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iPhone, BlackBerry users can make VoIP calls over 3G

New Agito software shifts smartphone voice calls to cheaper data plans

By , Network World
February 04, 2010 05:11 PM ET

Network World - With its newest software, Agito lets a cell phone user place a voice call as a VoIP data connection, over a 3G cellular network. The cost of cellular calls, especially those with international roaming charges, can be cut by as much as 80% in some cases, according to company officials.

Agito's focus is now less on a grand scheme for unifying all enterprise communications and more on managing and reducing cell phone costs. Cost control was the No.1 problem that enterprise users repeatedly and insistently harped on, according to Pejman Roshan, Agito's co-founder and vice president of marketing. "They were fixated on that one key problem," he says.

Do you have any idea how much money you're wasting on international wireless services? 

The new release, Version 4.0, of Agito RoamAnywhere Mobility Router, and its corresponding handset clients, was designed to fix that fixation. The new code supports enterprise VoIP calls over 3G cellular networks, an industry first according to Agito executives, by the Apple iPhone and the BlackBerry Bold 9700 smartphone. Agito earlier supported the BlackBerry Tour and BlackBerry Curve, and the 4.0 release also works with the Wi-Fi-only iPod Touch.

"Any enterprise with people traveling [with cell phones] can take advantage of this," says Paul DeBeasi, vice president and Research Director for Network and Telecom Strategies at Gartner. "They're the first to support enterprise-class voice over a 3G network. This takes Agito out of the fixed-mobile convergence [FMC] niche and now they're solving a business problem for all mobile phone users. They're saving money in a way that's much more broadly applicable" to corporate users.

Agito's original client and server software lets enterprises corral Wi-Fi-enabled cell phones and link them with corporate PBXs. Much of the focus for Agito, and for rivals like DiVitas and Varaha has been on convincing enterprises of the value of shifting voice calls seamlessly between cellular and enterprise Wi-Fi networks, as part of the long- and heavily-hyped move toward "unified communications." In effect, the cell phone becomes an extension on the corporate telephone network, gains PBX-based features such as call-forwarding and extension dialing, and offloads some voice calls from the cellular voice plan to an IP-based enterprise network. DiVitas extended PBX features to iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry handsets last fall. 

The problem: the enterprise embrace of unified communication is glacially slow, and companies are finding the promised benefits and savings illusory. Faced with that, and with weak U.S. growth for the Nokia/Symbian and Microsoft Windows Mobile devices that it first concentrated on, Agito refocused in mid-2009. The new goal: "building stuff for the phone people wanted to buy," Roshan says.

As of October, there were nearly 15 million BlackBerry users in the United States, with iPhone and iPod touch users coming in a distant second with almost 9 million, for the first time surpassing the number of Windows Mobile users. Last fall, Agito released its client code for BlackBerry devices, enabling them to use Wi-Fi for VoIP calls.

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