentially help break through the NAT wall but no one is invested in making that ipv4 to ipv6 switch — not even Google at this point. Skype solves the problem by maintaining a [proprietary] connection to their servers, Google Voice by pinging lots of potential lines.Google’s purchase of Gizmo signaled their interest in owning the whole supply chain from phone number to user. Until then end users are rolling their own. Luckily they can rely on the cloud for more of that chain than ever.PS Once you have a sip endpoint you can do some neat stuff like register for throw away US numbers through IPKall. Very handy.

      1. fredwilson

        “rolled your own vonage”nicely putbut i also get a PBX in the cloud with onsip which i will use in a bunch of waysthat’s why i didn’t go with vonage

    3. paramendra

      What’s that service that transcribes all your voice mails into text and sends you over email? Or, rather, which is the best one? Or is Google Voice enough?

      1. fredwilson

        phonetag uses humansand it is a paid service

        1. paramendra

          Humans? Get out of town, Fred. Wow. This is really smart of them. Because I think software will take a long, long time to get a grasp of language, especially spoken language, especially with my accent. Well then, they must be expensive, like very.

        2. paramendra

          Question: what kind of humans? 🙂

          1. Tereza

            Actually one of their competitors uses dolphins.They’re really effective with a variety of think accents, though mostly East European. Not sure how they are with South Asian.

          2. paramendra

            You just made that up. Dolphins?

          3. Tereza

            Yes, paramendra, it was a joke.I keep looking, but have yet to meet a dolphin who talks, types, or can differentiate accents.

          4. paramendra

            Disqus is cool with my accent. Long live Disqus.

      2. Chris Swan

        I think Ribbit uses Spinvox and a similar service by another provider. The results can be quite comic, when read literally, but the meaning is usually fathomable.

        1. paramendra

          Will they be able to cut through my accent, you think?

      3. Tereza

        Talk2.us also uses humans.Great guy, Trace Wax. here in NY.

    4. paramendra

      I can understand having a few different email addresses. But I have also ended up with a few different phone numbers. Did not plan it that way.

      1. Chris Swan

        Telephone numbers are the original digital identity – http://is.gd/bFkrBThere are good reasons for having just one, but there are also good reasons for having more. There’s also the same cruft problem that we had in the early days of webmail and portals – sign up for a new service, and get stuck with having to use a new identity.

    5. Lawrence Sinclair

      While the SNOM seems nice, you are really missing out on a delightful experience by not using an HD Voice SIP phone like the Polycom 335 or Polycom 550. I blogged recently about these phones and link to some sound samples that help illustrate the difference in sound experience: http://eastagile.com/blogs/

    6. Jeanne Quinn

      Hi Chris – I’m from the Cisco Small Business team. Sorry you had an issue with the 7940 phone working with a hosted VoIP service. Thanks for the Cisco/Linksys PAP2T recommendation! FYI that Cisco Small Business IP Phones do work with hosted VoIP services, more info on those models here if it’s helpful – http://bit.ly/bglfww

      1. Chris Swan

        It was a close call between the Linksys 942 and the SNOM, and in the end it came down to the headset connector (I already had a bunch of RJ11 bottom cables for our Plantronics H251s, but I’d have needed to buy new for the 2.5mm jacks on the Linksys phones).Is there ever going to be a SIP firmware for the 79xx that works with hosted solutions?

  5. Dan Cornish

    We have Clear WiMax in Austin. It is fast enough to replace a home dsl line. It is slower than a cable modem, but I have never had a problem streaming video. We use Clear as a backup for our corporate network and while we travel. They have service in a few places, but not NYC yet. WiMax really could replace the landline.Here is something cool and a bit geeky to do. On your mac download Loudhush. http://www.loudhush.ro/ Now you can setup an extension with Onsip on your laptop.

    1. fredwilson

      ooohan onsip extension on my laptopso coolwhen will i be able to use skype for that?

      1. Graham Siener

        Skype is transitioning to SIP (beta [1]), and they now have an Asterisk plugin. The beauty of controlling the pbx is you can plug in whichever components make sense.[1] http://www.skype.com/intl/e

        1. fredwilson

          yupgeek heaven

          1. Jake Carey-Rand

            Living in one country, operating my business in many others, forces innovation. I use a combination of TruPhone’s mobile VoIP application on my Blackberry 9700 (flat monthly rate for unlimited calling to 38 countries) and a hosted VoIP setup from Star2Star (with a Softphone from Eyebeam on my Mac); SIP-enabled with all the enterprise features and more. Calls are routed where I choose, voicemail emailed as a .wav attachment, full conferencing abilities, etc.I’m curious what quality you are actually seeing (or rather hearing). QOS plays a big part and depends on how well the VoIP provider integrates onto your particular Internet backbone. For example, Star2Star is a rock star on Level3 and many others, but not so much on Comcast. If you care about quality and you do your research, all the technology is here already.

          2. The Central Scrutinizer

            I have been playing around with VOIP products for years, and I have to say that the most flexible, cost effective option, always ends up being downloading FreePBX or Elastix and installing it on an old computer. You don’t even need to be to much of a techie to install and configure it. You even get plugins to achieve what your post was about, Fed.

  6. OurielOhayon

    Fred, what are the concrete benefits of having voice moving over the cloud? i understand the self service aspect of i, but don t see why this is a compelling experience?

    1. anand

      I’ve got the same question Fred. Isn’t this like having a MagicJack (besides the need for a real phone)? Personally I use ooma & it has paid for itself in the last 1.5 years I’ve had it.

      1. sfmitch

        I haven’t used SIP but I did get on the MagicJack bus and I think there are some significant differences.The OnSIP that Fred signed up for is a self-contained small business phone system (multiple users, multiple calls, multiple mailboxes, etc.) that requires special hardware – looks like it starts at $40/month + $150+ phone/equipment.MagicJack is a small device that plugs into a computer (PC or Mac – computer needs to be running) that allows you to plug in a standard phone. Light on the features (compared to OnSIP) and is really designed for an individual or household. Price is ridiculously low – $1.66/month ($20 for the whole year) + $40 for the device (which includes first year service so hardware is really only $20).MagicJack reeks of informercial so I was pretty skeptical, but it is really good at what it does and the price is silly.

        1. paramendra

          Yahoo Messenger gives you a virtual phone for 2-3 bucks a month plus one cent a minute.

        2. paramendra

          Mark Cuban: “If you can say it to me over the phone, you can say it to me over email.”

          1. Lawrence Sinclair

            Being able to hear a person’s voice as if you were in the same room with them creates a connection that is hard to quantify. For that reason, phone calls, and the highest quality possible, are important when you are trying to negotiate a contract or otherwise convincing someone they can trust you. It also makes my mother happy when I call her from the other side of the world.

          2. Tereza

            Yes. The more senses involved in an interaction, the more powerful the interaction.We tend to over-emphasize sight (and therefore, text). This is why an in-person meeting vastly trumps phone, which trumps email.Sound/voice is extremely powerful, both for analytical data as well as emotional data. Both of which help you make decisions.If I look at an old email my mom wrote, it doesn’t do anything affect me too much. If I hear a recording of her voice, or smell a perfumed scarf which was hiding in a drawer….that makes me well up.Now if someone could digitize texture, taste and smell — THAT would change the world.That’s also why businesses like Meetup and Foursquare work. For the time being, you cannot replace the power of the combination of 5 senses.

          3. kenberger

            I hope a smell recorder gets perfected, I’d record the NYC subway smell for when I’m away :)http://science.howstuffwork…

          4. Tereza

            When I lived in Prague I always thought it would be really cool if someone made a Smell Map of the city. Pear trees, lilacs, body odor, dog shit.That would be true augmented reality!Expect it out of the same future USV fund as the Cone of Silence.And BTW — as the weather’s been warming up, I too have noticed the NYC Subway has been getting….er…ripe.

          5. paramendra

            So which is the very best in voice quality? In your opinion.

        3. Lawrence Sinclair

          Onsip can’t beat that MagicJack price for one user although it gets close for a setup like Fred’s. Each additional phone on onsip costs nothing (with an extension) or $2/month with a phone number. Onsip didn’t make sense for us until we needed multiple phones and sound quality became business critical.Incidentally, I can share my wifi Internet connection on my Macbook through its ethernet port, and plug a sip phone into that to use it on the road, much like your MagicJack example, but with higher quality since the while setup is digital (or even HD Voice).

    2. Fernando Gutierrez

      What about the concrete benefit of obtaining some pleasure in the way? of doing it because it can be done? sometimes there is an easier way, but playing with the alternatives is just plain fun.I’m not saying there are not concrete benefits. I don’t live in the US and don’t know the prices and products well enough. But who hasn’t spent a few hours setting up a server at home when a shared disk drive would have been enough?

    3. fredwilson

      because then voice is a web service and it can be connected to many things without having to go through anyonehere’s a real live example, i control a block of 20 phone numbers. just to set up the forwarding on them while they get ported is taking my current provider “3 days for programming”i could do that on onsip in about three minutes

      1. OurielOhayon

        indeed that is a good example.i assume you could also port your “local” phone number with you when youtravel abroad on any SIP compatible client which is convenient for call-inID

  7. andyswan

    BILLY MAYS HERE forrrrrrr MAGICJACKI!

  8. brian

    Fred – how do emergency 911 / location-aware services work on your set up?

    1. onsip

      The Admin can set up multiple locations for E911 Settings. It’s pretty easy and an important part of a business phone service… Check out the following link for more info:http://www.junctionnetworks

  9. Bill Bishop

    Hi. I live in China, have good internet access. Can I still set up and use the m3? What country number can I choose from?also, does the base station have to plug wireless into your network, or can it connect wirelessly?Thanks

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t know all the answers to those questionsonsip is commenting on this threadhopefully, they’ll reply to your comment

      1. Bill Bishop

        thanks

        1. onsip

          @bbishop OnSIP Is mainly a U.S. service as we only provision U.S. numbers. However, it is possible to purchase an international phone number and use OnSIP by way of an inbound bridge. We have U.S. customers who do this to connect remote, international offices. (So, someone in the U.S. could extension dial a coworker in France.) Unfortunately, though, we cannot recommend our service to other countries as the international internet connectivity may present issues with reliability. In summary, it is doable, but we don’t recommend it as your main phone service. Thanks for your interest, though. If you have any further questions, you can email me at nicole (AT) junctionnetworks.com

    2. Lawrence Sinclair

      We use onsip.com from our office in Vietnam. That provider lets us pick phone numbers from all over the US (but not elsewhere). That is find since most of our clients are in the US. Our phones operate exactly as they would if they were in New York. Even when I call from Vietnam to people in the US, I get responses like “this is the best sounding phone call I have ever had” and it is even better when both sides support HD voice (which is increasingly common, especially in conference rooms).

  10. markslater

    but i have a cell phone….

    1. ShanaC

      You and me- when that massive windstorm hit the NY metro area- wired broadband went down in my house- as long as I could find a place to recharge, my cellphone didn’t. Considered I was out of power for 4 days….

      1. Tereza

        My house and much of my town has no cell service at all.Major NIMBY issues for more towers. No one wants to wreck their pretty view with a tower.The local wisdom is, never, ever give up your copper wire.Every local phone and cable installation and repairman in the area (who I believe are actually subcontracted) will tell you that off the record.We lose power and cable routinely. When that happens the wireline phone attached to the copper are the only line in and out….unless I throw on the rainboots and walk 2 miles.Generally they’re pretty fast about getting the power/cable up again, so we don’t have a generator and just enjoy being temporarily unplugged. Think candles and flashlight tag.

        1. ShanaC

          NIMBY isn’t good if you are in a situation where you can be without powerfor days…

          1. Tereza

            No question about that!

        2. Lawrence Sinclair

          We plug a UPS (a battery backup) into every DSL router, ethernet switch, and SIP phone that we use. They do not use a lot of power so one battery can power many of them for quite a long time. This means we can continue to work on the Internet and use our SIP phones even in power outages. I think the same would apply for cable modems.My mother recently lost her phone service for days. Of course, she could not call to get it fixed. But her cable Internet connection was fine, and she was able to IM with me and I called the phone company to get her service restored. She did not want to get a SIP phone because she was conerned about losing her phone service. A valid concern. But if she had had a sip phone and a regular phone, she would have been better off.

    2. paramendra

      LOL I say stick with it.

  11. md_massimino

    Reliability is still a question for me. I spend a ridiculous amount of time on the phone supporting remote clients, and I still have issues with echo. The issue is always with calling from my phone to a non in-network number. For example, Skype to Skype calls sound fabulous but Skype to a regular phone is hit or miss.So far I’ve tried Yahoo Voice, Skype, Vonage and Ring Central. I’m sticking with Ring Central for as long as I can because the business PBX features rock. Hopefully the service continues to improve and I can stop hopping over to a land line I still maintain until the echo issues go away totally.

    1. robertavila

      Reliability is a double edged sword. The traditional land line businesses are suffering a a decline in users and a deterioration in revenue which is making maintenance on their antiquated physical plant increasingly problematic. At some point service quality will begin falling and accelerate the decline in users. The miracle is that they have kept revenues up as long as they have in the face of the end that they have known was coming or decades.

      1. Tereza

        Robert you are a master of narrative with numbers.How’d you get so damn smart?:-)

      2. onsip

        We maintain reliability of our service on several levels.* We maintain our own hosting in one of the most reputable locations in the world – 60 Hudson St – a top carrier hotel* We maintain redundancy via direct connectivity to all but one of the Tier 1 Internet backbones.* We have engaged in relationships with multiple CLECs and have developed a call routing structure to ensure calls are completed. * Our own services are developed for redundancy * We review hardware (IP phones) so our consumers can understand the issues/benefits of each – Fred actually contacted us with SNOM M3 and we retested themIt’s important to be clear and transparent about reliability. For the end user, VoIP service reliability depends on the users’ internet connection, power reliability, and service. We actually find the majority of outages for clients is related to their internet connection. If you are comparing to a traditional phone system, POTS lines generate their own electricity and tend to be more reliable in that direction. But, your traditional corporate phone system still requires power.More specific info here:http://www.junctionnetworks

  12. Shawn L

    And not just SIP in the cloud–Skype, Google Apps, SIP, mobile and existing telephony infrastructure can all tie together through cloud-based solutions (e.g. OnState, http://www.onstate.com) to create workforces that can communicate and collaboration from virtually anywhere.

    1. fredwilson

      yes, exactly!

  13. kenberger

    Glad it’s working out for your family, too. But the real promise of VOIP is that *IT’S IP-BASED*. Lots of potential for using your phone interactively with the rest of the internet. Or even, at the minimum, customizing the screen to your needs or liking.Our team did this just for fun (in, like, 10 minutes): http://fishphone.comhttp://fishphone.wordpress….FishPhone is a web app that helps you easily build micro websites that can be viewed on your SIP phone’s screen. You can create office phone directories, complete with photos and social media info lookup. You can tweet and view Twitter trends, etc. The screenshots toward the end of the 2nd link above show such examples.Works on the Polycom desk phones only for now; if we can get an example to work on the M3, I’ll come back here and update. (You point your desktop browser to the phone’s IP address and assign your created microsite to it.)Fones are finally fun.

    1. Tereza

      I like that tagline: fones are finally fun.

      1. kenberger

        Thanks Tereza: my true calling just might be as an infomercial marketer. I even have sort of a radio announcer’s voice !

        1. Tereza

          I love cheese. Never underestimate the power of cheese!Same goes for a good voice.

        2. onsip

          Like that tagline! I think we’ll blog about that. Also – An OnSIP Sys Admin is currently reviewing FishPhone. We haven’t forgotten and will blog about that to OnSIP users.

          1. Lawrence Sinclair

            Fishphone meets our internal needs by letting us add content to our office phones. We decided to share the service with everyone and anyone for free because there was no good reason not to. If enough companies and people end up using it, we’ll throw some extra resources at it to make it more powerful and accessible.Our strategy with these things is (1) have an idea or an unmet need? (2) implement it — fast and simple, and shared with the world (3) move on to the next idea, (4) come back and apply more effort to anything that gets traction.By the way we are onsip users and very inspired by the way you have implemented your platform.

    2. fredwilson

      that’s so rightphones are finally funonce they behave like a computer on the network and we can do cool stuff with themi am so excited to be done with a provider who controls my access to the switch

  14. kenberger

    OK Fred, and now for more fun stuff:Install in Firefox http://www.jnctn.com/webser…Then on any web page w/ a phone number, just click to dial (your phone rings and you pick up). Works particularly well w/ gmail via browser– pull up a contact, email or calendar entry and click to dial a number in it.*I’ve also hacked Outlook to do click-to-call when you click the phone icon (anyone interested, just ask for details).There’s also a number of great free SIP clients out there so you can call via your laptop. And rather than use a phone at all in my office, I often use a digital wireless headset via the SIP client so the entire signal stays digital– for now, plugging the wireless headset’s base station into the SIP phone breaks the sound into analog (since the plug is only rj45), while plugging it into your computer is USB (digital).*(I wish there was a way to alter the outgoing callerID here, have seen other 3rd party plugins to do that; passing to a Google Voice API would sometimes be my preference if possible)

    1. Tereza

      OK so I can’t access this on my iPhone nor do I have nor plan to get an ONSIP fone in the forseeable future, but i just want to acknowledge for the public record the fact that you’re hacking and sharing this on the fly is totally f**king cool.

    2. onsip

      We have an Outlook integration 🙂 http://www.onsip.com/featur…Ken – Would you be interested in developing a mobile app with our API? We’re thinking of some cool stuff to take phone apps to the next level, and in the spirit of collaboration, would like to work with some other passionate innovators…

      1. kenberger

        Re Outlook: that plugin claims to only work for Win32– meant to say I got it going on other platforms, including 64-bit Windows7 / Outlook 2010 (see http://bit.ly/aSWIGl for instructions).We’d be happy to know you. Email is: my first name at eastagile.com

    3. Eric Friedman

      Ok, this is very cool 🙂

    4. fredwilson

      oh man, i am going to waste some time with this stuff this weekend

    5. fredwilson

      ken, i just installed the onsip ff extension. wow, that is amazing.do you know if they have a chrome extension?

      1. onsip

        Fred – No extension for Chrome yet, but it’s in the queue (which will be great because I’m an avid Chrome user).

      2. kenberger

        that’s even better– use the GV extension, which is much more robust, and doesn’t support Firefox (and 3rd party FF GV plugins are blocked by Google).i know you’ve been anti-GV for unspoken reasons, but this would allow you to select your phone number that you want to ring, per click. One could be the onsip number. It also assigns the outgoing callerID as your GV number (a huge plus for me, not sure bout you).another option is to use a generic sip dialer. I’ve used them successfully with FF, but don’t see any for Chrome, though *should be* easy to code.

        1. Neal Gilbert

          Google Voice has an awesome Chrome extension that integrates with your Gmail contacts so you can click to call them. You can also click and call any phone number on a web page.

    6. Lawrence Sinclair

      Altering the outgoing caller ID is certainly something one can do from the Admin panel on onsip.com. They are based on underlying technology from Junction Networks that has an open API. So I suspect one could use the Junction Networks API to push an outgoing caller ID change before every phone call.

      1. kenberger

        Wow- thanks Lawrence, my wish, above, is granted. I now see that one can just go into the admin panel and change “Outbound Call Preferences” to use any caller ID number that one wants.*That way you can set it to your main gateway number (GV for me) so that after you’ve direct dialed or click-to-called folks, they can call you or text you back even if you’re away from home.*just be careful to get this right, lest you spoof someone !

  15. Urs Cete

    Congratulations Fred on the Snom M3. I have been using a VOIP-only setup here in New York for 3 years now with the exact same phone. I did retire the hardware a month ago and bought a new Siemens S675IP with an additional handset and have to say I am a lot happier now. Besides design, the main caveat of the M3 for me was the lack of dialing plans. I have setup different SIP providers, since I have different DIDs (phone numbers) in different parts of the world, and I also use different SIP providers for making calls. With the M3 it takes several clicks to switch a provider while with the Siemens you can setup simple rules which numbers should be dialed by which providers.My current setup now rings when someone calls my google voice number (or my German number, or British number,…) and when I make calls it also shows my google voice number. Of course GV is also still transcribing most my voicemail.Best,Urs

    1. fredwilson

      oh man, i might have to swap out the Snoms for that phonedoes it have HD voice on it?

      1. Urs Cete

        Yes, it does have HD voice (G.722). I haven’t used that feature yet, as the friends and family I call don’t have compatible phones yet. But the next phone my parents will buy will be HD voice capable.There is a bunch of very very low cost European-based VOIP providers (all betamax resellers), that have great rates (mainly free) and allow setting the caller-id to whatever you want (every number is verified once to prevent fraud). I use Rynga, which gives you 3 months of free calls to USA and most of Europe once you topup your account with 15 EUR. The flatrate doesn’t cost anything, you can still use the 15 EUR to call countries which are not on the free list. Every 3 months I topup my account again with 15 EUR and enjoy the free calls.I really like the Siemens phones a lot and they can be bought easily on Amazon.Let me know if you have more questions or want to give HD voice a testrun.

  16. onsip

    Fred – Thanks so much for this blog. I showed Tim and he said, “Did he mention my name?” Haha. Glad you are liking the service so far, and we are happy to work with you. Tim will be in touch.Same offer as before, if anyone is interested in a promo code for free minutes, or if you have any questions, email nicole (AT) junctionnetworks.com.

    1. paramendra

      Hey. Why are you charging Fred for the phone? Tiger does not pay for Nike wear. Fred just gave you about 10,000 eyeballs.

      1. karen

        I don’t see the big deal in this. If Fred wants to pay, good for him for contributing to a business.

        1. onsip

          Thanks, [email protected]paramendra We actually provide the phone service, but we tested the SNOM M3 to ensure it works with our service after Fred’s inquiry. Junction Networks is a small business with a reliable and innovative service. Our employees work hard to keep it that way, and we appreciate our customers’ support and recommendations! Thanks again, Fred

          1. a.j. lawrence

            I want to second Onsip’s excellent service. They rock. We’ve been using there service for a bit over a year now and its really helped us grow the JAR Group. These guys are the real deal and deserve as much support as they can get.

        2. ShanaC

          By law, if he got for free, wouldn’t he have to mention it?

        3. paramendra

          I think it is a non issue for Fred, of course he can pay. He is in a position to pay. All of us are. That is why you don’t see me urging Fred not to pay, Workers of the world unite, Fred, don’t pay! Instead you see me urging the phone people to not ask him to pay, to gift him instead. It makes more business sense to gift Fred the phone than to have him pay.

          1. rick gregory

            And why do you care? Fred’s OK with paying it seems, JN can use any revenue I suppose and your interest is…. what?

          2. paramendra

            I was only making a business point as to what might have been a smart business move for these phone people. It was an intellectual argument. I was not trying to save Fred money.

          3. William Pietri

            I trust what Fred says here precisely because he’s paying for it just like I will be. If he were getting vendor freebies, I’d have to stop to wonder how likely he is to be influenced by that. He seems like a stand-up guy, but it’s hard to avoid being influenced by freebies. So I think it’s much smarter for his vendors to treat him like any other customer.

          4. paramendra

            So you think Fred will use a subpar phone just because it was free? I don’t think so. If I were the phone vendor, I’d want Fred to have a phone for free and ask his permission to brag about it.

  17. Rocky Agrawal

    There are also a bunch of SIP clients available for the iPhone. I’ve used iSip and it works pretty well. The challenge w/current OS is that incoming notifications will knock you off your call and you can’t receive calls when the app is not running. These should be solved with OS 4.For those with Google Voice and a gizmo5 account, you can also set it to work with your GV number.

  18. john

    What is the best option for someone who just wants to use this setup at home for one line???

    1. fredwilson

      phonebooth.com is a great option for that

  19. paramendra

    Congratulations on the new place. Curiously place and phone are both five characters.

  20. Michael Jung

    Read all the comments. Here is mine.The up-sell of services in the cloud (like voice, fax) is very very big. What I hate from telcos is, and the reason I don’t use the service is, (1) I still get a telephone number with my internet connection at home, and (2) on my cell phone. Why should I buy a 3rd telephone number as single individual, no home business, no 24hr job responsibilities, low-income-can’t-afford-to-fork-out-another-$40/m!?These services will take off when I am not required to buy a cell-phone-number-plan with my wireless (4g/5g) data contract. Or everyone has internet through cable, or you are able to buy an internet connection without a telephone-number-contract attached.BT (http://www.bt.com/) tells you, you can’t have internet without £160 connection installation charge and £11.54/m (minimum) for telephone and £14.49/m metered internet 10GB traffic (or £27.99/m unlimited traffic). http://talktalk.co.uk/ is subsidising the installation charge, but still its the same but with lower prices. Than you have your cell phone contract (plus data contract). And then I should pull another £9 for VoIP? http://www.voip-deals.co.uk/Only if I earn money doing phone calls, or how things are (currently) change.Verizon announced to have Skype pre-configured on its phones (afai remember), and GoogleVoice is possible though HTML5 (the backdoor for Google on iPhone). That is change in the right direction. And I wrote about it some months ago: http://michaeljung.wordpres…PS: And yes, I am charging ahead and say that Apps are evil for us all, the future is on the web, we just have to wait till technology catches up and we will have things like cover flow for other apps on the web (and the browser the container). HTML5 is one element of technology.Oh wait, Apple patented coverflow (like Google patented the Google.com design). Stupid.

    1. paramendra

      In the apps vs web thing, I am also for the web.

  21. Eric Friedman

    Your number should be portable – like an email. No way you should ever have to rely on hardware, software, or a carrier. You should just need data connectivity.Number portability is great – cloud portability is better.

    1. ShanaC

      Which is why number portablity is manidated for cellphones. it’s like an id at this point. I’m just waiting to see how it all rolls as people stop thinking as voice as the primary use for their cell phone.

    2. fredwilson

      exactly erici really want to go one step further and have a place to keep my 20 (212) numbers so that i don’t have to port them from one cloud provider to anotherkind of like the way a domain registrar works now

      1. Sean Grossman

        ENUM, an extension to DNS, provides self service portability, but large carriers are not using it as a routing method (public ENUM, at least), which makes it of limited utility.The whole idea is that your phone number gets looked up via DNS in the same way that google.com is when you surf the web, but instead, the hostname of your SIP carrier’s proxy is returned instead of an IP address. This would allow you to move from Broadvoice to OnSIP, just by updating your ENUM record with OnSIP’s proxy address. Moving carriers would take you 5 minutes instead of 5 business days, which is probably why VZ, ATT, etc aren’t jumping to adopt public ENUM.

  22. howardlindzon

    so fun to be investing in web/tech. no rules.

  23. Paul Roberts

    Provisioning a “phone line” from the cloud, complete with a cloud-based phone number #VoIP

  24. jefftala

    Does anyone here know if you can use a SIP phone for your alarm system?

  25. jposada_us

    as somebody say. Nothing new, Hosted VoIP have been on the market for more than 4 years.Regards.

  26. Neal Gilbert

    What you are describing is just one of them many features available in Cloud Communications (formerly known as Hosted VoIP). This feature alone provides businesses with a tremendous amount of flexibility that was previously only available in very high end telephone systems.For example, you can easily create an entire company of remote or home based people that share a single telephone system very. Literally, you could mail each of them an IP phone and all they would have to do is to plug it into a high speed internet and they are instantly part of a single telephone system. Or you could create a customer support group made up entirely of remote users. You could hire people on the East Coast and West Coast which would enable you to increase the amount of time you offer service without paying overtime rates. This is called “follow the sun”.Cloud Communications offers small businesses flexibility at an affordable price. It is essentially a pay-as-you-go service that requires very little upfront costs.

  27. amowad

    A great post. I like your insight on this topic.Many people don’t realize this, but cloud-based voice has been around for a long time: the PSTN. Cloud-based VoIP gives the latter a badly needed upgrade, makes your VoIP number portable, and enhances the calling experience with higher quality voice and potentially escalation to video. Not to mention all of the possibilities around application integration.