February 01, 2005

Bellster misunderstood, but piling on continues

Recently Pulver announced a new service called Bellster. I am sure by now you “know” what it is and might have even read many friendly articles. But there have been occasional blog entries cautioning on the potential issues with this service.

For example Technology Futurist writes about the potential high cost of entry and the security issues. On second thoughts, he also questions the economic viability in many telecom markets. Martin says that this is not a new idea, but his main concern is also potential abuse and legal implications to the donor. Om, after personally trying it out is decidedly under whelmed. He also refers James Seng to point out in may violate the Terms and Conditions of the donor’s local service. I basically said the same thing in a comment to another of Om’s entries. It is not just Singapore and India where it may not be permissible to “donate” local access. I suspect that this is the case even in US. I asked for T&C from Verizon; but they are giving me run around. Since Pulver has sufficient legal resources, it is possible that this may not be an issue. But I remember at one time the local telephone book expressly prohibiting stringing two houses and sharing one access line. But that section is not there in the recent phone books. So these are all potential show stoppers of this service.

Pulver’s response to all these points is an intriguing one sentence reply: “Sometimes it is better being misunderstood.” Is he suggesting that there is something else to this service than meets the eye? If all these people who are active in the field miss it, are his customers clued in on? To be fair, Pulver has been talking about this kind of application from day one. Indeed, he has said that he was attracted to VoIP in the first place because of his ham radio background and the satisfaction he got when he used to do phone relay for others. The Internet Phone Patch sold by one of his enterprises is a precursor. Bellster has many security mechanisms built in to address the many issues raised by others. For example, the donor can filter based on who is calling, the destination number, time of the day, duration of call and so on. I suspect that he is using an Asterisk to handle all these logic. Potential misuse is minimized because Bellster can identify the caller. The only issue I am not able to resolve is related to T&C. So what is the real objective of Bellster? Pulver has talked many times about social networking and has been actively pushing services like Linked In. So I think he is going to integrate FWD, Pulver Communicator, Bellster and some social network into one big ecosystem (Finally I managed to use this buzzword.) By the way Martin anticipates this in his article as well. Notwithstanding Andy’s efforts to preempt guesswork on our part, we continue..

Posted by aswath at February 1, 2005 12:15 PM
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