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*Free* Mobile Phone Calls with Eqo

It’s one thing to read the press releases and watch the moves made by the telephony giants and the upstarts, and quite another to personally experience the technologies that are changing the face of communications and develop an intuitive understanding for the “why” behind these moves.

Eqo is just such an upstart and I experienced it last night and damn, it’s pretty cool.

You’ve undoubtedly read about Clearwire, the company that is building out a Wimax wireless network. Their $900M investment from Intel and Motorola. Tuesday’s announcement by Sprint Nextel on their several billion dollar investment plans for Wimax. Why all this activity and all this investment…and what does this have to do with telephony?

Because always on and always connected is increasingly being demanded by seemingly everyone, once these Wimax footprints are in place providing internet connectivity the possibilities are endless to make money. It’s just that making money from voice calls isn’t going to continue for long in an age of Wimax city-wide deployments and I predict we’ll see a mad scramble by others to invest defensively and offensively in VoIP technologies.

You know Skype and their free and really cheap calls, right? Well last night I downloaded Eqo’s thin little Java client for my Palm Treo 700p, installed the app to my Mac, and watched them perform as I selected one of my Skype contacts in the Eqo app on my Treo and clicked “call”. Suddenly my Skype client started a conference call that dialed my chosen contact and called my Treo back at the same time!

I carried on a conversation that was really quite decent. Nowhere near as good as a Skype-to-Skype call and yet nearly as good as a regular mobile call, but the HUGE deal is that it was free and used zero mobile minutes!

Since a Skype client isn’t available yet for the Palm OS-driven Treo 700p (but is for the Windows 700w), direct calling from the device itself isn’t yet possible so going through a third party like Eqo is the only alternative. The Eqo Java client is a little flaky and is having screen refresh and click issues. Still, I have to admit being pretty blown away that it worked!

UPDATE: That was fast! Just got an email from a former colleague that pointed out an obvious fact I didn’t make in my post: since EQO fires up Skype which, in turn, calls BOTH my intended contact AND my mobile phone, I burn up mobile minutes. So EQO is useful primarily for country-to-country calling where a mobile call would be grossly expensive and SkypeOut minutes modestly so. I stand corrected and won’t be posting after midnight again!