Voice, Now Nearly Free

First it was Skype, then came Jajah, and now it is the turn of Gizmo Project to offer almost free voice calls to the old PSTN numbers. We are seeing the price of plain vanilla voice collapse to almost zero. (Some argue, with Skype to Skype calling, those prices are already zero.)

Gizmo, infact is going one step further and offering free dialing to old-fashioned phone and mobile numbers in 60 countries. When you sign up for Gizmo Project, you fill out your profile and add your work; mobile, and home phone numbers to that profile. These are the numbers that can be called for free.

To be eligible for All Calls Free, users have to log in to their account and make a call using Gizmo Project to attain “active” status. The countries included in this plan are China, the United States, Brazil, Japan, Germany, Thailand, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, South Korea, Spain, Canada, and more. (Sadly, calls to India are not part of the plan, so calling mom is still going to cost a lot of cash. Acceptable expense, I would say!)

This free voice movement had me thinking – what kind of a loss is acceptable to these companies? Though it is hard to get a straight answer, Jajah officials say they can make up all the losses in premium services such as scheduled conference calling, or other such services.

“Wholesale PSTN rates are sooo cheap these days that it’s not much different than the cost of bandwidth back when I started Scour.net,” says Jason Droege, chief executive of SIPphone, the company behind Gizmo Project. “In the last 12 months I’ve seen wholesale PSTN costs drop dramatically and I expect this to continue. ” (I would need to check on that – its almost midnight, so cannot hassle folks at Telegeography just as yet!)

Like Jajah, he believes that there are many other ways to make money off usage here – pay-per-call ads, premium services, calling to non-covered countries, virtual numbers. Still, being a believer in the age-old dictum that there are no free lunches in life, I suspect that many of the VoIP companies (including Skype) are finding that attracting users beyond the early adopter set is hard, and needs major marketing dollars.

Random though – more trouble for Vonage perhaps?