Yesterday I met with David Bitton, the founder of Wengo. Wengo is a new company, very similar to Skype but in open source and not p2p. Skype is of course much much larger and still growing at amazing speed but Wengo while three months old, is getting its own group of fans within the opensource community around the world. They are also doing some remarkable software developments. At one point in the meeting David took out this Qtek phone with a Wengo client. I was impressed. It is a beautiful phone and the fact that operates both over wifi and gprs makes it very useful. It is a phone that is crying out “please give me FON: wifi everywhere”. It is the first good looking wifi phone I ever saw.
Now I thought that this phone being so attractive would also be terribly expensive, and I was right, over 500 dollars in the Qtek web site. But I was pleasantly shocked to see this morning at the FNAC in Les Halles that Vodafone, Orange and Bouygues are subsidizing this wifi phone. If you buy it with their one year contracts you can get it for 180 euros. How long will it be until these operators realize that with Wengo or Skype rates and their subsidies lowering the phone cost consumers will rarely use their GSM networks anymore? Or is their strategy one of accepting wifi but still knowing that there will be years until wifi has the coverage of GSM and they prefer to get you for the GSM part of the phone? Frankly I don´t know but in the meantime I think this is one of the only times I will say “merci” to Vodafone/SFR. In any case the Skype Negear wifi phone will appear in the markets in 2 months and I understand that it will be significantly cheaper although I can´t imagine that Vodafone will subsidize it! It will be nice to see a lot of wifi phones around, especially in Europe were rates are double those of North America and Schengen has yet to reach the mobile industry.
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