Apple’s Two Face on Facetime

by Colin Berkshire

“Were going to the standards bodies starting tomorrow and we’re going to make FaceTime an open standard.” Jobs lied. I can think of no other word for it. Those words of Steve Jobs are clear and unambiguous. See them yourself in this 30-second YouTube clip.

Why do I care about this? Because it would revolutionize the cell phone industry. Here is how:

With FaceTime being an open standard it would be possible to build a PSTN gateway. This means that you could port your telephone number to a VOIP DID. Callers could call your phone number and it would go to the DID and then to VOIP and then to the PSTN gateway and arrive as a FaceTime call right on your iPhone. And, hopefully, it would work in reverse so you could originate calls. (Call the PSTN gateway and simply speak the phone number you wished to call.

Why is this revolutionary?

Because it would allow the seamless offloading of phone calls from our overloaded cell phone towers. When you were within range of a WiFi hotspot, your phone calls would be over WiFi and not over the cell tower. As you walked out of the building away from the HotSpot your call would seamlessly transition to a cell tower. And, if you passed into range of a Hotspot the call would seamlessly transition back to WiFi. THAT IS REVOLUTIONARY.

What this means is that cell towers would be vastly off-loaded from phone call traffic, freeing up these badly overloaded towers to the more important task of covering people who are not close to a WiFi hotspot.

Now, add in the magic of HotSpot 2.0 where you can join and securely use random hotspots that you have no knowledge of and you have a remarkable third generation cell phone network.

Yes, with the mere addition of a FaceTime PSTN gateway and HotSpot 2.0 we get third generation cell phone voice calling, where calls seamlessly transition from cell tower to hotspot to hotspot to cell tower. This is a capability that as far as I can tell isn’t even on the lethargic cell phone industry’s radar. And, it could be done trivially.

I am sure that the cell companies will scream, and perhaps that is why Apple never made the technical disclosures that Steve Jobs promised. The cell phone companies may have been busy protecting their revenue.

But today, cell companies don’t get anything extra for voice calls. Unlimited calling is now the norm. So you would think cell phone companies would love to offload all of that traffic and get it off their towers. Oh, if they only had a brain. Sorry, I a not the wizard of Oz.