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// Tales from software development

What is Skype doing about SIP ?

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I’ve recently installed a VoIP enabled ADSL router/modem and setup a couple of SIP accounts. I have a non-geographic number (0845) assigned to one account and a geographic number assigned to the other using the area code for my employer’s offices rather than the area code for where I live.

I still use a land line for most private calls but these two SIP accounts give me a lot of useful flexibility. The first SIP account allows me to give out a number for private or business use in situations where I don’t want a phone number to indicate where I live. The second SIP account is useful for business use as it appears to be my employer’s offices, or at least a number at the same location.

There are several SIP account providers in the UK that only charge for outgoing calls rather than a monthly rental. Sipgate for example don’t charge for an account, a number assigned to the account, or incoming calls. You only pay for outgoing calls and these are charged at lower rates than a standard land line.

After a few days of use it suddenly dawned on me that I already had a VoIP account. In fact, an account that I’ve used for the past eight years – my Skype account. I’ve only ever used Skype with the Skype Windows desktop application but surely I could configure my router/modem with the details of my Skype account and then I’d be able to send and receive calls using the POTS (plain old telephone service) handset that I’ve attached to the router/modem ? All I needed was the details of the SIP account associated with my Skype account.

But, it’s not as simple as that. Skype is not a SIP based system. However, it did introduce a beta programme last year for using Skype with SIP based systems. In fact, it was exactly a year ago – last March.

It’s still a beta programme which seems odd and implies that Skype is dragging its heels on this issue. Anyway, I went ahead and signed up. This requires that you register for Skype’s Business Control Panel (BCP) as this provides access to SIP settings. The alarm bell started ringing at this point – why isn’t there a ‘personal’ option rather than the business oriented offering ?

Once in the BCP it got worse: Skype charges €4.95 per number per month.

Clearly, this isn’t a service aimed at personal users. But Skype is losing out because there are plenty of SIP account providers that will happily allocate a SIP account and a telephone number free of charge and still charge competitive rates for calls.

But I think Skype hasn’t even got the service right for business users either. €4.95 per number per month doesn’t sound like a lot of money but it soon becomes a significant figure when you scale it up to service the needs of a company employing more than a handful of employees.

If Skype doesn’t get a handle on this very quickly it’s in danger of becoming irrelevant as cheaper and more affordable VoIP enabled hardware becomes available and both home and business users want to use SIP-based VoIP.

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Written by Sea Monkey

April 8, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Posted in Comment

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