Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Teleo - internet calling for everyone

I have been saying it for some time now that 2005 will be the year that VOIP becomes killer app. Sure pure "phone" services like Lingo and Vonage and PC-to-PC/PC-to-Phone services like Skype (w/SkypeOut) have been around for a while now, but none have really grabbed the attention that hard core users really need. That is until now.

Teleo is a new service, so new in fact that it is only in version 0.9, that combines PC-to-PC, PC-to-Phone, AND Phone-to-PC in a simple to use and very affordable package.

In its simplest form, Teleo is a voice messaging system very much like Skype. Making calls from PC to PC is simple and painless. Tested behind a number of firewalls and routers, it has performed perfectly each time.

As a PC-to-Phone system, Teleo charges only 2 cents per minute to dial any standard phone number. Where Teleo stands out from the crowd is in the Phone to PC mode. When signing up, I was able to get a telephone number in a local area code (actually one very central to myself and all of my clients). Place a call to my virtual land line and my laptop rings. Using the onboard microphone and speakers (HP Compaq nc6000 laptop) the sound is exceptionally clear on both sides of the conversation. The only downside is loud noises overwhelm the onboard mic. Using a good quality headset sounds as good or better than most telephones. You will to have some decent bandwidth however. Using a 768k line, a download from Microsoft's site was taking the majority of available bandwidth making the Teleo conversation cough, sputter, and skip. The moment the download finished, voice quality instantly improved.

As a consultant, I am on the road all day visiting on average of 2-3 client sites a day. The cell phone bill is getting larger every month so I set out to see how I could reduce that bill. The "dial tone" services required me to carry around extra equipment (VOIP adapter and a phone) while Skype didn't provide me with inbound calls. Teleo provides everything I need. After a little practice and researching the billing impact, I found the best solution is to give out my cell phone number (Sprint PCS). When I have internet access, I forward my cell phone to my Teleo number. Each call forwarded from Sprint is a flat 10 cents charge. This is better than the opposite as Teleo dings you the 2 cents per minute charge for forwarded calls. So as long as my average phone call is greater than 5 minutes, than this works out. If I see that my average call is less than five minutes, then its best to give out the Teleo number and forward that to my cell phone when no access is available.

The Teleo install allows you to install just the soft phone application or optionally install an IE and Outlook plugin. The IE plugin allows quick dialing of phone numbers listed on web sites while the Outlook pluging allows quick dialing of phone numbers in emails. What would be much better would be a TAPI driver to allow for dialing from Outlook contacts.

While inbound calls use basic Caller ID to display the phone number, there is no extended Caller ID information nor a phone book to save numbers to. While the technology is great, the lack of an address book is a major setback.

Overall, for this beta the product itself is pretty solid. While it is missing some key features that a more refined program would have, its a great start.


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