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VoIP, x-lite, asterisk, Skype

The Evolution of X-Lite is Creating a Revolution of Over-The-Top (OTT) Services

By Todd Carothers

X-Lite, our free softphone product, is known worldwide as the leading VoIP endpoint. It has been downloaded millions of times and connects people across the globe. Many of the features and direction of X-Lite has come from our user community. 

Since the initial release of X-Lite in 2003, our users’ input has helped grow the product into a powerful offering that rivals many paid VoIP softphones. However, now there is call for change from users that are looking for something beyond a standalone X-Lite product.

Why X-Lite Connect?

Over the past few years the X-Lite community has asked CounterPath to go a step further and add a connectivity layer to the product. Users want the capability to connect to other users leveraging X-Lite. Even more we see this request from our Asterisk (and FreeSWITCH) user base. This intense push from the community, coupled with the assets acquired from our company’s BridgePort Networks acquisition, enables CounterPath to answer the demand with X-Lite Connect, aimed at serving the 20-seat SME segment - including the Asterisk community and beyond.

Who is X-Lite Connect Targeted Toward?

This solution is targeted to IT managers and SME users who use Asterisk as their PBX platform. IT managers continually seek solutions that (1) lower IT cost, and (2) increase productivity. This is their mantra. The X-Lite Connect solution meets this demand by providing free calls plus enabling desktop (and soon mobile) softphones so that their users are reachable anyplace, anywhere.

SME users want (1) to be reachable on their terms and connect with others based on their address book, and (2) services that enrich their communications. X-Lite Connect will combine the user’s address book, social networking and other contact stores to enable an über-social address book. For enriched communications, X-Lite Connect will offer the table stakes (Voice, Video, IM and Presence) plus services such as SMS, Group SMS, Group HD Video, HD Conferencing and others in the future. This will create un-paralleled user experiences leveraging voice, message and video.

How does X-Lite Connect work?

By combining X-Lite and our carrier-grade Network Convergence Gateway (NCG), CounterPath is able to offer a peer-to-peer (P2P) solution that supports VoIP, Video, Instant Messaging, SMS and Presence.

The solution is based on leveraging the SME phone number as the identity for the service. When a user signs up for X-Lite Connect service the SME phone number is leveraged to create the service account of record.

CounterPath will take this combination and offer the X-Lite user the capability to signup for the free service as well as configure their current Asterisk (or other PBX) credentials. This two-account approach will enable users to make free calls to other X-Lite users as well as traditional PBX calls as they normally would do today.

The solution is 100% secure and leverages standards-based mechanisms such as TLS and SRTP to ensure every conversation is protected. We strongly believe leveraging standards-based security mechanisms is important as other over-the-top (OTT) services use proprietary schemes that are unknown to SME/Enterprise IT managers.

As I mentioned above, the X-Lite Connect service is targeted to Asterisk deployments. However, the solution is fully SIP compliant, making it compatible with a number of SIP deployments that are already in place today. This is important because the IT manager does not need to add or upgrade any infrastructure that they have today. As long as it is SIP X-Lite Connect is a simply overlay.

In essence the X-Lite Connect service is an overlay that :

  • Provides free HD Voice calls between X-Lite Connect users
  • Enables calls to be uplifted to video
  • Leverages standards-based Instant Messaging and SMS capabilities
  • Creates a Presence fabric that not only shows the Presentity of X-Lite services but also those of the PBX that is using the X-Lite client as well

Is X-Lite the Next Skype?

No. We are not looking to be the next Skype with this solution. Skype has an army of engineers that develop a good service for consumers. Their service directly competes with our customer base. Our goal with X-Lite Connect is to address the Asterisk community that has provided feedback to CounterPath looking for a peer-to-peer service that offers Skype-like services but also works with the Asterisk PBX offering. This is the same community that was recently dumped by Skype after the Microsoft acquisition announcement.

When Will X-Lite Connect Be Available?

We are busy building out the X-Lite network now and are able to demonstrate the core functionality. Later this summer we will release X-Lite Connect to our employees and friendly targets (press, analysts, bloggers, VoIP / industry experts). Later this year we will release the service on an invitation-only basis and anticipate a full launch in early 2012.

This is an exciting time for CounterPath, our customers and X-Lite and Bria users. We are looking forward to the transition of X-Lite from a standalone product to a service-product offering over the next year. Stay tuned for further news.

Todd Carothers

About Todd Carothers

Todd Carothers is the Executive Vice President of Marketing and Products at CounterPath and oversees Product Management and Marketing initiatives. Growing up in Silicon Valley and having witnessed the technical marvels coming out of Xerox PARC (where his dad was a patent attorney) Todd developed a deep passion for the high-tech industry. With a particular interest in Internet and mobile applications, Todd eventually found himself within the massive Telecommunications sector and companies that were on the leading edge of new services that added significant value to operators worldwide.

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