Free Voice for Free Hotspots (and Vice Versa)

By Wi-Fi Planet Staff

May 02, 2003

Dial-up supporting Wi-Fi? Sort of. Users of the free voice over IP service called FreeWorld DialUp are 20,000 strong and the founder intends to promote free hotspots to them for making mobile calls -- and by extension for getting more free hotspots.

Imagine a system for voice communications that works like AOL's Instant Messenger and you've probably got FreeWorld Dialup (FWD)

The service was launched late in 2002 by Jeff Pulver, a Voice over IP (VoIP) advocate and the CEO of Pulver.com who recently bought back control of the Voice on the Net (VON) trade show from Key3Media. Actually it was relaunched -- in the early days it was a P2P network that let people 'borrow' each others phone lines for free calls. Now it's a purely Internet play, where anyone with broadband connection and Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) telephone (whether an actual VoIP phone or a "softphone" application on a laptop or PDA) can call any other member directly -- it doesn't call out to traditional POTS lines or cellular lines. Every member gets their own FWD "phone number." The membership of FWD is about 20,000 strong in 40 countries.

Pulver hopes that free hotspots -- which make for perfectly adequate broadband connections to use FWD on the road -- will drive more users to the service, so in turn FWD is going to start promoting hotspots. But only free hotspots, which he hopes his campaign will help increase in number.

"The potential for customer traffic easily justifies deploying free Wi-Fi Internet access," says Pulver in the announcement about the FWD Wi-Fi Hot Spot Campaign this week. He says hotspot costs can be easily pulled in with overhead costs like water, electricity and background music.

FWD will add a directory on its Web site listing venues enabled with free Wi-Fi access. Listings will be free and FWD members can nominate locations they'd like to see get hotspot access so they can use it to access their fellow members and they'll have community talks about them in the FWD-M discussion lists. As VoIP consultants themselves, Pulver and his team say they'll work with vendors of laptops and hotspot equipment to make them easier to install and use for voice communications.



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