Optical/IP Networks

Yahoo Jumps Into Voice

Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) is ready to announce a new VOIP service, say company officials. With the new service, callers will be able to make calls to, and receive calls from, regular wireline telephones.

The addition of PSTN calling comes in the form of two new fee-based products, Phone In and Phone Out, that will be added to the existing IP-to-IP VOIP client in Yahoo Messenger. (See Microsoft Buys Skype Rival.)

“I don’t have specific timing for you right now, but it is something we’ll be introducing shortly,” Yahoo spokeswoman Terrell Karlsten told Light Reading Thursday.

Yahoo’s acquisition of Dialpad in June foreshadowed the launch of the new PSTN-connected services. To connect with the PSTN, Yahoo is leveraging PSTN backbone provider relationships established by Dialpad before the acquisition, Karlsten says. (See Yahoo Enters VOIP Fray.)

Yahoo's plans were reported by several media outlets this morning.

“What we plan to announce is interconnectivity with the PSTN so that you can make a call from your PC to any traditional phone or mobile phone,” Karlsten says. “Conversely, we have plans to let people sign up for a phone number, so they can receive calls on their PC from any additional phone line or mobile phone.”

The similarity of the new products’ names to the SkypeIn and SkypeOut products should be taken as a clear sign to eBay Inc. (Nasdaq: EBAY) CEO Meg Whitman that Yahoo intends to compete vigorously for new IP voice customers worldwide. (See VOIP Subscriber Numbers Soar.)

And some believe Yahoo is a better property from which to launch and promote a VOIP service. "Yahoo is able to leverage their content offering into voice; Yahoo can do this and eBay can't do this," says VOIP analyst Andy Abramson, who operates the VoIP Watch blog site. "Yahoo has got all these content rights -- for entertainment properties, music, movies; they've got the Yahoo chatrooms, Yahoo commerce, they've got the Yahoo Fantasy Sports platform."

Abramson believes Yahoo will make VOIP an option within all such community, commerce, content, and communications assets. This creates a myriad of new settings from which to place a VOIP call, and a million new reasons for doing so.

The new services also move Yahoo Messenger from being an add-on VOIP service to one that could feasibly replace regular phone service. Accordingly, Yahoo will likely be required to provide enhanced 911 and CALEA capabilities to its voice service in all parts of the U.S. (See E911 Tough for Nomadic VOIP .)

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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