VoIPStunt 39 Countries Free
Things are definitely hotting up in the competition for peoples' VoIP business. Finarea SA , the Swiss company that brought us VoIPBuster, VoIPCheap, SIPDiscount and others have put another offering on the table that's sure to spark interest and attract new customers. Enter VoIPStunt. Living up to their stunt-like namesake, Finarea are currently offering 'free' calling to 39 countries via their PC to Phone application. So what's the catch? From what I can tell so far, very little.
The VoIPStunt PC to Phone Softphone
In order to register with VoIPStunt, one must download and install the free PC to Phone application from the VoIPStunt web site. Once installed, users are able to register for an account and start making calls.
The softphone itself is quite user-friendly and shares many similarities with other Finarea PC to Phone applications (VoIPBuster, VoIPCheap, NetAppel, etc.). Another thing I noticed is that the layout of the softphone has a very 'Skypeish' feel to it (both in layout and features). Finarea are presumably hoping to lure customers from Skype by offering a softphone interface similar to one which Skype aficionados are already accustomed.
Another noticeable aspect with the softphone is that there is an area at the bottom of the program window that is currently home to a banner advertisement promoting the VoIPStunt service (via a clickable link to the VoIPStunt web site.). It's conceivable that this advertising space will in the future be rented to third parties interested in promoting products/services to VoIPStunt PC to Phone users. Personally, I'm not opposed to this use of the space for advertising as routing calls to the PSTN do invoke termination costs which need to be recovered at some point.
VoIPStunt claim that to counter misuse of their network, registered users must part with 5 Euro in order to make unlimited free calls to the countries on their 'Free' list. For users not wishing to part with 5 Euro calls will be limited to 1 minute. Some users however have reported being able to make calls far in excess of 1 minute without paying a cent.
As with other Finarea offerings (with the exception of SIPDiscount), Session Internet Protocol is not officially supported. However, at the time of writing however SIP ATAs and phones will work with VoIPStunt provided they are configured correctly. Given that SIP is not officially supported, don't expect any assistance from VoIPStunt in getting your SIP compatible device or softphone to work with their service.
SIP Call Latency
I do have to say that I experienced some latency issues (i.e., speech delay) whilst making calls within Canada (where I live) using my Linksys PAP2. I'm guessing that this has something to do with the physical location of VoIPStunt's servers (probably in Europe) and the distance that the voice packets have to travel for me in Canada. In other words, if I'm calling a friend across town, my call would be routed via the Internet to VoIPStunt's servers in Europe, then back to North America at which point they'd be terminated via the PSTN. Conceivably, it's this geographic distance that has led VoIPStunt to fail the all-important 'wife test' (i.e., encouraging one's spouse to use VoIP in place of our fixed line telephone). I suspect that this would be less of an issue for people calling to/from Europe.
As far as I can tell, the downside to VoIPStunt's promotion is limited. It's hard to ignore offerings of free, unlimited calls to conventional telephones when companies such as Vonage charge $25 USD per month for unlimited calls just within North America. Granted, comparing the services of a company such as Vonage with those of VoIPStunt is difficult (in terms of customer support, call features, etc), yet the core business of the two companies (routing IP-based telephone calls) is undeniably similar. Provided VoIPStunt can keep the free calls on the table for any length of time, they have an opportunity to turn the VoIP world upside down and usher in a new era of competition.