‘Free software allows cheaper long distance phone calls’

October 22nd, 2008 - 2:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Panaji, Oct 22 (IANS) Free software and open source solutions offer a huge potential to link your computer to the mobile phone and the inexpensive Skype networks — that allows you to make international calls over the internet — and for sending out SMSes too.This could help significantly narrow the digital divide “at the social level between rich and poor and geographical levels, between city and village”, says Giovanni Maruzzelli, an Italian expert in the field currently touring India.

The Italian techie has held meetings at IIT-Madras, at Auroville, and at Mumbai, and now is scheduled to speak in Goa and Hyderabad.

Maruzzelli is the man behind the celliax.org project, that works with internet telephony, computers, sound cards and mobile phones — bringing all together in amazing ways.

Celliax uses second-hand, recycled and cheap cellphones as interfaces between VoIP and the GSM networks.

VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol, and is optimized for the transmission of voice through the internet or other packet-switched networks. GSM is Global System for Mobile communications, originally from Groupe Sp├ęciaMobile.

“I’m still at the beginning of my trip. But in each place I’ve been very refreshed by, and glad to see, the people that come to the presentations of Asterisk-celliax-skypiax,” Maruzzelli, 44, told IANS.

He said: “Voice communication, when it is managed by advanced technologies like Asterisk (the Open Source PBX and telephony platform) and VoIP, allows a large public to tap the same benefits of information access and interactivity that the internet allows to the technical advanced part of the population.”

In India, he said, “I want to get acquainted with the technical communities that relate (as users, developers, entrepreneurs, administrators, teachers, etc) to free and open source software. I’m making presentations about the free software that I’m now contributing to.

“I see that there is a precise awareness, also among people who have no technical knowledge, about how strategic the new voice communication technologies — and mobile communication — could be for India.

“It’s much easier, on many occasions, for people to interact using a phone than using a computer. It is important to move toward an approach that combines low cost, low power, recycling, and sustainability.”

Maruzzelli pointed out that India has “wide differences between countryside and the big cities. In such a context, organizations, communities, companies and public administration have to evaluate and use each tools that allows them to interconnect with and between people.”

Maruzzelli’s website www.celliax.org is the gathering point for the development of celliax, skypiax and directoriax technologies, that allow for a cheap interconnection between fixed lines, Skype, GSM, and VoIP.

The software he has worked on is used to connect the Asterisk PBX (www.asterisk.org) or private branch exchange to the GSM and Skype networks for making and receiving voice calls and SMSes.

Voice menus, the phone interrogation of databases, speech synthesis and recognition, automatic attendants - these are technologies ready right now to be implemented, he said.

There is a fast growing market for any technology that can save money in telecommunication, he added.

VoIP, Asterisk, FreeSwitch, and the other open source technologies allow for bigger savings, and for extreme flexibility. Both at the level of big telco and at the small office or tiny community level, Maruzzelli added.

Maruzzelli was founder of the first mass consumer internet service provider and portal in Italy, partner in an incubator and venture capital private fund and an internet and telecom investment expert for the World Bank-IFC in Serbia.

“So I know very well that if you start from technologies that have a high degree of usefulness and a great potential for penetration, you can build a viable and successful business,” he added. “All the pieces are there, and I see a very bright future in India for all the open source technologies related to VoIP.”

“The Indian elite technologists are the best in the world; but this is not news. With such a big population, India will have to grow a much bigger number of medium and advanced techies, who can bring about innovations in all parts of the country,” he added.

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