I'll be thrilled if someone points out that this is already available, but I predict that someone will start offering inexpensive mobile phone service by providing VoIP instead of PSTN interconnection. This should decrease costs dramatically and free the provider from a bunch of regulations imposed for using the PSTN.
Anyone know of any movement in this direction? I would expect it from someone like Nextel.
Yeah, but all of the taxes and junk for the PSTN line (including DID service) are in there. And there's not nearly as much flexibility. I can't easily, for example, have incoming calls to the "house" number ring both me and my wife on our mobiles and then be recorded in a common mailbox if we don't answer. That would require disabling voice mail on both our mobiles. Then calls directly to the mobiles would not get answered.
Whacky configurations like this would be easy to implement if I could just handle my own incoming calls and treat mobile phones like extensions. Going back and forth over the PSTN to accomplish this is incredibly inefficient...and expensive.
I think normal people could get a lot of use from such a service too. It would provide lots of flexibility. For many people, just calling within their group would be sufficient and having really cheap lines (one for each family member) would be worthwhile. For some, having DID service in several countries might be handy.
You're right, though, I did start thinking about this after getting equipment to hook a cheap "additional line" (for an additional ~$10/month from my mobile phone provider) up to my VoIP box. (I can't get calling party control for my hard line and I can't get decent VoIP DID service in my area.) The free mobile-to-mobile time will certainly figure into my dialplan.
The "mobile to mobile" calls aren't technically VoIP by nature. They're more like "on-net" calls -- originating and terminating on the provider's network -- whereby they're practically free for the wireless provider.
There are a fair number of telephone out there that use the 802.11 protocol, as well as a fair number of open nodes that could be persuaded to open up ports for VoIP. It sure puts a crimp in the PSTN architecture. But it would only work well in cities. Open land would require WAPs to be placed every so often to maintain connectivity.
The only saving grace I can see to that is the fact that 802.11 can be made to run at distances of > 10 miles with certain antenna designs. So while one 802.11 WAP would have an omnidirectional antenna to server VoIP handsets, another would relay the calls to the next access point and so on.
BTW - one company has already figured part of the equation out. Vocera offers a solution that takes advantage of already in place WAP.
I would really love to give this product a shot but the building we're in is all steel, brick and marble. We'd have to put access points in every room and that's counterproductive when we already have CAT-5 for voice and data to every seat.