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SkyQube Squared Shakes Up International Calling

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the forward-for-pennies dept.

Communications 59

Max Matakino writes "CNet.co.uk has stumbled across a very interesting box indeed out at CeBIT: 'The SkyQube Squared from Qool Labs is a VoIP gateway that enables you to forward calls and messages made to your mobile phone or landline via SkypeOut to another number anywhere in the world.' This means that if you receive a call to your house phone while you're in China, you can get it forwarded to a Chinese cell phone or telephone for the relatively very cheap price of a SkypeOut call. I'm guessing wireless carriers aren't going to be happy about this one."

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59 comments

Asterisk, Cheap Calls (5, Informative)

jeff_schiller (877821) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364025)

You should also check out http://www.latenightpc.com/blog/archives/category/ asterisk/ [latenightpc.com] for a couple of tips on how to set up an Asterisk box with VOIP gateway...

Re:Asterisk, Cheap Calls (2, Interesting)

antarctican (301636) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364907)

Yup, that is definitely an option and the one I use. In a slightly modified way.

I can voip in to my home machine from anywhere then bounce the call out my home phone line which I have a very good long distance package on (cable company provided voip actually...). This effectively lets me access the local telephone network plus make long distance calls from anywhere I have an internet connection.

Technology is wonderful.

Re:Asterisk, Cheap Calls (1)

mikiN (75494) | more than 7 years ago | (#18370481)

I hope you factored energy bills and replacement parts (failing hard drives, failing processor and PSU fans causing a cascade of other failures) into your cost estimate. Considering these costs made me stay away from your solution for the moment (until I find time and money to build a low-power, preferrably diskless Asterisk box).

Re:Asterisk, Cheap Calls (1)

markus (2264) | more than 7 years ago | (#18365373)

If you install chan_cellphone.so [digium.com], and you have one of the supported Bluetooth cell phones, you might even be able to build your own GSM to PSTN gateway. No need to buy expensive hardware, or to tie yourself to Skype.

Re:Asterisk, Cheap Calls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18367811)

Sweet freakin' deal!

Make SIP not Skype (1)

Namarrgon (105036) | more than 7 years ago | (#18369229)

Yes indeed, Asterisk FTW.

While Skype is popular (I occasionally use it on my mobile phone), its proprietary model is annoying and limiting. Here in AU, voip is really starting to take off, and it's all based on SIP, the official standard for this sort of thing. From my normal home phone, I can make free calls to Asterisk setups or any other SIP client, including friends & family's voip phones, and PCs running Windows Messenger, Jabber or GTalk (via gateways if necessary). I can call overseas to any fixed phone for 20c/hour, and nationally for 10c untimed.

However, there are still some friends who are still using Skype instead of SIP, so I can't just pick up my regular phone and ring them for free (instead I have to pick up my mobile, connect to my wifi and call them with Skype instead). A SIP-Skype gateway might help, though I've never found one.

Perhaps Asterisk could be rigged to manage it, but there's this whole proprietary-protocol problem, see?

In any case (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 7 years ago | (#18371413)

In any case, the redirection might not save any money, depending on the way your phone billing system works.

My wife and I both have mobile phones on the same account. We often call each other when one is overseas. The cost of the outgoing side of the call can be very cheap with any given VOIP solution, but the mobile phone that is away from home (Australia in my case) gets slugged with a massive charge from Vodafone to receive the call.

Re:Make SIP not Skype (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18371821)

"using Skype instead of SIP" ...but Skype uses SIP too... (just not at a level where you can play with it.)

Latency? (0, Redundant)

L. VeGas (580015) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364159)

This is a cool thing, but I wonder about the lag time. First, there is the typical lag you get on a mobile phone, and added to it is the lag time you will get from VOIP.

Re:Latency? - three actually (1)

Lanoitarus (732808) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364191)

...and added to THAT is the lag time for the second mobile on the other end. It may work well but its hardly likely to be lightning fast.

Re:Latency? - three actually (1)

veganboyjosh (896761) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364249)

meh, for a free international cell phone call?

Re:Latency? - three actually (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364477)

meh, for a free international cell phone call?

Umm, no. Skypeout calls to mobile phones are far from free. Cheaper than your wireless carrier, but definitely not free.

(This from someone who is making a lot of Skypeout calls to mobile phones at the moment.)

Re:Latency? - three actually (1)

raju1kabir (251972) | more than 7 years ago | (#18367247)

making a lot of Skypeout calls to mobile phones

Why are you doing that? There are much cheaper ways to call mobiles.

One of the easier ways is to pick a service from Betamax [backsla.sh] (link is to a 3rd-party price-comparison grid that will help you pick the Betamax service with the best rates to your destinations).

Re:Latency? - three actually (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 7 years ago | (#18370903)

Why are you doing that? There are much cheaper ways to call mobiles.

Because:

(1) I am in Australia, my wife is currently in the UK
(2) I spend days at a time away from home myself
(3) I have an absolute requirement that the application I use to call from has to be cross-platform
(4) Sometimes it is just not worth the trouble of shopping around SIP providers just to save what amounts to a few cents.

I could probably go on at considerable length. Yes, I know Skype is far from perfect, and no, I'm not enthused about the proprietary nature of the client. But nevertheless, the concept is good, and the roaming contacts list is very useful.

Re:Latency? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18364625)

Huh? You have lag time on your mobile phone? You must be living in the US. There is virually no lag (well 10ms) with most mobile phones (GSM, GPRS, UMTS, ...).

Re:Latency? (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 7 years ago | (#18366229)

umm there is this thing called "the Speed Of Light" also network switching may cause a bit of a problem

(for most situations this is trival/subtrivial but...)

Needs a PC though!!! (-1, Redundant)

abhikhurana (325468) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364219)

Why oh why can't they make something which can be directly connected to a router rather than me having to leave my PC on when I go abroad? Would save me a fortune in electricity bills.

Not so good for UK residents (0, Redundant)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364251)

I hear UK residents pay for phone service by the minute. If this is indeed the case, this deal is not so good. It is good for us in the US and Canada who pay a flat monthly fee that enables us to make as many call as we wish and to talk for as long as we want.

Re:Not so good for UK residents (1)

Hobbs0 (1055434) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364541)

US citizens pay a flat rate? Thats news to me. For as long as I can remember my landline has unlimited local calls but charges for long distance by the minute. Of course now services like Vonage are changing that, but traditional phone will remain the same I'm sure.

Re:Not so good for UK residents (1)

hab136 (30884) | more than 7 years ago | (#18365313)

US citizens pay a flat rate? Thats news to me. For as long as I can remember my landline has unlimited local calls but charges for long distance by the minute. Of course now services like Vonage are changing that, but traditional phone will remain the same I'm sure.

Unmetered local calls, yes. There are exceptions - New York City charged 11 cents per call, regardless of length, when I was there.

Long-distance (between US states) charges have dropped steadily so that now traditional carriers are offering flat-rate long-distance. For example, check out MCI's offering [mci.com]. Bellsouth [bellsouth.com] offers $25/month unlimited long distance, but their stupid web page won't let me link to it. These are not two-bit players or new VoIP upstarts; these are the established dominant carriers.

Most cell phone plans include unlimited long distance.

International long-distance is still metered, but since most people don't call overseas, phone is essentially a fixed rate for most people.

Re:Not so good for UK residents (1)

TiredOfCrap (885340) | more than 7 years ago | (#18365401)

For a little over 2 years Verizon has provided a phone service for about $39 per month that allows you to connect to USA, Canada, Mexico and a few other countries with no call charges.

Re:Not so good for UK residents (1)

vrai (521708) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364629)

Since the advent of local-loop unbundling there are a myriad of operators who provide free UK calls. Most of the larger broadband providers do so, including the big pay TV providers: Sky and Virgin media.

Definitely cool (2, Interesting)

ByteMePlenty (1076187) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364279)

I have a colleague in Chennai who picked up each and every call from his girlfriend to his Chennai mobile - "when he was in San Jose, CA". The bill was $8000/-. The company paid the bill but wtf If he didnt know about international roaming charges, I bet he wouldnt have heard about this beauty either. ByteMePlenty

If the goal is cheap international calling... (0, Redundant)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364303)

If your goal is cheap international calling (mobile or otherwise), one thing Vonage can do is forward calls from your number to any other number by simultaneously ringing your Vonage phone and the other number. Another thing you can do is bring your Vonage router with you when you go to another country, say China. As long as you have a high-speed Internet connection, it'll work and calls to your home phone number are just like you were at home. Combine the two features -- get a cheap, throw away Chinese cell phone and you can also have the Vonage # forward to the Chinese cell phone number. Now, you'll pay Vonage's international calling rates, but these are much cheaper than paying the exorbitant rates charged by your mobile phone service when you take your GSM phone with you to another country, and with some plans certain countries are even free.

Re:If the goal is cheap international calling... (1)

myatmpinis1234 (697897) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364367)

Last time I looked into this Vonage would not forward to international numbers. If this has changed then this is awesome. They also need to allow you to forward txt messages and I will be super happy.

Re:If the goal is cheap international calling... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18366837)

Vonage doesn't forward to international numbers, just US numbers.

Re:If the goal is cheap international calling... (1)

mikiN (75494) | more than 7 years ago | (#18370589)

I doubt that the GFC* will just pass-thru VoIP to some random internet-enabled hotel room or wireless hotspot without some currency changing hands...

*) Great Firewall of China

On the contrary... (2, Insightful)

SpectreBlofeld (886224) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364399)

"I'm guessing wireless carriers aren't going to be happy about this one."

It really won't make a difference. When you forward a call from a mobile you're still using your airtime so your provider gets what they want. Overseas roaming charges originate from the expensive roaming agreements with the overseas provider, not from your carrier. It's the provider in Thailand or where ever whose network you're using that charges your carrier for the usage.

Cool product, btw.

Re:On the contrary... (1)

jojoba_oil (1071932) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364653)

I agree with you, except for one thing:

Most cell-phone companies are extremely protective of anything they seem to think is theirs (phones they sell you, SIM cards, etc). They will be unhappy if you get it to work.

The problem that arises is most cell-providers use a white-list of ESNs. For example, if you move your SIM card from a Verizon phone to an unbranded, direct-from-manufacturer phone, your will get rejected of service because the ESN isn't in that whitelist.

Re:On the contrary... (1)

hab136 (30884) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364995)

The problem that arises is most cell-providers use a white-list of ESNs. For example, if you move your SIM card from a Verizon phone to an unbranded, direct-from-manufacturer phone, your will get rejected of service because the ESN isn't in that whitelist.

I did exactly that with my Cingular phone. Signed up for new service, used the SIM in my el crappo free phone just to test it, then moved the SIM to my unlocked RAZR (that I bought in Eastern Europe, no less). No problems. I've since used the SIM in other phones, then back in my RAZR, and no problems.

I didn't think Verizon had SIMs anyways - aren't they CDMA? My understanding was that SIMs were only for GSM phones.

Re:On the contrary... (1)

jojoba_oil (1071932) | more than 7 years ago | (#18365305)

Actually I think you're right. It's been quite a few years since I really looked into it. Thanks :)

But even so, according to the article you pop your SIM card into the SkyQube to get it working. That being the case, seems Verizon customers are SOL anyways.

Re:On the contrary... (1)

zoftie (195518) | more than 7 years ago | (#18366005)

"The problem that arises is most cell-providers use a white-list of ESNs. For example, if you move your SIM card from a Verizon phone to an unbranded, direct-from-manufacturer phone, your will get rejected of service because the ESN isn't in that whitelist."

Not sure where you live, but in Canada, here if you get unlocked phone, all you have to do is just pop in the sim card and way you go.

Re:On the contrary... (1)

raju1kabir (251972) | more than 7 years ago | (#18367193)

The problem that arises is most cell-providers use a white-list of ESNs. For example, if you move your SIM card from a Verizon phone to an unbranded, direct-from-manufacturer phone, your will get rejected of service because the ESN isn't in that whitelist.

I don't know about Verizon, but I've only ever used Cingular with cheap phones purchased in Asia. No problems at all.

Re:On the contrary... (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 7 years ago | (#18369331)

The problem that arises is most cell-providers use a white-list of ESNs.

My understanding is that is illegal. AT&T tried that years ago. They claimed that any phone on the phone system not owned by AT&T could break it. They lost some court cases over it, and now you can not be prevented from putting anything you want on any network, as long as they can't show it causes harm. From my understanding, this includes wireless networks. That's why they lock down the handsets they sell to not work on anyone else's network. You could legally roam with them otherwise. I've switched SIMs across many locked and unlocked phones, and never have I had the network keep me off because they didn't already know what the ESN is. Not all phones will work on all networks in the USA because we use many different standards, but I've had SIMs change easily with no problems for multiple different GSM networks.

Re:On the contrary... (1)

dan the person (93490) | more than 7 years ago | (#18366333)

It really won't make a difference. When you forward a call from a mobile you're still using your airtime so your provider gets what they want. Overseas roaming charges originate from the expensive roaming agreements with the overseas provider, not from your carrier.

Have you noticed that the overseas provider is also a wireless carrier? So yes, wireless carriers are going to hate this.

To look at it the other way, when someone from this overseas provider is in my country, my provider in turn charges their provider a fortune for them to roam.

Either way wireless carriers are missing on on massive overcharging opportunities. The only ones that aren't going to care are those who operating in countries which don't have many foreign visitors.

Re:On the contrary... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18367295)

Overseas roaming charges originate from the expensive roaming agreements with the overseas provider, not from your carrier.

In most cases, the overseas provider is my carrier, since the parent company owns networks all over the world and preconfigures their phones to prefer their own networks when roaming. Do you seriously believe your own carrier isn't part of the cartel that creams off the roaming charges?

The creation of yet another /. mantra (0, Redundant)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364421)

We have witnessed the creation of yet another /. mantra, the assumption that anything relating telephony to the Internet is a threat to wireless carriers, and that the carriers will try to quash it.

If it's an assumption, it's not newsworthy. Drop it or don't mention it.

Re:The creation of yet another /. mantra (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18364705)

I think this is far from a mantra given the predictability of the wireless network response to any 3rd party use of their networks. I can buy ringtones, but I can't put them on myself without BitPim. I can use internet on my phone, but only through Verizon's VCast protocols. If I have to pay for call forwarding features, why on earth would any wireless company be excited about me getting that feature through other means, especially when it transfers the call to another network?

free.fr (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18364513)

For people who live in france and have a freebox, this isn't really news.

Skype? (3, Informative)

syrrys (738867) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364557)

I remember when my cousin from Central America visited me in the States. He installed Skype on my PC while I was at work. When I discovered this I began getting stomach pains. I didn't want to make him feel bad so I let him tell me how great Skype is and how he uses it for personal and business needs. He said everyone he knows uses it it Latin America. That scared me. Mainly because I know from experience what Skype can do to my PC and even after I have "uninstalled" it, (Time to clean the Reg). BTW, I was using the stand alone version, not the bundled crap. I wondered how many people who dont know any better just plug along using Skype all the while with their bandwidth and system resources being eaten up. Not to mention the all forced port assigments. I guess if your are constantly making International calls then its worth it in the long run. But I would use a cheap, dummy box for only Skyping. Bring on the Skype lover flames, bitches!

Re:Skype? (1)

Kyle_Katarn-(ISF) (982133) | more than 7 years ago | (#18365823)

Just use the U3 version of Skype. No install, runs off your flash drive, and you can turn it off when you like :)

'course you have to have a U3 drive, but they're easy to come by and extremely useful...

Re:Skype? (1)

zoftie (195518) | more than 7 years ago | (#18365929)

On a mac it is matter of copying file into applications folder, and if you want to, deleting it. it is not fault of skype that things on windows are so messed up. Developers are used to this way of coding, so it goes like that, on and on.
Still wating for video on linux version of skype.
2c

Re:Skype? (1)

syrrys (738867) | more than 7 years ago | (#18369033)

Wait a second. You are blaming Windows when skype designed there application around that very OS? Reall what you are saying is that they released a product which wasn't ready to be loaded on a Windows OS. I wont argue with you about Windows being "so messed up", but man, your argument about it being Windows's fault needs work.

Re:Skype? (1)

zoftie (195518) | more than 7 years ago | (#18382019)

I am blaming the situation. You can ultimately blame skype for existing in this imperfect world and hiring programmers that do their job the way they did for the past uh 9 years or more. Blame doesn't solve anything, however seeing things in whole context helps.

Poor Slashvertisement title (2, Insightful)

OlivierB (709839) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364627)

If you're going to do a slashvedrtisement, especially one as obvious as this (nothing really new and exciting, has been done a million times by people with a PBX or any normal phone who can fwd their calls to their skypeIn number who in turm forwards to your PAYG throwawy SIM card.).

The right title should have been "SkyQube Squared shakes Up International Roaming charges".

This article was especially poor in substance and novelty.

And don't expect to see this thing explode the sales chart. It'll most probabl be +200 dollars given that it has GSM radio.
Geeks only. 2000 units shipped tops. 800 will be sold and we'll all call it a day.

Re:Mod Parent Informative (1)

mpapet (761907) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364919)

Here here.

What makes matters worse is they are married to skype/ebay.

They've already flushed a couple of suitcases of cash down the toilet, I'm not sure why they didn't just colo some voip servers in specific markets they were targeting. At this point VOIP servers and POTS bridges are not rocket science. From there a simple bridge to the customers skype account and you are done.

Re:Poor Slashvertisement title (1)

emurphy42 (631808) | more than 7 years ago | (#18366651)

Answer truthfully (yes or no) to the following question: Will the next word you say be no?
Yes or no.

Re:Poor Slashvertisement title (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 7 years ago | (#18369601)

nothing really new and exciting, has been done a million times by people with a PBX or any normal phone who can fwd their calls to their skypeIn number who in turn forwards to your PAYG throwawy SIM card.

The closest to it is having your local cell forward to another that is a skypeIn or Vonage or land-line and have that processed by a computer and sent via VoIP to some other country. However, doing it that way, at least with my provider, uses double minutes (there are two calls in a forward, one to the handset from the caller and one from the handset to the forwarded number, if not in fact, then at least in how they bill it). So, for $180 they have a device that becomes the phone and eliminates the middle step, as well as simplifying the last step. One count of minutes, easy configuration, integration with skype. It's not a bad device. Of course, it doesn't actually exist yet. Maybe they are looking for some more venture capital.

I want my Trixbox + Nokia N95 (2, Informative)

SpzToid (869795) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364783)

Sorry folks, but for my time and money, I want total client/server control. So I'll go to Nerd Vittles [nerdvittles.com] and download myself a Trixbox (in a CentOS VMware image). It'll do it all, and the docs there are great, including how to migrate to real hardware should you want.


For SIP (etc.) clients, I'll take a Nokia N95 please, which is a fancier version than the nearly 1.5 year old Nokia N80i, but with better specs.: DVD video plus GPS/maps. (Otherwise, the N80i, for about 375 euros) will connect you via 802.11 to your Trixbox, plus offers a 3.2 MP camera, good video, and syncs to Lotus Notes or Outlook (but using Windows software, I have yet try; the N95 is yet-to-be released). For client-side software, go to Project Gizmo [gizmoproject.com]and get your SIP client for your little phone.


Notes these phones will not be bundled with any carrier plans.

- - - -

You can't be ahead of the curve if you're stuck in a loop.

How long before its reversed? (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364981)

How long until your home broadband connection can be a local relay for you to call or get a call from anywhere on your cell/home for the cost of a local/skypeout call?

Other Alternatives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18365573)

I've been using Yapon.net

It doesn't rid me of the roaming charges but it has sure cut down on my long distance bill.

Vosky (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18366527)

I have vosky that can do this as well. It's pretty cheap, got it for about 40 dollars. You hook it up to your computer via USB. It can take incoming landline calls and forward them wherever you want via Skype Out, or route Skype In calls to a local number (such as your mobile phone) via the landline (ie calling out via the landline). I live overseas, but have a vonage number. So, someone can call me on my Vonage number, Vosky handles this like a local landline call, and I can have it forward to my local cell phone. Also, I can call home, Vosky answers, and I can use the device to call anyone I have programmed into my Skype speed dial, and it calls out via Skype out..saving me on calls back to the States (or any country) and giving me the flexibility of being able to call from any local phone, be it cell or landline, and not being tied to only making Skype Out calls when sitting at home.

Has advantages, if you could actually get one (1)

vanyel (28049) | more than 7 years ago | (#18368029)

It looks like a nice plug-n-play setup (how many people are *really* going to figure out how to install and run something as complex as asterisk for this?), but what do their marketing people think they're doing? Not that they're any different from most, but I go to their site and they say "look at all the cool things we have" (spelled in a "witty" way, of course!). Do they have any information at all on how to actually *buy* one of their cool products? Not a peep. Are they doing PR or trying to sell a product? And I won't even get into driving away customers by having annoying music on by default, or a stupidly fixed size tiny window of info...

Xcelis, too. (1)

LinuxHam (52232) | more than 7 years ago | (#18371611)

Let's not forget Xcelis who plays in this space, too, with the PC-VOIP. Drop in a SIM card linked to an add-on line on your cellular plan. Hook up a phone wire to your VOIP TA, and the gateway will now route calls bidirectionally between your cellphone and the VOIP always using mobile-to-mobile and (hopefully) unlimited VOIP minutes. Supports speed dial, registered users, remote configuration using DTMF, and configurable inbound forwarding.

$350 + $10/mo on Cingular, for indicative pricing. Three years payback ROI if you can drop enough minutes to save $20/mo on your plan.
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