CounterPath Bria: PC and iPhone Softphones for the Enterprise

CounterPathBria.splash screen.120px For the past few years I have been aware of another company, aside from Skype, that develops communications software in the form of SIP-based softphones: CounterPath, working out of Vancouver, B.C.

I have always been a bit frustrated by SIP-based connectivity – my one learning across several attempts over the years to configure SIP-based softphones was that it’s not a simple exercise but rather requires a certain level of technical expertise.

But the team at CounterPath persisted. Much like Global IP Solutions (“GIPS”) they found a market for their software in the enterprise space as well as an OEM for telecomm carriers, such as Verizon and BT, and telecommunications hardware vendors, such as Cisco and Mitel. From their website:

CounterPath Corporation is a leading provider of innovative desktop and mobile VoIP software products and solutions. The Company’s product suite includes SIP-based softphones, server applications and Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) solutions that enable service providers, enterprises and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) to cost-effectively integrate voice, video, presence and Instant Messaging (IM) applications into their VoIP offerings and extend functionality across both fixed and mobile networks.

Recently I have been setting up a prototype FREETALK Connect PBX in preparation for its launch later this summer and found that CounterPath’s Bria softphone for PC and Mac could be one way to access the FREETALK Connect (in addition to Skype clients and IP-based phone sets). Let’s say it was not a totally trivial process but I now have it working. In the course of getting it to work I learned more about where CounterPath positions their software as outlined above.

Basically larger enterprises and carriers are looking for a softphone client that they can incorporate into various IP-based communications service offerings. CounterPath’s original x-Lite and recently released Bria for Windows and Mac are filling that gap. Sticking solely to being an infrastructure software developer, CounterPath does not provide a full telecommunications service such as Skype but rather integrates into VoIP service offerings of other VoIP service providers. Their focus is on providing a platform that supports Fixed-Mobile Convergence and Unified Communications activities within these third party services.

So it was not a total surprise last week, when, in addition to supporting PC’s and Mac’s as end points, they announced Bria for iPhone, available for $3.99 at the Apple App store. Two of my blogging colleagues provided lots of details:

Alec Saunders at Saunderslog: CounterPath Launches Bria on iPhone:

Today CounterPath has launched Bria iPhone Edition, their first softphone for Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.  Think of this feature-rich VoIP client for iPhone as being the mobile equivalent of a business desk phone.  With enterprise class features ranging from speaker phone to hold/unhold, swap, mute, conference, and security, this softphone is a credible tool for the road warrior. Moreover, with a strong focus on usability as well, CounterPath VP Todd Carothers proudly says “it could have been developed by Apple themselves!”.

Dan York does a great video explanation in Emerging Tech Talk #51 – Review of CounterPath’s Bria SIP softphone for iPhone and iPad:

Have you wanted to use a VoIP softphone from your iPhone or iPad? Sure, Skype is available, but what if you want to use a softphone that works with SIP and can connect to a corporate IP-PBX? In this episode, host Dan York reviews the new Bria softphone for the iPhone that was released this week by CounterPath Corp. He shows how it works, how it can connect to applications running on Voxeo’s Prophecy Hosting or Tropo platforms and offers some other comments about the app.

Bria.iPhone.CallInterface As a result I installed Bria for iPhone on my iPhone (but look for “CounterPath” in the App store, not “Bria”) and made the connection to the FREETALK Connect PBX. It certainly worked for making outbound calls to the PSTN. Ironically the call was via Bria as the calling client into the FREETALK Connect and then going out over SkypeOut to the called phone number.

(Note, however, that my Skype for iPhone client can also call into the FREETALK Connect from anywhere worldwide; it’s really becomes a matter of what client is convenient for the individual user’s situation. Taking inbound calls does currently require that you have the relevant client open on the iPhone, whether it’s Skype or Bria.)

In talking with CounterPath VP Todd Carothers, he pointed out how much effort had been put into the user interface to make it much easier to configure. Fortunately I had my Bria for Mac configuration available from which I copied the key parameters required. The FREETALK Connect uses the same “phone” configuration for Bria for iPhone as used with Bria for Mac.

Once configured you have access to a “familiar” iPhone calling interface from which you can call any of your iPhone contacts; most obviously the colors have been slightly modified to give it some “branding”. (Personally I find the amber numbers easier on the eyes than the traditional white.) Other screens provide access to call history, additional settings and your iPhone contacts.

And why did CounterPath start with support of the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad? Basically they had watched as Apple gradually introduced features, such as full Microsoft Exchange support with the upgrade to iOS3 earlier this year, and felt now was the time that their customers’ end user base would need access to their IP-based services from the iPhone, etc. Later this year they intend to introduce Bria for Android. Given CounterPath’s focus on the enterprise/operator market, a BlackBerry offering would be an obvious one. However, for similar reasons to the lack of a carrier agnostic Skype for BlackBerry, they are not in a position to produce such an offering now.

Bottom Line: Within its target market, CounterPath appears to be ready to play a role in the enterprise IP-based communications market, providing infrastructure to IP-based communications services that are quickly infiltrating this market space. Whereas Skype’s high level of adoption by consumers and small business results from its ease-of installation and configuration, Bria is an offering that definitely needs a level of technical expertise, usually a resource available in larger enterprises, for configuration but, once configured, fulfils a need within its target market space.

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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One Response to CounterPath Bria: PC and iPhone Softphones for the Enterprise

  1. Ron December 13, 2010 at 5:49 pm #

    Bria for iPhone is an excellent sip client. The best one I've purchased for that matter and I've tried probabably about 5 free ones and 5 paid ones. It looks great, as the author stated is easy to setup, and simply works. I runs in the background so when a call comes in you get alerted and can effeciently either accept or deny the call and begin speaking. This was an issue I had with other sip clients. I could make calls out ok but it was a crapshoot if the incoming calls would work and if I would hear the RTP voice packets.

    3G support has to be enabled in the advanced settings. I noticed when I turned on QOS and started sniffing network traffic the application was tagging the voice packets with the correct markings. This gives priority to the sip client traffic over data from other devices such as laptops browsing the web. Very important in the enterprise. Bria did an awesome job with the product that my iphone and has more features in the enterprise than wifi phones that are designed for enterprise voice over wifi and cost 2-3x the amount.

    My problem in the enterprise has nothing to do with the Bria software but the iPhone. Apple has no support whatsoever for any type of fast secure roaming. Unless you want to run an open network with no security the iphone with this sip client or any other is really only effective if you stay in one place for your conversation. Until Apple gets on board and starts supporting 802.11e for better QOS and 802.11r for fast roaming the iPhone is not going to be a truely effective enterprise class wifi phone thus hurting the sales of such an excellent software product from CounterPath.

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