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Posts from September 2009

Voice over WiFi or No Calling From The Sky-It's About Manners

USA Today had a well penned story yesterday about the pros and cons of WiFi calling from the air on the GoGo and Row44 service. The story highlights a call being made via client Truphone's service from the sky using their application on an iPhone. USA Today reports that the reaction was more positive in tone from the in-flight crew, but there's no question this is a topic that remains highly controversial.

The reason this was possible is how the GoGo service from Aircell watches for Skype packets, not others as much. Last year Joanna Stern (then of Laptop Magazine and now with Gizmodo) and I had a very well documented Phweet call to the sky that proved voice calls are possible. Over the past year I've heard of others also making calls, but despite the protests from some parts of the flying public and the claims by the airlines and Aircell, I've yet to hear of any "confrontations" in the air over a call being placed. What this really comes down to interpersonal behavior. Making a call on a red eye flight when other passengers near you are trying to sleep is a non starter, as it's just plain rude. But what about the crying baby or the non-stop chatter seated in the row behind you. You know the type. They're the ones who nervously talk like a blue streak to their companion or simply a seat mate whom they just met. That doesn't sound much different, and is just as annoying or more so than a short call via Truphone or Skype would be. Besides, the background noise from the plane makes it not much of a conversation from the flights I've been on.

Now, if the new airliners, ala the AirBus 380 could have a phone booth, just like they could have a baby changing station too, we'd all have privacy and a place to call from, but as for existing aircraft, unless the airlines set up a calling section, ala the smoking sections of days gone by, we won't be dialing much. On the new super airlines coming from Boeing and the Airbus 380 their "private compartments" are so protected that WiFi calling wouldn't disturb a soul, so in those situations calls should be permitted, once they get WiFi installed globally.

Bottom line--prohibiting calling out right would be a mistake. Teaching manners, and when to call, now there's something we all can live with.

Clearwire Positioning For More Money

The New York Times has what we in the media world refer to as a positioning piece about both Sprint and Clearwire.

It provides a nice overview on the state of the company and signals the financial community that the leadership is coming to Wall Street and other investment hotbeds that they will be heading there way.

Personally, my experience with Clearwire/XOHM was limited to a demo during the original launch in Baltimore about a year ago so I'm hopeful on a trip to Las Vegas or Portland I can see how it really has changed, and if those changes are for the better.

Mask and Gun or Just Very Smart?

Florian Seroussi is saying Google Voice is a Missed Robbery Attempt along the information highway. I'll call that "highway robbery" as his post today is very thought provoking but as a former sports guy, and being it's football season, I'd say GoogleVoice really is all about splitting the seams and throwing a touchdown when the opposition is bigger, better and stronger, but not as fleet a foot. Or to put it in hockey parlance, they went around the defense when the defensemen were caught flatfooted.

Google Voice, like Skype takes advantage of IP packets and networks, that despite being limited in the USA of who provides access, once you're on, tends to be like the wild, wild West. It's a free for all and both Google and Skype know how to navigate packets around it very, very well.

The "company stores" meaning Verizon, AT&T, Qwest and others all charge rates they set, and really if you look at mobile overall they seem to all charge the same, for about the same services, features and even for the most part, coverage. They offering you nothing new until they're ready to, and for the most part give very average customer service.

Then along comes the disruptors. GrandCentral which disrupted termination; Skype which disrupted both origination and termination, as well as just hijacking minutes overall, Gizmo which did the same as Skype and even to Skype, without as much hoopla, but every bit of the same logic as others.

Each one has at some point likely had a conversation or two with Biz Dev folks at the major USA carriers, offering them the chance for some type of relationship. Each has likely shown how they can do more for the carrier or Mobile Network Operator and their customer and each has likely walked out saying "they just don't get it."

So they go it alone, figure out how to do it on their own, and when enough minutes get diverted, someone at the carrier/MNO wakes up and yells "we're getting beaten and these guys are doing it with our networks." That's when the fun begins and is what we're seeing now.

I would contend that AT&T had as much of an opportunity to embrace GrandCentral, and actually, had much of what GC was providing with CallVantage, before the boys in Texas, from SBC killed it.

1) It was a one number solution BEFORE GrandCentral was even alive

2) It offered one number to multiple destinations BEFORE GrandCentral was even alive

3) It offered Do Not Disturb and Number blocking BEFORE GrandCentral was even alive

4) It used VoIP to carry the traffic, using other carriers networks BEFORE GrandCentral was even alive

5) It provided the ability to dial in and hear you voice mail, from anywhere BEFORE GrandCentral was even alive

6) It delivered your voice mail to email BEFORE GrandCentral was even alive

7)They had begun offering a softclient for use on a PC BEFORE GrandCentral or GoogleTalk with voice was even alive

8) They had the ability to bridge calls ala GoogleVoice BEFORE GrandCentral was even alive

So, to go one step farther, AT&T had so much of what GoogleVoice is today, and a massive head start long before GrandCentral became even a dream of Craig and Vincent's as they were still at Yahoo having sold DialPad when CallVantage was launched.

Had AT&T not abandoned CallVantage the way it did, (and is now starting up another VoIP project that will basically do the same thing I hear) but instead looked at how it could blend the services of CallVantage with their then small mobile network they would have had something unduplicated at the time and likely still unduplicated today. But like so many mistakes, AT&T sold off perhaps at the time, the most advanced technically mobile network to Cingular, which then became AT&T Mobility post SBC merger, and at the same time cut the balls off of CallVantage, eliminating all marketing and further technical development. Had the vision of what the AT&T Labs guys had likely seen, the combination of software as a service in the cloud of CallVantage, with the most advanced mobile network in the USA (after all of Cingular/AT&T Mobility had caught up--which it is still trying to do) there wouldn't be a GrandCental/Google Voice vs. AT&T battle. And what's more, it would have forced the other mobile operators to go along and work to bring more GV/GC like services to market sooner. This is no different than what the then TimeWarner Cable execs did to AOL's VoIP offering, basically telling the AOL executives you will not have a voice play because it will cut into TimeWarner Cable's attempts to start selling voice too. Like with AT&T the currently in power executives at the top won the battles, not because of anything more than fear that someone would do better with less than they could do with more.

I'm sorry, Florian, and all those who take the view of this being a robbery attempt, or as I call it "highway robbery." It was simply the fact that instead of wanting to offer the public better options, which they would likely pay for, the carriers in the USA simply want us all to make do with lousy coverage, poor call quality, less than available and desired features and most of all higher prices than we need to pay. Instead of looking at Google and GoogleVoice as the enemy, they should figure out how to make things work better with them, and share in the pie that's out there, instead of wanting it all, and just lining the pockets of lawyers, lobbyists and investment bankers.

New App Store App Reduces Calls To Premium Rate Numbers

One of the problems folks in the UK have is calling premium rate numbers. Well not any more.

Check out the details about this application that works on both the iPhone and the Android.

0870 turns 08* numbers — such as 0870, 0845 and 0800 — which cost 35p per minute to call (on top of what you’re already paying for your contracted minutes) into 01* or 02* numbers, which come out of your allowance or are very cheap on Pay As You Go.

What's more interesting is how it took Apple 429 days to approve the application.

Is Apple protecting it's carrier partner relationships and taking the hit on app store approvals?

Years ago in my days in sports, famed Flyers coach, Fred Shero, taught me and others about the way to examine the opposition. He called it "tendencies." Shero was a follower of even more famous Soviet hockey team coach named Anatoly Tarasov, the recognized father of Russian hockey in the modern era. The two were masters of understanding how tendencies and patterns seemed to replicate in teams and Tarasov used those approaches to wine world championships, just the same way that Fred Shero won back to back Stanley Cup championships. This leads me to a global perspective being needed to uncover what may or may not be a pattern and tendency on someone's part to always do things the same way.

Using SIP Made Easier, More Simply

Yesterday I made note of Rich Tehrani's video interview from VON with client Mike Oeth at VON which broke the news about the new web based platform. As they day went on we watched as other veteran observers, who like Rich have been around the VoIP game as long as I have been. We've all lived through the complexities of VoIP and wanted something easy. And we've never really seen it. Until now.

Take the perspective of Lonnie Lazar, who for many years has been part of the Voxilla team and quietly one of the key cogs in the wheels of helping companies get onto the SIP train that has now really left the station. In his post, written from an independent reviewers perspective and from someone who has been living with SIP for longer than most, Lazar pretty much nailed the description of the experience we've been having internally while testing the service for the past month as well.

Robert Poe, another long time SIP and VoIP observer, who has established his own blog also drew attention as Lazar did about the web interface that lets any user manage, IM with others and transfer calls all without any on premise hardware at all. Poe's not a novice, nor is Lazar and while Junction Networks may be my client, I've been their customer longer than they've been mine. I chose them years back because they were then, and still are today, offering a non-technical person simplicity in a complicated world. They always have and they always will.

In my uses I've simply logged into OnSip using Counterpath's EyeBeam and was connected and fired up any web browser on any of my many laptops, netbooks and MIDS and managed my calls. As you can see from Lonnie's screen captures with the jazzy names he created, the interface combines IM and calling and has simplified the ability for a company that is virtual to easily stay in touch. The most important feature is the call transfer, something that Skype doesn't offer at present to the masses which is one of the reasons it is moving in the SIP direction.

When you add up what others are saying and you see how simply easy OnSip has made it with their new interface, you realize that what they set out to simplify and have achieved it.

Telco 2.0-Super Brief on Google Voice, Lattitude and Why It's A Threat to Telcos

Earlier in the week I shared my views with some friends about why I felt Google Voice was being viewed as a threat by Apple-because it's about the control of the data around the call, not the voice.

Today the folks at Telco 2.0 shared a brief with me, that pretty much aligns with that thinking because when you look at the call routing (or call diversion) you realize who is in control, and it's not Ma Bell/AT&T or any other mobile operator. It's Google.

We all know that Google is about taking other people's data and finding a way to monetize it. The mobile operators have some of the smartest people in the telco world and they see that, so while Apple is the one who may have rejected the app, it's because they've got their contracts that are with the mobile operators to worry about.

Kineto Enters Mobile VoIP Fray

Earlier in the week we learned that Tiscali is launching a Mobile VoIP client named WiPhone. Now we have Kineto, the company with the core technology behind UMA, releasing a Mobile VoIP client that they hope carriers will brand. Some, like Kevin Fritchard are postulating that the Kineto efforts, and those from Fring and Truphone are aimed at out Skyping Skype. I don't. I see this as an extension to what can be done to keep people more connected.

Research is showing that Mobile VoIP is a potentially lucrative sector for the carriers, both mobile and broadband based.

New Features and More Conference Calling Growth For Calliflower

Friend, colleague and client, Alec Saunders and the team at iotum have been steadily adding more and more to the Voice 2.0 conferencing platform, affectionately named Calliflower.

His recap gives a very good indication of where things are going, not only with Calliflower, but with conferencing in general. Robert Poe, over at his new blog, VoIP Evolution, takes us through the three new features.

Last week Ken Camp (isn't he looking great in his new photo with his main squeeze Sheryl) reported on the growth Calliflower is seeing in the live events sector.

Is Canada Wireless Opening Up?

News out of Canada via Mobile Syrup shows that Canada may be opening up.

Three stories that lead me to that conclusion:

1) Primus's relationship with Rogers is expanding. As an MVNO Primus will "increase to cover 94% of Canada, enhanced voice and text packages, picture messaging (MMS), web browsing and ring tones are all coming."

2) Dave Wireless, a new player in the North of the Border mobile world, which plans to basically just be better than the long, established players.

3) The potential arrival of a new player called Wind, which may have an uphill battle, but one that may reveal a lot more about the Canadian wireless industry.