by Mielle Sullivan, Janus Networks

Recently, Google took its unified voice service, Google Voice, out of Beta and into invite. The service is likely be available to anyone in the US in a few weeks. Google Voice allows you to have one number ring on multiple devices, so you can have one number, at home, at work and on the go for life. The convenience Google Voice offers users has some analysts believing Google Voice could relegate mobile service providers to the much feared “dumb pipes.”

Google voice works by giving you a number that becomes your new “universal” number. When someone calls your universal number, the call will be routed to your pre-selected devices. If you move or change mobile carriers, just change your Google Voice settings and the number will follow you. Likewise, when you want to make a call, you use the local Google Voice access number which then routes your call through the Google cloud to its end receiver. An app will make this process seamless on most smartphones.

Beyond a universal number, Google Voice has a myriad of other impressive features : You can set calls from specific numbers to ring on certain devices or go straight to voicemail; you can have a number ring on one device at one time of day and another at a different time of or day; your voicemails can be automatically transcribed and sent to you via email and text; you can personalize greetings and ringtones to individual callers; you can store and send your text messages online; you can call anywhere in the US for free, record calls, make conference calls….the list goes on. And more is in development. What’s most impressive? It is all free.

As per usual with Google, the service will be ad supported. The company has filed patent on a software that serves ads based on location to callers when they are on hold or before the receiver picks up a call.

Will Google Voice soon turn mobile carriers to be “dumb pipes”? In my view, the “dumb pipes” term is more hyperbolic than descriptive of the challenges mobile service providers face. Phone companies will always want to charge for as many services as they can. While customers, increasingly, want to use their cell phones as just another Internet portal. But that doesn’t mean that every time innovation creates a better way for users to better manage their mobile communications, that mobile providers lose their value. There will always be tension to do more on phones for less, that’s just economics. Phone companies will just have to continually re-bundle their data packages to keep up with innovation.

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