Fusion Telecommunications International believes international phone calls should be free.
On Monday, the Dubai company announced the public beta version of Efonica, a VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) service that allows users to make calls from any phone or PC for free, with a few limitations. "As a company, we believe all telecommunications will be free in a few years' time," said Ibrahim Choueiry, Fusion's director of worldwide sales, at the CommunicAsia exhibition in Singapore.
The Efonica service strips away some of the technical issues associated with VoIP. While users must have an Internet connection, there is no need to use a PC to make calls if they have a phone and an analog telephone adapter, which turns a phone into an IP device. To make a call, Efonica users pick up their phone and dial "10' before entering the country code and phone number of the user they want to call, Choueiry said.
The idea is to create an Internet equivalent to the international dialing code used with fixed-line and mobile phones. "The service is designed for people who don't understand technology," he said.
To make free calls, users must first register for a free eNumber at http://www.efonica.com/. The eNumber, which is always preceded by "10," can be the same as a user's home or business phone number, making them easy to remember and disseminate. Once registered, the user is able to call any other Efonica user for free.
Calls to numbers outside Efonica's network are charged at a lower rate than fixed-line or mobile phones. For instance, Efonica calls to the United States cost US$0.018 per minute.
The Efonica service is based on peer-to-peer technology that uses SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), a VoIP standard, but the service limits how peers on the network access each other, Choueiry said. Users are only connected directly to Efonica's servers or to the users that they are talking to, he said.
The commercial version of Efonica is expected to be completed in two months, at the end of the public beta trial, Choueiry said.
CommunicAsia runs through June 23.