Service Touts VOIP Perks—Without the Hardware

CallWave's new service inserts PC-based caller ID, voice mail and call-forwarding controls into incoming phone calls-and all the subscriber needs is a small software applet.

Another wrinkle on VOIP (voice over IP) service has been announced by CallWave, a Santa Barbara, Calif., company that has just signed a long-haul IP transport agreement with VOIP wholesaler Level 3.

CallWaves consumer, SOHO (small office/home office) and small-business-focused service delivers the real-time call control and mobility features of VOIP systems with none of the customer-premise hardware.

CallWave Inc.s hosting telephony platform intercepts calls made to subscribers existing phone numbers. It does this with call forwarding arrangements made through special provisioning interfaces with all four RBOCs (regional Bell operating companies): Qwest, SBC, Verizon and BellSouth.

It also can sell its subscribers a new phone number in addition to the service. Incoming calls reach CallWaves IP platform through Level 3 Communications Inc.s distributed IP network of gateways.

The CallWave platform then communicates with subscribers always-on applets to present caller ID and clickable controls. Subscribers are able to answer the calls on their regular phones, click to send the call to voice mail, pluck calls out of voice mail or route the calls to secondary endpoints, such as cellular phones. If the caller leaves a message, CallWave uses half-duplex (one-way) audio streaming over IP to present it to the subscriber in real time.

CallWave uses Level 3s termination (outgoing gateway) service to complete the call out to the subscriber, which keeps its own costs down.

The customer gets no terminal adapter, since the gatewaying to the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) is accomplished over Level 3s network. He or she need not even have broadband, since the call-control, Caller ID applet is not data-intensive.

The applet also can show the presence of voice mails and play them, but the recorded voice is sufficiently compressed to fit through dial-up connections, said David Hofstatter, CEO at CallWave. The company also offers inbound fax, printed from their applet.

The service has nothing to do with outgoing calls, and so offers no economy there, but it can give the user a number that can be easily routed to anywhere in the United States, a real-time screening capability and access-anywhere voice mail. Its also a good way to let users monitor and answer home calls while at work, or vice versa, Hofstatter said.

Next Page: A $4 or $8 service.