is a mobile VoIP
/ internet telephony
operator. It provides Symbian
software and a network infrastructure that allows people to make telephone calls
and send SMS
text messages over the internet from WiFi
-enabled Nokia Series 60 smartphones
. A version for the Apple iPhone
was also released in July 2008. Calls and SMS texts to other online Truphone users are free, and calls or texts to other numbers are chargeable.
Truphone uses the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) open standard, which competes with other VoIP standards such as UMA and proprietary protocols such as Skype.
Truphone (a trading name of Software Cellular Network Ltd) was founded by James Tagg and Alistair Campbell. It has received three rounds of private investment since 2006, from investors including Alexander Straub, Eden Ventures, Wellington Partners Venture Capital, Independent News and Media, and Burda Digital Ventures.
In April 2008, Truphone acquired the business of Sim4Travel, including a GSM core network, as part of its stated strategy of offering "global mobile operator services".
Truphone’s headquarters are in London, UK.
As with most mobile VoIP applications and services, Truphone is used by people either to save money on phone calls and SMS messages (especially to international destinations), or to compensate for poor in-building cellular coverage.
The essential functionality of Truphone is to provide internet telephony on mobile handsets: mobile VoIP
. Calls are typically made entirely over Wi-Fi and the Internet, bypassing the traditional GSM network operators.
The Truphone Series 60 application is the most mature and allows the user to do the following:
- Make outbound VoIP calls to any PSTN number (except for certain premium rate numbers). It is possible to make calls using either WiFi or a 3G cellular data connection. WiFi is generally preferred because of the deleterious effects of continuous 3G data usage on battery life, and because of the potential costs.
- Receive inbound VoIP calls. Users in the UK and USA are allocated a "Truphone number" that can be called from the PSTN. Users in other countries display their cellular number as the Caller ID when making outbound VoIP calls, and can only receive inbound VoIP calls from other Truphone users.
- Send and receive SMS text messages over IP.
- Make automated call-through calls. Branded as Truphone Anywhere, this by default redirects international calls to a local access number and completes the rest of the call over the internet. This is intended to be used when WiFi is not available, by users who have a bundle of national calling minutes included as part of a monthly cellular contract, but pay high per-minute charges for international calls.
- Make automated call-back calls. This is intended for use when roaming abroad out of range of WiFi because inbound calls are often substantially cheaper than outbound calls. It is turned off by default because the circumstances when this saves money vary from country to country and depend on the user's cellular tariff.
In order to support the primary uses above, Truphone provides a range of secondary features and services:
- Most prominently, a connection manager on the home screen of the Truphone application. Once a user has selected an access point for use with Truphone (and entered any necessary credentials for secured access points), Truphone will automatically reconnect to that access point whenever it comes in range. The user can prioritise the access points where more than one is in range, and can set an access point for manual connection (if for example the access point is a chargeable hotspot).
- Call forwarding. When a Truphone user is called on their Truphone number but is not registered for VoIP calls, the call is forwarded to the users recorded cellular number. In some circumstances this service is chargeable.
- Voicemail for missed inbound calls. Voicemail messages are automatically forwarded to the user's registered e-mail address as an attachment, as well as being retrievable using a conventional IVR.
- SIM card updating. This signals the Truphone server when the user changes the SIM card in their handset. For users who have Truphone numbers, this updates their forwarding number. For users who do not have a Truphone number, this updates their caller ID for subsequent outbound calls.
- Automated provisioning. In most circumstances the user only has to agree to various terms and conditions during the process of installing Truphone – there is no need to manually enter any user details, settings or credentials.
The Truphone iPhone application currently supports outbound WiFi VoIP calling only. There is no separate connection manager as this is built in to the iPhone.
Under the brand SIM4Travel, Truphone sells travel SIMs. These use an automated call-back system to reduce international roaming charges.
Truphone also provides a call-me button on Facebook
- 2000: Software Cellular Network (SCN) founded. Suspends development almost immediately due to the dot-com crash, making funding an impossibility
- 2005: Company resumes development.
- September 2005: SCN demonstrates mobile Voice over IP over Bluetooth at VON Fall in Stockholm.
- December 2005: Receives first round funding from Eden Ventures, Alexander Straub and others
- May 2006: SCN, now trading as Truphone, launches as “the world’s first 4G operator”, demonstrating its service over Wi-Fi instead of Bluetooth
- September 2006: Truphone launches its mass-market mobile VoIP service in the UK and USA in ‘beta’
- December 2006: Named as a ‘Technology Pioneer 2007’ by the World Economic Forum. Receives largest Series A funding for a European technology company since the dot-com crash.
- February 2007: Joel Veitch made a promotional cartoon and song for the company entitled "moophone".
- March 2007: Receives ‘Red Herring 100 Europe’ award from Red Herring magazine
- April 2007: Vodafone and Orange block the VoIP capability provided via Truphone on their branded Nokia N95 handsets.
- June 2007: T-Mobile blocks calls from its customers to Truphone’s mobile numbers.
- June 2007: Releases version 3 of the handset client, incorporating VoIP over 3G and SMS over IP.
- July 2007: An injunction was issued by a UK court that forces T-Mobile to allow connection to Truphone's mobile numbers.
- December 2007: Releases a "Call-Me" button on Facebook.
- April 2008: Raised £16.5m ($32.7m) of Series B venture capital funding. Acquired Sim4Travel.
- May 2008: Version 4.0 released, incorporating Truphone Anywhere, an automated call-through and call-back application .
- July 2008: First VoIP application to be available through iTunes for the iPhone.
Reactions from Cellular Operators
In April 2007 Vodafone
disabled the internet telephony functionality of Nokia
’s new flagship handset, the N95, while in June 2007 T-Mobile blocked all calls to Truphone numbers. The fomer of these situations currently persists and affect several SIP-based mobile VoIP companies besides Truphone. As of July 2007 the latter has been resolved, at least temporarily, through a successful application to the High Court by Truphone, resulting in the award of 'interim relief' against T-Mobile.
As of July 2007 the Truphone handset client software works on nine models of Nokia
mobile handset using the Symbian Series 60
operating system. All have Wi-Fi and all support internet telephony – although, interestingly, Nokia’s advertising for these handsets neglects to mention their internet telephony capabilities. This may be due to the Finnish manufacturer’s need to avoid irking its biggest customers, i.e. the mobile operators.
In July 2008 a version of Truphone was released for the Apple iPhone
, available through the iTunes
The company’s aims to make the VoIP calling experience as similar as possible to the normal cellular calling experience through integrating with the handset as deeply as possible. This approach has benefits for service performance, voice quality and usability and conserves battery life, but is also what has made Truphone exposed to operator blocking.
The SIM4Travel automated call-back application is developed using the SIM Application Toolkit
The Truphone VoIP service is built largely from Open Source
software, notably Asterisk
, an open source/free software implementation of a telephone private branch exchange (PBX
) originally created by Mark Spencer of Digium
, and OpenSER, an open source version of the SIP Express Router
Truphone calls are routed via Wi-Fi or 3G - using Session Initiation Protocol (SIP
) and Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP
). The RTP proxy
deals with the Network Address Translation (NAT
) used by firewalls, and with transcoding from the Adaptive Multi-Rate (AMR
) codec used in the phone to G.711
if required for transmission to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN
) via the SIP router.
It has been suggested that that internet-based communications could be used without fear of interception. Truphone maintains, however, that it is governed by and complies with the same 'lawful intercept' laws as every other telecommunications company.
As a disruptive technology, the Truphone service has inevitably been the subject of criticism by some commentators.
Version 2 of the service was criticised for being insufficiently robust - although progress was noted with version 3 and the company claims that version 4 is sufficiently stable that the 'beta' service designation has been removed.