As low-priced Internet phone services for mobile devices emerge, users should first check the fine print in their cell phone contracts to see if they can take advantage of such offerings. There's a chance they can't.
T-Mobile International, which has mobile phone operations in Europe and the United States, is among the first companies to ban the use of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol, or Internet-based telephone service) over its networks. Its Web 'n' Walk professional service expressly prohibits such usage, and the company reserves the right to terminate contracts.
Like many other mobile phone companies, T-Mobile wants to protect its cash-cow telephone service from new providers of VoIP-over-mobile services, such as Mino Wireless USA.
Last week, the Sunnyvale, California, company launched one of the world's first commercial VoIP-over-mobile services, offering fees as low as US$0.02 per minute for international calls.
That's cheap--really cheap--compared to the $1 per minute or more mobile phone users in many countries currently pay to make international calls.
To use Mino, customers need to install the company's mobile VoIP application on a Java-enabled mobile phone.
Mino joins other VoIP heavyweights, such as Skype Technologies, a unit of eBay. Earlier this year, Skype announced a VoIP partnership with Hutchison 3 Group, which operates IP-based mobile broadband networks in several European markets. The Skype mobile VoIP application runs on Microsoft's Windows Mobile software.
Mobile VoIP startup Iskoot, which is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is also working with Skype to allow users to make or receive Internet calls with their mobile phones.