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Posts from March 2009

Skype Not Available Yet In Canada, Being Blocked in Germany

Poor Skype. On the heels of their biggest launch ever since their inception, with the release of the iPhone client, a licensing issue around a piece of software, known as a Codec is preventing them from making the App available in Canada.

That's the good news, as that's just a matter of negotiation and figuring out what's a fair amount to pay.

Tom Keating has the news about the Canadian Skype predicament and a way around it.

Now for the bad news. In Germany Deutsche Telekom has taken steps to prevent Skype from being used on the iPhone. The rub here is the company actually runs and controls most of the telephony and data network technology and access in Germany.


No More SkypePhone @ 3 ?

It looks like the SkypPhone2 has bit the dust with mobile operator 3 in favor of the newer and shinier Inq1. But they still do seem to be available in other 3 served countries like Australia.

I've used the SkypePhone 1 and 2 but passed on grabbing an INQ1 simply because I don't need more and more devices but with all the hysteria about Skype on the iPhone I am likely one of the few in the USA who have used the original technology that Skype is referring to in their accounts about driving additional revenue to carriers.

The technology which 3 is using though is not from Skype. It is from iSkoot which installs a box into the network that takes real-time Skype presence data, then works with the mobile operator to bridge the call over the cellular carrier's circuit switched network.

The service, which for someone like me who visits the UK about once every 6-8 weeks (or has been it seems) is very attractive. Buy a Skype/iSkoot app capable phone that works on the Three network. Obtain a pay as you go SIM and top it up. The top up never expires but to use Skype you need to purchase a top up at least once every 90 days (it used to be 30 days) and when one gets to a country where Three operates, simply turn on data, by purchasing an add-on for Internet for a day, a week or a month at a rate of .50 pence, 2.50 pounds (for the week) or 5 pounds for the month. What I like about the Skypephone2 is you can also use it as a 3G data modem (tethered) to a PC or Mac.

The call quality on 3 has been stellar when I've used it. Last week I loaned one of our two units to my wife one to use to check in with her office last week, as her staff is reachable on Skype and her ability to be reached was simplified and the cost other than the 2.50 pounds for the week was nothing compared to what calls would have cost her on her AT&T phone when roaming internationally. (Note she also made extensive use of her Truphone via WiFi and Truphone Anywhere on a spare N95 we carried when in France too.)

Sadly, while many of the carriers were offered the iSkoot solution, only 3 has taken it up. Now 3 was built to be an all 3G network, but has never achieved the consumer or business uptake in the UK the way Vodafone and Orange have. My experience has been nothing less than stellar with the devices and the call quality. What's more the recent addition of pay as you go data with inexpensive data cards has been a big benefit for me.


Is Video Communications On The Phone The Next Big Push?

Over the last few days as a lead up to CTIA in Las Vegas there has been a push from AT&T about video communications on mobile phones.

Let's start with the sleek Nokia E71x that promises two way video.

Then there are the smartphone from Samsung which may be running Symbian I hear. This baby offers one-way video ala QIK but also uses the AT&T Video Share service.

When you add in the rumored Skype for the iPhone you have to see why all this is happening. AT&T wants to sell more data plans. Period to pay for the upgrade that's needed for their network. The network, which is stresses in some markets (mostly the top 10 cities in the USA) is robust elsewhere.

Their mission is to get more people in more places using mobile data, not just the iPhone crowd on both coasts which currently is the majority of the users.


The Nokia E75 Is the Phone For Me

One of the phone's I'm looking forward to seeing at CTIA is the new Nokia E75. It has the VoIP stack/SIP stack already in it I'm told and when I saw one a few months ago in prototype stage I was all over it as a replacement for my trusty Nokia E90. Over the last three weeks the E90 was my primary device for phone calls and data, especially in the wine country of France. I don't usually get device envy, but this is one sexy, slim and Andy style device, in any color.

While I have (and love) the Nokia E71, the full keyboard and wider screen just does more for me. Plus with the VoIP technology and Boingo Mobile or when I'm in a hotel with wired broadband in my room, I can use services like Truphone (which like Boingo is a client) or from Vyke or Vopium all of whom have loyal subscriber bases.

The updated Mail for Exchange client is super if you are an Microsoft Exchange user and while it adds an additional cost, means this device may truly be the Nokia Blackberry alternative. In Europe, where RIM sales are far behind Nokias, this means that your mail box and mobile really can be in sync. With the apps that allow you to open and edit Microsoft Office documents on the fly, the expanded keyboard allows for true touch typing, while the closed position Qwerty on phone keyboard allows for rapid messaging.

An app like JoikuSpot makes it a portable hotspot, reducing the need for a 3G card for lightweight data connectivity of a laptop or the need to carry the Cradlepoint to share a connection with friends who need to quickly jump on the net.

Most of all, it's featherlight. You almost forget its in your pocket.


When Verizon Wireless Sells Netbooks Will they Be Dells?

I'm figuring if they're good enough for Vodafone in the UK then Dell will be good enough for Verizon Wireless to market in the USA, as Vodafone is a partner in Verizon when they launch a their wireless broadband netbook offer..

What Vodafone has done with Netbooks is give them away in exchange for a 24 month contract in the UK.

The company has also marketed the same Dell Netbook in Spain. Beyond the UK and Spain the offer has also been made in the Netherlands, Portugal, Australia and Greece.

One interesting note though. In Germany, they went with Korean producers Samsung and LG, both of which are brands of mobile phones sold by Verizon Wireless.


All Google Voice Needs Is a Little More SIP and Skype's Game Changes

With the recent announcement by Skype to have an open SIP Gateway (well its in beta) the door is now wide open for a direct route of calls coming to your Google Voice number to be routed directly into the Skype SIP gateway and to ring your Skype ID. All Google Voice has to do is turn that on and become interoperable with Skype directly, the same way Nimbuzz, Truphone and others have already become.

Let me lay out what this would mean:

1. Google Voice becomes THE defacto switchboard with numbers everywhere added and sold by them. There is less to no more need for a SkypeIn number or anyone else's for that matter. Luca points out how this can be done today via Gizmo and OpenSky.

2. You no longer need to buy Skype Out. You simply bridge your calls between Google Voice making the outbound leg of the call (at lower rates than Skype) to your Skype ID. Currently I bridge from Google Voice to a Skype In Number and this works perfectly.

3. Skype has already pledged and argued for openness, what are they going to do, all of a sudden go down the path of Open being the New Closed, a point Michael Robertson of Gizmo has raised concerns about previously, who's service by the way already peers with Google Voice (thank you very much to the person who caused that to happen--Me!!!!) Robertson basically says Skype speak with forked tongue in his post on VoIPWatch earlier this year.

4. The SIP gateway play for business from Skype is designed to work with big SIP based networks. Gee, what is Google Voice if not that.

So lets think about this..400 million users on Skype or so all getting calling paid from Google. Price of calling is already down to almost nothing. Now go to a country where 3 is the carrier buy a Skype Phone, add a pay as you go data plan and receive calls for free that are bridge by Google. Ingenious. Today you can already make calls using Skype Out for now as part of your unlimited plan and pay for it . Or...tomorrow via the Web browser on the mobile phone and Google Voice's directory web page you can initiate a call to the Skype ID and it rings on your phone. At no cost to you or if you are international at really lower than Skype rates from Google Voice. Wild!!!

Now lets go one step further and be really disruptive. Get a Google Android G1 with Google Voice call bridging that will do the same thing as Skype on 3 and make calls using Google Voice minutes provided by Google. In those countries where the calling party pays the value remains with Google. They will work the deals ala Skype and 3 to drive the sale of more data plans (even pay as you go works great on 3 here in the UK). But with a simple app that ties your browser to your Google Voice directory you'll be able to make calls bridged between the outbound legs being made by Google Voice to your Skype ID on the SkypePhone like I do today, or to your Android G1 via whatever client they put on it that acts like VoIP but brings the call in via the cell phone's circuit switched network. With Googles clout and reach that far out weighs eBay and Skype, plus carriers are more willing to work with Google than they are with Skype, the game starts to get very interesting.

Now lets go over to your home or office and go with termination of the calls to a landline, wireline or IP line. Call it what you want to. Google Voice needs to add a SIP destination capability like they have done with Gizmo, and then all of those calls go for free to SIP end points, just as they do to DIDs of the older Circuit Switched nature. Now, if more calls go all SIP the need for DID's may drop off over time, but telephone numbers still remains important because people still call numbers so Google Voice really is the Grand Central Station of the telco world. All this creates incredible value for companies in the middle. Companies in the federation space, peering business and which are 2.0 app friendly all of a sudden become the main gatekeepers to IP voice traffic. Companies like clients VoxBone and xConnect come to mind here, as does IntelePeer and even Neustar. They keep things moving, while Google Voice does the pointing and the on-netting.

But back to Skype. Poor Skype just lost value with this. You see, Skype built a model based on claims of calls between Skype ID's being free. They have regularly claimed to be open. With SIP traffic piped in from Google Voice the lions share of the money goes to Google as Skype becomes nothing but a dumb pipe, and given what difference the amount of acquisition was for GrandCentral vs. Skype, it's clear who rang up the better deal.

So with all this, it's time to see who flinches first. Google or Skype? From where I'm sitting it seems the Three Wise Men of Google Voice (Wesley, Craig and Vincent) now have the big rig rolling along the information super-hiway with a lot of weight in the back (Google ad dollars, pipe, dark fiber, bandwidth, free ad visibility, many happy users) making it time to see what kind of Cirque de Soleil balancing act the new corporate and well manicured team running the show at Skype tries to pursue, now that they've walked blindly into the SIP alley, not at all prepared for a street fight.

P.S. For transparency sake I was a shareholder in GrandCentral. The earn out is now complete so I no longer have a "vested" interest in what they do. I've also sold my eBay stock too.


All Google Voice Needs Is a Little More SIP and Skype's Game Changes

With the recent announcement by Skype to have an open SIP Gateway (well its in beta) the door is now wide open for a direct route of calls coming to your Google Voice number to be routed directly into the Skype SIP gateway and to ring your Skype ID. All Google Voice has to do is turn that on and become interoperable with Skype directly, the same way Nimbuzz, Truphone and others have already become.

Let me lay out what this would mean:

1. Google Voice becomes THE defacto switchboard with numbers everywhere added and sold by them. There is less to no more need for a SkypeIn number or anyone else's for that matter. Luca points out how this can be done today via Gizmo and OpenSky.

2. You no longer need to buy Skype Out. You simply bridge your calls between Google Voice making the outbound leg of the call (at lower rates than Skype) to your Skype ID. Currently I bridge from Google Voice to a Skype In Number and this works perfectly.

3. Skype has already pledged and argued for openness, what are they going to do, all of a sudden go down the path of Open being the New Closed, a point Michael Robertson of Gizmo has raised concerns about previously, who's service by the way already peers with Google Voice (thank you very much to the person who caused that to happen--Me!!!!) Robertson basically says Skype speak with forked tongue in his post on VoIPWatch earlier this year.

4. The SIP gateway play for business from Skype is designed to work with big SIP based networks. Gee, what is Google Voice if not that.

So lets think about this..400 million users on Skype or so all getting calling paid from Google. Price of calling is already down to almost nothing. Now go to a country where 3 is the carrier buy a Skype Phone, add a pay as you go data plan and receive calls for free that are bridge by Google. Ingenious. Today you can already make calls using Skype Out for now as part of your unlimited plan and pay for it . Or...tomorrow via the Web browser on the mobile phone and Google Voice's directory web page you can initiate a call to the Skype ID and it rings on your phone. At no cost to you or if you are international at really lower than Skype rates from Google Voice. Wild!!!

Now lets go one step further and be really disruptive. Get a Google Android G1 with Google Voice call bridging that will do the same thing as Skype on 3 and make calls using Google Voice minutes provided by Google. In those countries where the calling party pays the value remains with Google. They will work the deals ala Skype and 3 to drive the sale of more data plans (even pay as you go works great on 3 here in the UK). But with a simple app that ties your browser to your Google Voice directory you'll be able to make calls bridged between the outbound legs being made by Google Voice to your Skype ID on the SkypePhone like I do today, or to your Android G1 via whatever client they put on it that acts like VoIP but brings the call in via the cell phone's circuit switched network. With Googles clout and reach that far out weighs eBay and Skype, plus carriers are more willing to work with Google than they are with Skype, the game starts to get very interesting.

Now lets go over to your home or office and go with termination of the calls to a landline, wireline or IP line. Call it what you want to. Google Voice needs to add a SIP destination capability like they have done with Gizmo, and then all of those calls go for free to SIP end points, just as they do to DIDs of the older Circuit Switched nature. Now, if more calls go all SIP the need for DID's may drop off over time, but telephone numbers still remains important because people still call numbers so Google Voice really is the Grand Central Station of the telco world. All this creates incredible value for companies in the middle. Companies in the federation space, peering business and which are 2.0 app friendly all of a sudden become the main gatekeepers to IP voice traffic. Companies like clients VoxBone and xConnect come to mind here, as does IntelePeer and even Neustar. They keep things moving, while Google Voice does the pointing and the on-netting.

But back to Skype. Poor Skype just lost value with this. You see, Skype built a model based on claims of calls between Skype ID's being free. They have regularly claimed to be open. With SIP traffic piped in from Google Voice the lions share of the money goes to Google as Skype becomes nothing but a dumb pipe, and given what difference the amount of acquisition was for GrandCentral vs. Skype, it's clear who rang up the better deal.

So with all this, it's time to see who flinches first. Google or Skype? From where I'm sitting it seems the Three Wise Men of Google Voice (Wesley, Craig and Vincent) now have the big rig rolling along the information super-hiway with a lot of weight in the back (Google ad dollars, pipe, dark fiber, bandwidth, free ad visibility, many happy users) making it time to see what kind of Cirque de Soleil balancing act the new corporate and well manicured team running the show at Skype tries to pursue, now that they've walked blindly into the SIP alley, not at all prepared for a street fight.

P.S. For transparency sake I was a shareholder in GrandCentral. The earn out is now complete so I no longer have a "vested" interest in what they do. I've also sold my eBay stock too.


Why Wi-Fi Is The Real 4G

Martin Suter of Bel-Air Networks has penned a very strong case for why Wi-Fi is really in my view the baseline that 4G should be measured with.

One point that Martin left out of his well written and very factual account as to why WiFi is so important and a better performer than Mobile 3G data was the need for backhaul.

Backhaul is what gets the data back onto the Internet, it's the upstream tributary that the bits and bytes ride on to reach the Net to be offloaded onto the main Internet. Over the next few years we'll start seeing backhaul backlog and in my view is when you'll start to see things like first class, second class and third class mail rates being applied.

Get ready for tiered pricing, both for speed and for size. Those reasons are why we need more WiFi access, more local loop fiber rings. More local municipal fiber routes and great capacity.


Will Skype Take A Bite Out of Apple

On face the idea of a Skype client on the Apple iPhone sounds like a great deal for users. And it will be. From a convenience perspective you'll be able to call your Skype buddies from the iPhone. When you're on WiFi those calls, like all Skype to Skype calls will be free.

Now comes the big question which Om Malik is likely digging around for in light of his scoop today about a pending release that will likely be announced next Tuesday at the Skype press conference on the eve of CTIA.

The big question is, has Skype brokered a deal with AT&T that mirrors what they have done with mobile operator 3 in the UK and elsewhere. In those cases the calls that go Skype to Skype are free of mobile minute usage as are calls that use Skype Out.

Previously last month at the Mobile World Congress Skype was very bold in sharing the facts that Skype on mobile phones drives sales of data packages. That's not a big deal for AT&T in the USA or anywhere else when it comes to Apple's iPhone, as everyone needs a data plan to get any benefit out of using one.

The key here though is that when the app finally arrives, Skype joins client Truphone and Fring at being on the iPhone with the capability to talk and text chat with Skype users.

I say, "welcome to the club."