Click-to-call comes to China

05 Feb 2007

Click-to-talk technology maintains a reputation for having fairly limited niche appeal, but that perception may soon change, thanks to a partnership among Google, US service provider VoIP Inc. and Chinese mobile operators.

Mobile telephone users in China who use Google for their mobile searches will soon have a simple way to purchase goods and contact merchants: they'll just click on the advertiser's link and call directly through to the merchant.

Anthony J. Cataldo, chairman of VoIP Inc., says Google is using his company's VoIP network, which is based in Florida, and its own technology to streamline communications between China's mobile users and merchants.

'It's on in China right now,' says Cataldo, although Google isn't clear about which mobile operators offer the click-to-talk service or whether it will be rolled out in the entire country. What is clear, however, is that the new service expands on one launched about two months ago in the US, where Web users of Google's Maps application can make free click-through calls to merchants and retailers that come up in search listings.

Google also is using VoIP Inc.'s network for similar click-through services in the UK, Germany and Japan. The company recently expanded into France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, China, Ireland, India and Australia.

'Google is sort of the 500-pound gorilla in this, and we are the 4-ounce gnat who rides along,' says Cataldo, who adds the company realizes Google has entered a new market only after the surge of calls hit its VoIP network.

In the US users simply type in their telephone numbers and press the 'call' prompt on the Web site listing to contact a specific merchant. Within a second or two, VoIP Inc.'s network telephones the customer, who picks up the phone and then hears the telephone connection being made to the retailer. The merchant picks up the call like any regular telephone call.

There is no cost to the customer, as the call is routed through VoIP Inc.'s network. The technology works on any platform.

Beyond China

Cataldo notes that the expansion of the click-to-call capabilities to new markets such as China is simply a continuation of the ongoing relationship between VoIP Inc. and Google. Under the agreement, VoIP Inc. receives a fee each time it connects a call. The service is likely to expand to other countries, including those in Asia, as Google sees fit. Even Cataldo doesn't know what those markets will be beforehand, and Google won't discuss its plans.

Cataldo adds that the company's network currently can handle 500 million telephone calls a month; that capacity is expected to increase to 1.5 billion in the next 60 to 90 days.

'We are pleased that Google has decided to further expand the use of our network and its incorporated technology platform to connect consumers and merchants for mobile applications,' Cataldo said. 'The use of Google and 'click to call' technology in mobile applications represents a logical way for consumers to access information and contact merchants at a time when they desire to shop for products and services.'

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