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Zoom Modems Give VoIP Users Flexibility

Zoom Technologies is providing a group of consumer-friendly telecommunications devices that enable users to toggle back and forth between VoIP and primary phone connections.
Basing its VoIP business plan on making it easy for users to ease their way into Internet telephoning, Zoom Technologies, Inc. is providing a group of consumer-friendly telecommunications devices for both individual and business users.

Zoom announced the latest addition to its VoIP family Thursday--the four-port ADSL X6 modem with wireless 802.11 capability. Like the company's other DSL VoIP products, the device enables users to toggle back-and-forth between VoIP and primary phone connections. Users connect with other callers via Zoom's Global Village, which provides free calling to others who have signed up for IP services such as Pulver Free World and IPTel.

"Our policy is that we will interoperate with other SIP-based providers," said Terry Manning, Zoom's vice president of sales and marketing, in an interview. "We don't plan to make our money on the service." The company's revenues--some $30 million a year--currently comes from a combination of older analog and newer products. Manning sees VoIP as the future big driver of Zoom's sales.

He further described Zoom's VoIP effort by explaining what it doesn't do: First, it doesn't charge a monthly fee, giving users the opportunity to tinker with VoIP free of service charges (after they have purchased a DSL modem for as little as $100). Second, the fact that it follows the SIP protocol makes it more secure than peer-to-peer VoIP plans, and that makes Zoom attractive to businesses.

The DSL modems enable users to toggle back-and-forth between VoIP and regular land lines by simply pressing a single key. After a user plugs a standard phone into a Zoom DSL modem, all she needs to do is press the pound sign to connect to the Global Village service.

Manning points out that users, who have been frustrated trying to reach 911 emergency and 411 directory information calls, can easily switch out of Global Village and access their primary phone line.

"We are basically selling into DSL channels," Manning said. "Most are international markets. Outside of the U.S., DSL is the main way VoIP is delivered." Zoom addresses the retail market in the U.S. via CompUSA and Fry's stores in California. He added that Zoom's USB modems for single PCs are selling well in the U.K. while some international ISPs, such as some in Bolivia, are buying DSL modems in bulk.

Manning said the service is popular among users who are hesitant about using VoIP. With no monthly service charge, users can use most features of the Global Village service free of charge. "Our model is for people to make as many IP-to-IP calls as you want without paying," Manning said. "We are saying that our VoIP is not intrinsically different from e-mail and instant messaging."

For users of the Global Village service who want to call via the public switched telephone network (PSTN), Manning said Level 3 completes calls for a low fee.