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Posts from October 2004

Is BT Blocking Ports

As many of you know who have been long time readers, I have been very concerned about Port Blocking, first from the streaming media content distribution sector, but knowing how the implications could impact VoIP.

If Mr. Blog is correct, and I have no reason to doubt him, it appears BT in their wisdom has made themselves a royal pain in the butt of people hoping to use VoIP by blocking port 5060.

It's a bit of a surprise as I was in the UK recently and had no problem using either the Linksys adapter from Vonage or their SoftPhone or AT&T's CallVantage.

Pehaps AT&T was right when they chose to use a different port for CallVantage which doesn't use 5060 for traffic.


USA Today Pans Skype, Loves CallVantage

In a story that started within USA Today that was syndicated by parent Gannet News Service it seems the reviewers experience with Skype was less than desirable. What was interesting is they chose to compare AT&T's CallVantage to it. saying:

Alas, Skype is flawed compared with other VoIP options, even though they cost more. For example, AT&T's CallVantage has proved to be extremely reliable. It's well worth the current price of $30 per month. You can use any ordinary handset to make or receive a call. And CallVantage includes voice mail, Web call logs and other goodies.

Looking at it with editorial eyes, this is the kind of coverage AT&T has to love. USA TODAY is mass market, news mcnuggets. The readers are mobile, affluent and widely diverse. They also are more tech savvy, more male than female and hit people who are on the road with free distribution in hotels and on airplanes. That's a captive audience.


LA Times on VoIP and Pulver

Jeff Pulver has some very interesting things to say about the VoIP revolution. It is one of the most sober, clear thinking and on the mark type of interviews I have read from anyone in the space.

Given how Jeff clearly has been the VoIP cheerleader for 10 years or more, his classy remarks are more accurate than flowery and articulate the direction of where things need to be. This is a continuation of his "cut the hype" and get serious commentary on the VoIP space. He's also on a roll when it comes to presence, something that is as important to VoIP as any of the protocols being used, and maybe more meaningful to end users and companies that deploy VoIP.


Skype Presence Sorta Leaked

I love when the media get sucked or suckered into a news story. Take this story that recently broke about Skype.

This is clearly what the PR trade calls a leak or teaser strategy, and what is less newsworthy about it is the concept behind it is very much like what ICQ and Yahoo Messenger have already done.

But if this is a direction which Skype is going, which is to build a cottage industry around their API, then it is clearly a world worth looking at.


Bear Sterns on Level 3 and Comcast

Bear Sterns, one of the more liberal investment banks took a contrarian like view on the Level3 Landing Comcast story that appeared in today's Wall Street Journal.

The WSJ reported today that Comcast is close to announcing a VoIP
wholesale deal with Level 3 and Sprint to offer VoIP services in 2006. For
Level 3, we believe the wholesale deal will consist of IP transport and/or
call termination, which we believe are on the lower end of Level 3's
previously discussed VoIP revenue estimates of $5-$20 per subscriber per
month. In addition, we note that an IP transport contract may be structured
as leased network capacity only, and not metered on a per customer basis.
We expect to hear more information on Level 3's earnings conference call
scheduled for tomorrow, October 27 (details below).


Although increased business with Comcast is an incremental
positive for Level 3, we caution investors not to expect material revenue
and EBITDA gains in the near term from a VoIP contract with Comcast.
Assuming Comcast gains 7% penetration in its customer base of 21M by
year-end 2006, and Level 3 provides services to one-third of those customers
(or ~500K average subscribers for Level 3) at $5 per subscriber per month,
we estimate Level 3 would gain ~$30M in annual revenue and ~$7M in annual
EBITDA in 2007.

From an industry perspective, we note that transport of VoIP
minutes largely represents a shift from circuit switched voice capacity to
IP network capacity. As VoIP transport is not bandwidth intensive, we do
not expect increased VoIP traffic over the next few years to materially
reduce available IP and transport network capacity from the wholesale
industry.

Level 3 is scheduled to report its 3Q04 results tomorrow;
conferences call at 10AM, dial-in 612-326-1003. We anticipate total revenue
and EBITDA of $873M and $123M (14.1% margin), respec­tively. Our EPS
es­timate is $(0.26), com­pared with the consensus estimate of $(0.28).

I'm sure this will spur comments...the key here is that Level3 has landed at least two cable companies and many of the resellers and MLMs. They are selling capacity and access. The question becomes can their customers sell VoIP?


Vonage Adds London-Virtually

Isn't the world of VoIP just grand. Now not only does Jeff Pulver's LibreTel let you establish a VoIP based presence in the UK with a London number, but now Vonage does too.

Basically, for under $30 dollars a month you can recive all the calls you want from London, and have unlimited USA calling. It's worth checking out.


Why Qualcomm Scared

Ted Shelton is one of my favorite bloggers. He brings things to light that other miss like this post about Qualcomm.

I live in the shadow of Qualcomm and have many friends who are employed there in the marketing and technology groups. All of that is fine, and while I recognize that they have some very solid technology they are always somewhat on the side leaning in the direction of paranoia when it comes to what competing technology can mean and how it can impact them. And they have every right to be.

When you shave it all down, CDMA is what Qualcomm is all about. Anything that is a threat to CDMA starts the Q shaking, and responding like a shark smelling blood in every direction. Take for example CDMA vs. WiFi war of words a few years back. Instead of saying the two technologies can co-exist, and thus disintermediating Intel by light years (i.e. the war of words started long before Centrino was even in the womb) Qualcomm started highlighting the shortcomings of WiFi at the 802.11b stage.

Now it appears they are doing the same thing with WiMax.... Q which is always fearful of Intel, a company who is about as undermining as a company can be when it comes to technology, is choosing to really push the WiMax battle early on. Now that Intel has Clearwire in their venture portfolio the landscape changes slightly.

Clearly, as Ted points out, this is not at all about data. It's about Voice. Voice traffic that goes over the cellular networks. If McCaw and his team at Clearwire can offer a non CDMA based technology that works, and works for less money, delivers high speed data and the ability to run VoIP without dependency on CDMA, that eventually means Qualcomm gets no royalties, so Q has a right to be paranoid. Jobs, money are on the line. Do you really think Verizon and Sprint in the USA have loyalty in their coprorate hearts towards Qualcomm? I don't. And deep down the folks at Qualcomm have to know it too.

Last month at a San Diego Telecom Headliners event, Irwin Jacobs the chairman and founder mentioned VoIP in a passage during his presentation. It was the first time I ever heard Qualcomm talk about VoIP and CDMA in the same breath. Now I know why.

This is basic to all business. Build a better mousetrap, and eventually, the business goes your way. Qualcomm has a right to be concerned about WiMax, and they will leverage every aspect of their global reach they can to make sure they have their piece of the pie in order to survive.


Skype Drops Price

James Enck has an unfair advantage, he's in London, so news about Skype dropping their prices hits him first. That's why he's clearly worth reading.

The question on my mind is not how low can prices go with telco. Everyone knows the PTT's and RBOC's have been milking the market for years. The real question is at what point does the QoS portion of the network get marginalized.

Unless the QoS is guaranteed, all of the cheaper rate so called minute stealers will only be good for the consumer, not the business grade customer. As a professional communicator, I can't not be clearly heard. That's the real issue. No CEO of a Fortune 100 company would call his or her board member to discuss serious business on a sub standard telephone line knowingly. I pity the fool in IT of one of them who ends up with an "off brand" network.

Andy says--Be wary of to low of a price, as we all know we get what we pay for.


Vonage Picks An Ad Agency

Score one for Jonathan Greene for finding out the news about who won the review for Vonage's 50-75 million dollar ad account.

My gut says Vonage will continue to heavily use the Internet to attract customers but also start to do some very targeted traditional media. A lot of new technology is out there to help media planners and buyers isolate who lives where. With some smart database details about their existing customers and leveraging partner customer data from say Linksys, and purchase ready data from companies like Z24 and Equifax, as well as others, Vonage's new agencies should not have a hard time developing a customer profile, right down to the ISP to zero in on their marketing efforts.

That's where the offer comes into play.

But all that said, it still will come down to the product. If Vonage is going to play the mass market game, their QoS issues, and more importantly their customer support issues have to go away. Fast. Ma and Pa middle america don't want to have to call someone and get help from an offshore call center that has no idea what's really wrong.

And that's an issue no ad agency or PR firm can overcome.


Becoming your own telco

Om Malik, has an interesting post about becoming your own phone company if you are a large corporation based upon a Baseline magazine account about Heinz, the ketchup people.

This is exactly the space that companies coming onto the scene are playing, especially Cisco, which a few years ago announced integration alliance with the traditional telco giant SBC which in effect was designed to move the traffic from circuit switched to IP.

But Cisco isn't loyal, and if a customer decides to move from SBC to Level3 or Sprint as their network provider, they don't exactly yank out the routers and hubs. Or do they?

All of that said, the space is changing. With new companies like Stealth Communications (they help power Vonage) coming on the scene and becoming the glue to make things happen solutions that work are being linked together by the internet allowing enterprise customers to say bye bye to the Bells.