Dartmouth Offering Voice Over WiFi Phones To Students

from the embracing-new-technologies dept

Dartmouth is well known for embracing new technologies very early on – earlier than most other universities. There have been tons of stories about their wireless system and their famous “Blitzmail” email system. Earlier this year some stories started popping up about how Dartmouth was going to free up their phone lines and let students make local and long distance phone calls for free. The university said that, since rates were so low, it was cheaper not to bill the students than to handle the whole billing infrastructure. Now, however, the NY Times has more details on Dartmouth’s plans – and they go much further than offering free phone calls. They’re actually offering free voice-over-WiFi phone systems. While VoIP systems have been around for a while, it’s still rare to hear about VoW systems (or was that VoWiFi?). In this case, students have the ability to download VoIP software to their computer, turning it into a phone anywhere they have a connection (which is anywhere, thanks to the ubiquitous WiFi connections). They receive a regular 7-digit phone number with the software, and they’ve got their phones ready to go. If they want, they can hook up a handset as well, to make the phone experience more phone-like (the campus store is apparently doing brisk business in the handsets). Meanwhile, don’t think Dartmouth is done checking out new technologies. Next year they plan to add video capabilities to the system. It will be interesting to see how people start to use this voice-over-WiFi system. I’m curious to see if it starts to replace mobile phones – or if users feel more comfortable sticking with regular mobile phones instead and using the VoIP system in more fixed environments. Either way, it’ll be a fascinating experiment.


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Comments on “Dartmouth Offering Voice Over WiFi Phones To Students”

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Clouser/Mike (user link) says:

Fascinating Find

Quite the fascinating find, Mike. Placing myself back in the shoes of a freshman, I can think of a variety of things that I would have used it for, including keeping better communication with parents and high school buddies. I always thought that voice would come back around full circle as the primary means of communication.

Interesting to think about is the implications for education and how it will be delivered in the future. I can imagine lectures and chat sessions available to students with a simple phone call. I remember meeting an entrepreneur back in the BBS days that ran a very popular and profitable voice BBS system at the University of Toronto. Students used it to organize parties, find dates, exchange information on classes, etc. There were even bootleg lecture recordings being exchanged.

The impact on research could be tremendous as well. The cost of long distance phone calls were always a hindrance to researchers. Now with zero cost, there is no excuse not to call the right people and speak in-person when conducting research activities.

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