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Posts from April 2009

My One, Two Video Punch

Thanks to Scott Wharton (ex Broadsoft) and his band of merry people (Jen and Dan get super high marks) over at Vidtel and my good friend at Counterpath (and former client at Bridgeport Networks Todd Carothers) my wife and I have been having morning video calls of late.

We both have the new Vidtel Video phones, but mine sits in the office, while the laptop goes everywhere. Helene keeps her Vidtel bedside, so when I get up in the morning I can "see her" as I simply use either a Mac or a Netbook with Eyebeam or Bria and Video Away (as we live 500 miles apart during the week-One doesn't move a physician from her practice and I'm not moving from gorgeous Del Mar as much as I travel).

The latency is non-existant, and the picture quality rather good. What's best of all, is that Vidtel has made it easy. They support the user very, very well, and the service works as advertised. You can't get much better than that.

The GrandStream phones they are using for the rollout represent one of the earlier models we'll be seeing. I expect video phones to become something more popular, especially in this era of travel less, see each other more. Sure there's Skype, ooVoo and SightSpeed, but for the masses, and those who don't walk around with a laptop on their hip like a child, the easy to use, plug and play Vidtel service is the delivery on the 1964 promise of videophones.

For the road warrior, having either of the better Counterpath clients installed on the laptop makes calling using a dedicated SIP account with a DID a breeze. If Helene calls me from the Vidtel to the Vidtel number associated with the softphone we get an instant video call.

Now for the supreme test..Pointing a Google Voice number to Vidtel and calling from a Vidtel phone to a Vidtel enabled end point.....

I'll try that next week sometime. My one concern is that the GV numbers go via PSTN in and out. If GV would open up their SIP credentials then the issue would evaporate overnight I'm sure. Then Google Voice really would be the grand old man of switchboards for all mankind.

My New Verizon Mobile Broadband Modem is Business Grade

It's been two years or so and my love affair with the AT&T 3G network is waning. Until the 7 billion dollar network upgrade happens, those of us on the west coast California market will have to make due with the hope and prayer that that the iPhone carry crowd doesn't always bog down our uploads when we're conducting business on our AT&T powered Netbooks that one can buy at Radio Shack for $99.00 plus a data plan commitment.

When I'm in markets outside of the congestion packed LA, San Diego and San Francisco-San Jose regions the speeds are usually where they are supposed to be, like 1.5 megs down and roughly 500-700k up in Tulsa, Oklahoma when sitting at the gate for my Southwest flight to take off. But the inconsistent nature of the congestion and the two year renewal and opportunity to buy a new Aircard from Verizon for two of my accounts came around so we grabbed a couple of the newest offerings in CDMA 3G. I'm not sorry.

This week I ran a series of tests with the new card. The one that was the most impressive was a 30 minute packet loss free video call over Skype with a colleague on the Comcast network in San Francisco and another one the next day with webcasting colleague on KenRadio, Ken Rutkowski. On the Mac Book Pro and Mac Book Air the video was sharp and crisp. No wavering. The audio was pristine. Clear and without dropouts.

On my Netbooks, the audio experience was perfect, but the video was choppy.

Bottom line is given how much I travel, the Verizon card is now an essential part of my road warrior kit. Sure I'll still have AT&T and Sprint gear handy (I use the Sprint Card with a CradlePoint Router to share connections) but what I'm seeing from Verizon Wireless right now tells me their wireless broadband network is ready for business.

New Apple Wireless Gear Is Very Very VoIP Friendly

I've been using the newest versions of the Apple Time Capsule and Airport Extreme Wireless network devices for about a week now, and all I can say is WOW.

The experience once I cured a slight misconfiguration issue with my ISP (seems if you install as DHCP and connect to the Cox network the MAC address is registered) and that makes it impossible to switch to static without the help of support. Once that was solved the network showed blazing fast speeds. How fast? This fast.

34 megs down/5 megs plus up. On DOCSIS 2.0. I can hardly wait for 3.0.

This is an example of a network in my house that was rebuilt to be business grade. We had a network installed put in all new CAT 5 and CAT 6 as well as new electrical outlets (all grounded.) For the cable that brings the Cox Service to the house the tech from the cable company took time and drove the impedance loss to zero, matching and mixing things until that came along. Most of all, with the new Apple Wireless gear I have 802.11 (A/N) running on my Mac while I can create a second network for guests on the B/5 network.

Those speeds aren't pokey either, running between 5 megs and 12 megs depending on the chip set in a PC or Mac. My Asus 1000HE scores 12 megs regularly.

The hard wire network was also tuned up by my friends Chris McKewon and Steven Fairchild and their team at XCeptional Networks. These are the guys whose crews are masters at hotel broadband, like the Hotel 1000 in Seattle and the Intercontinental in Boston. We're talking EXPERTS in networking and deployment, both wired and wireless, plus VOIP.

When you think of a Home Office set up, you have to go pro. Amateur hour (i.e buying a consumer grade wireless access point) may be good for simple surfing, but when you spend hours working from home, spend the money so earning more isn't a chore. I may have gone to the Extreme edge with what's in mine, but the stats don't lie. Build it right, with proper cabling and equipment and your network can be rock solid and fast too.

Former Google VoIP Partner , VoIP Inc Execs May Be in Hot Water

It has been years since I heard the name VoIP, Inc., a company I just never embraced with loads of coverage, and never bought into their hype (as previously noted)

They had previously announced deals with Vonage (saving the NJ VoIP provider from a patent infringement debacle with Verizon) and a huge deal with Google, but even with that, had what was reported to be a company with a troubled life with layoffs and losses on the heels of big deals.

Now it seems that some VoIP, Inc. former execs may be in hot water.

Where I See the Cable Operators Taking Broadband

While Stacey Higginbotham @ Gigaom is busily keeping a very careful eye on what the cable operators are going to do with metered bandwidth, I've been given thought to what they will do to really make money.

The answer resides in how the MSO's have always made money.

Charging the newly minted content providers as well as the service providers who will cross their networks. How? Just like they do with the cable networks that come along now, versus the established players.

Here's I see it working:

Cable Exec: Hello Mr. Skype. We'd love to have you available in our 10 million homes passed.

Mr. Skype: that's great. We already are going to many of your homes.

Cable Exec: Yes. You have been. But you see, we need to upgrade our network as all the video and the file sharing you're users are doing is really a burden to us. It cuts in to the bandwidth we need for our new IP based DVR traffic.

Mr. Skype: Well upgrading your network will certainly be good for everyone.

Cable Exec: We're glad you see it that way. We have decided a nickel a month per home passed is a fair price. So effective next month you'll send us a check for $500,000 a month for each home we pass. Oh and we're adding new systems every quarter so plan accordingly.

With over one hundred million homes passed a year by the cable MSO's Skype alone would contribute to the cable operators top line $60,000,000 just to get access under this scenario. Unfortunately, out of the 10 million homes of the one cable system, it's a good bet Skype is only being paid by less than five percent of the subscribers.

Of course the cable operators won't stop there.

Cable Exec: Mr. Jobs. You know we're both in the Pay Per View movie business now. You sell via downloads, we sell based on OnDemand. Our customers are the same, and both receive the content that travels over our last mile. We've decided your $14.99 model for ownership and $3.99 for rentals is hurting us. It's also hurting our big advertisers, the local movie rental stores.

Mr. Jobs: Well you know we have disrupted the music business.

Cable Exec: Yes, we saw that and we also have seen a drop off in viewership of some tv shows too. It seems people like to pay you for iTunes TV to watch HD, rather than pay us for our HD video channels. Really hurts our subscriber values.

Mr. Jobs: Well, Apple has always found a way to keep our price points up, and we keep selling more. Maybe we can help you with your marketing, especially to consumers.

Cable Exec: I'm so glad to hear that. What we'd like to do is have Apple pay us a nickel for every home passed that could have Internet access......

So while I'm sure the net neutrality advocates will yell and scream, the outcome is inevitable. We're heading to a sending party pays model. But to allow it to happen a few things will have to co-exist.

End user targeted Non-commercial content (i.e content that is not paid for will be allowed to pass) just like public tv. The same will go for local content that is commercial. Think of the Must Carry rule applying to digital content. This is really spur the growth of HyperLocal media, and make up for the sudden lack of "local news" organizations.

Let's face it. You're really only paying for the last mile, not the Internet. Because the Internet is free...Right?

Skype To Have an IPO In 2010--Maybe

Hot on the heels of the rumor of a potential resale to its founders, Skype's parent eBay has announced the intention to spin the company off as a public offering in 2010.

Clearly a lot is going on inside the palace of eBay and internally at Skype. The management team is the kind of team you want credentials wise for an IPO, seasoned corporate types, big company executives and a nimble CEO at the helm.

But, the issue around JOLT ID needs to be clarified and other questions remain, mostly how in a measured broadband world, Skype keeps playing without any payment to the ISPs, how they deal with the regulators and E911 issues as they look more and more like a telco each day; what their mobile strategy is and more.

Bottom line...there are a lot of ifs and what abouts that need answers. Given eBay's usual response to bloggers questions via their IR team, I'm not expecting to hear from Mr. Donahue's people but I do expect a very forthcoming Skype team to behave now as they always have.

Secure Mobile VoIP Now Available

A UK company, CellCrypt is now offering secure mobile VoIP calling.

For years people have always worried if their cell phone calls can be monitored. Those inside the industry know it was always possible. This solution sounds like another step in the right direction to protect your communications, as long as the algorithm includes the ability for law enforcement to make lawful (i.e. court authorized wiretap) intercept possible.

Qik and MaxRoam Partner on Global Roaming

QIK and Cubic Telecom, led by pal Pat Phelan, have taken the first step towards helping traveling mobile users save money on more than calls, by launching a mobile roaming platform, called QikRoam, that includes discounted global data roaming.

First, as one of the founders of Cubic Telecom shared with me a few months back at IT Expo in Miami, the rates being initially offered for data roaming are a starting point. What this means is the traveler can know what they will be paying on their data bill, and save money on their voice calls, have all the MaxRoam services and benefits (pre-paid calling, local numbers in country, SMS, etc.) plus the piece of mind of knowing they won't see a huge bill. This mirrors the kind of thinking that client Truphone has behind their upcoming Truphone Local Anywhere service.

The Cubic folks have done an amazing job at piecing this all together, and a quick look saw rates where people travel the most with discounts up to 80 percent. For, those who don't want to SIM swap as they go from country to country (as I do) the service is meaningful, and is the next generation of MaxRoam. By working with a partner in QIK, which needs access to the data network to send video, it's a perfect match. So while other options exist, like buying pre-paid cards in each country, but that tends to leave you with credit left over, while the Qik/Cubic offer lets you use that credit in the next country.

Congrats to being the disruptor in telecom Pat. And to the Qik folks, well done.