Launched Monday, the service has several features that distinguish it from the hoards of VoIP offerings already on the market: after setting up the service, callers can connect over dialup or broadband links to callers on PCs, regular landlines, or cell phones. Users aren't required to have a PC to use the service.
"We call it the "Worldwide Internet Area Code," said Matthew Rosen, Fusion's president and chief executive officer, in an interview. "You just register and put a " '10' in front of your number."
Rosen, who noted that Fusion already has a presence in 46 countries, said the company recently completed the first version of a proprietary softphone, which enables dialup users to make clear VoIP calls. From its beginnings several years ago, Fusion has targeted developing countries, whose citizens use dialup, because broadband connections are rarely available to them.
"We started in emerging markets," said Rosen. "In order to be successful there, you have to have dialup."
While the basic efonica service is free, an advanced service efonica Plus, is on the way, with features such as voicemail and the ability to call landline and mobile subscribers virtually anywhere in the world.
Rosen said Fusion has been targeting international calling in developing countries, because the firm believes VoIP calling in industrialized regions like North America and Europe will be saturated and won't offer focused opportunities.
Philip Turits, another Fusion executive, observed that the service is easy to use. "You put in any telephone number you wish," he said. "Wherever you are, that number will ring when someone calls it." For security purposes, subscribers will be called by a Fusion representative after they register their numbers to authenticate the transaction.
Rosen said the company's business plan -- the way the firm hopes to profit from the service -- calls for the establishment of a large number of global users to be followed by a retail distribution strategy. In addition to the paid efonica Plus service, Fusion plans to deploy retail outlets for the service.
Because efonica has been built on the SIP protocol, users will be able to avoid using a PC by purchasing standard telephone equipment from established retail outlets such as Radio Shack.