RebTel and FON: heartily disagreeing with TechCrunch

I think Techcrunch (US) is missing something in their RebTel post, whilst I think Techcrunch (UK) is somewhat blinded by FON in their post.  Not that it’s any skin off their back these days given the size of the cigar that Mike is smoking in Business2.  But moving on…

Rebtel_image_2On RebTel: Arrington grumbles that the set-up of a call is too complex and that consumers will never get it.  If I understand the service correctly, RebTel’s silver lining is: you only need to do this once; once you have established your local buddy number, you never need to do the "drop the leg / call me back routine".  So in other words if you live in East Palo Alto (as a cheap startupist should) and Mom is back in the USSR, you would probably find it worthwhile to go through the first RebTel call establishment, after which she could save your # as "Son – Local" and you can do the same for her.  That’s it, next time call your stored number and there is nothing else to do.  No VOIP involved locally by the way, this is not a VOIP company per se (apart from the fact that it leverages IP transit).

RebTel should be a great business model since they probably only use a limited number of local numbers and use CLI to know which phone they need to route to.  And there is a ton of money still in the termination business!  Time for my mea culpa: I met the founder at Innovate in Zaragoza courtesy of Chris Shipley and did not chase the guy… ouch.

By contrast I am not "getting" FON much.  Some basic thoughts:

  • how likely is it that your home ever become a serious hotspot ?  Mine is 50 meters away from my local pub, 200 meters away from Starbucks.  Maybe I should put a bench outside my house with FON branding.  Maybe they have a Wifi-enabled bench in the works, come to think of it…
  • why the $5 router ?  that’s a lot of capex subsidy, if they really are going to give away 1M of these.  An IP set-top box from Amino costs $50, and that’s got so much higher associated ARPU’s…  I think the answer lies in both the level of ambition of the founder and the fact that the firmware is tough to download and provision.  A bit too ambitious for my liking, for once…

What’s for sure is that Europe really is getting disruptive, as per VTho !  I just hope we can be succesfully disruptive as well ;-)

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