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Posts from March 2011

Verizon LTE-A Work In Progress

Samsung LogoImage via Wikipedia

So my Verizon LTE Samsung 4G LTE modem arrived today. Unlike my iPad2, the "need it now, want it all the time" feeling isn't quite here with the new way to "stay connected."

While I have no "buyers remorse" my initial feelings are sorta like, this. "It's nice. It's faster than 3G. But their network is far from developed, built out or fully deployed."

For example, at my house in Del Mar, CA there's only 3G coverage. I need to drive almost to the 805/I-5 split before the 4G network kicks in. But when it kicks in, boy does it ever. A fast speed test showed a download speed at times of almost 10 megs, and an upload between 6 and 7 megs. That's great, but a less than a mile from the San Diego Airport my speeds are very variable. The download wavers between 3 and 5 megs while the upload is under 500K, so I attribute that to network rediness.

The variability in speeds aside there are some very interesting benefits. Web pages load rocket fast. I mean fast. An attempted VoIP call worked, but the network was choppy back to me. I think it's more the provider than Verizon's network as the recipient said "it sounds like a cell phone call without the choppiness."

More testing here will be done.

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Skype Has Another Set of Outages Yesterday

The last time I was impacted by a Skype outage I was in Europe on a train heading to Paris from Milan in the middle of a massive snowstorm in December, 2010. Lots of news coverage about it back then, as it was a core meltdown.

Yesterday Skype had a redux, though not as massive and not as far reaching, that impacted a series of functions, most of all signing in and in my case, with Skype In. While Skype to Skype calls were functioning without any issues, calls to any of my five Skype In numbers simply went to the very impersonal voice mail that Skype offers, and were eventually delivered hours later. So much for Skype having any redundancy and so much for the Enterprise customers they so much want in their corner. All the work the Skype Enterprise team is doing is being self-sabotaged by the lack of redundancy and these pesky outages. 

Fortunately, my GoogleVoice forwards to a Skype In number so calls still went elsewhere, but if I relied only on Skype In to hear from people not on Skype, I would have missed a bunch of calls.

On top of the outage, Mac users seem to be ganging up on Skype too about the dreadful interface they released with version 5 of Skype for Mac. Two blosgs, Ignore the Code and one from former Skyper Jaanus Kase, pretty much sums up what many users have been saying since 5.0 came out. And it's riveting.

The back-story is that Skype's former CEO, Josh Silverman pushed the Skype development team into making Skype for Mac a more Windows like experience.

Josh was and may still be a Windows guy, and he couldn't get his head around the Mac I'm told. That led to what we have now...and led Josh to receive a reported multi-million dollar golden parachute. Regardless if it was Silverman's doing or not, the current 5.0 Skype for Mac is at best an abortion, and at worst an atrocity. I hear that Skype's current team is taking a hard look at this, but between the outages and the interface issues on Mac, plus the need to drive revenues, and navigate either an IPO or an outright sale to potential suitors (Verizon is rumored to have made at least one offer) the management team has their hands full....



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Today It's About Calling, Not Phone Calls

The phone call is dead. Long live the call.

Do you call someone or phone them? Well, that depends. It depends if you're using a telephone or something else to make the call.

Lately in discussions with clients we've been moving them all away from the use of the phrase "phone call" and over to simply the word "call" as it supports a more modern use and is certainly more correct for those who:

1. Use Skype-Skype folks will be the first to say they are neither VoIP or a telephone service. Do you ever hear anyone say PhoneSkype me or SkypePhone me? hear them say "call me on Skype" or simply "Skype me."

2. A softclient, like client CounterPath's Bria, X-Lite or Eyebeam. You may use others like Blink or Gizmo, but in no way are they phones. They are softphones, or VoIP clients, but have you ever heard anyone say "softphone call me?" No you hear them say, "give me a call."

3. You place and receive calls on your iPad or Android tablet. Clearly, no one would mistake an iPad or an Android tablet for a phone....yet calling is still happening.

4. We have conference calls, but you don't need a "phone" to be on them these days. Look at services like ZIPDX where softcliens using g.722 wideband or HiDef Conferencing where you can Skype into the bridges. Both offer far better "Call" quality than a phone offers.

5. The VideoPhone never made it, yet today, we're seeing more and more video calls happening everyday.

6. Forward thinking client, Truphone dropped the tag of Phone for their new global roaming offer, simply calling it TRU.

7. Companies like Kipcall want you to talk via FaceBook. They too say, "call" not phone.

At the end of the day, the idea of the "phone" is passe and it is going the way of the telegraph key....

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Vidyo Goes to Taiwan

Image representing Vidyo as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase

Vidyo, whose video conferencing technology offers a cloud based solution has added Chungwa Telecom's business group to their growing list of customer wins.

Vidyo is on a roll of late and has been cranking out the news of customer wins, new SDK's that work with the tablet world. Their solution works and is rock solid based on past tests I've run with them and clearly they are putting the pressure on the likes of Polycom, Cisco and Lifesize. 

In my view Video Conferencing takes off when the real interconnections between all the platforms and service providers takes hold.

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Skype SILK Codec Conference Bridge Needed

Skype Technologies S.A. logoImage via Wikipedia

Skype has the SILK codec but no one in the conference bridge business has incorporated SILK into it.Nothing sounds as good, or works as easily, and since Skype to Skype bridge calls, like those to HiDef Conferencing are free, nothing is as economical.

If Skype wants the enterprise market to embrace it, Skype should support the development of a SILK based conferencing bridge and not be waiting for Citrix Online's integration much later this year.

Any takers?

Given the millions of users of conferencing, the ability to go SuperWideBand creates a far better experience. One would think that the current conferencing providers wouldn't want to eventually concede all of their business to Skype so by incorporating SILK into their codec mix, building Skype bridges and working with Skype that their future would be secure. 

To me it's either do that, or watch Skype eat their lunch in 2012.


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Cable Companies Push The Limits of Television, Again

Time WarnerImage via Wikipedia

A few days ago, Ken Rutkowski, with whom I co-host the World Technology Roundup on, called me on Skype to tell me that his cable company, Time Warner, had a new iPad app, and that he could watch TV on it. Today, the Wall Street Journal points out that the television networks are not happy about that.

Personally, I don't see what all the ruckus is about because in my mind the iPad, is another monitor, and for years a cable box has been able to connect to a monitor, just as easy as it could connect to a "TV" set. But to understand the programmers plight, you have to understand the contentious and often bitter battles that go on, over money between them and the cable operators, known as the MSOs (Multiple System Operators) like Time Warner, Comcast, Charter, Cox and Cablevision. They used to have a lot of the same parents. Guys like the late Bill Daniels, John Malone, Sumner Redstone, Ted Turner all made billions of dollars playing deal maker between the networks and the cable systems. Want a network on a system, no problem. They would all take a piece of the action on both sides, and eventually end up owning it all, or selling it off. And always for a huge profit. Invest in programming, sure. Those with the cash supported studios, took interest in sports programming networks and carried the games because cable was access to the viewers, and if you controlled the pipes, you controlled access. 

With the fast moving technology world outpacing the legal profession, it's become a track meet to catch up for lawyers and judges. Time-Warner has found a loophole in their carriage agreements and is exploiting it. The programmers contend that iPads are not included, but likely they're not excluded.  Likely, the cable guys lost a battle to stop content from being sold over Netflix or iTunes, but the programmers want to have their cake and be able to eat it to. While the telcos market and deliver dumb pipe (DSL and T1s) the cable operators deliver pipe that can be either retarted, normal or pure genius (broadband, fiber) where they can manage it, often based on Docsis 1.0, 2.0 or now 3.0. The fatter the pipe the more it can do. Eventually, the data pipe will be the delivery medium for content, the same way that naked DSL or T1s are used for calling over telco lines via Skype or VoIP.  

This is all about whose is bigger. It will be a fight until concessions are made. It's much like the GoogleVoice app battle with Apple of last year. A bargaining chip. Time Warner and the cable operators want something, so do the programmers. The iPad is way to make the case more popular. At the end of the day contengt will find it's way to them, and Androids. They hype, well, it's all just that.

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Another FaceBook Calling App

A few years ago many companies and developers stuck their toe in the water with Facebook developing calling applications. About a year ago Vonage developed a Facebook app that made it easy to contact friends who are using the social network.

Now a new service is trying to do talk plus and the jingle, jangl (pun intended for those who know the history of anonymous calling) to help the Facebook society hook up with one another.

Called KipCall the service in't VoIP. It uses the PSTN and bridges calls using the click to call approach, pulling your phone number from FaceBook (if it's listed) and connecting the desirous party.

To me, the reason people use FaceBook is not for calling. It's for adding a layer between themselves and their phone, the same way eBay sellers chose not to use Skype in their business. While I like the idea of KipCall, especially that they can make use of the legacy phone systems, I also recognize that Facebook users will need to become more like customers of the phone company, where phone numbers can be public, published (to only friends) or totally private.

Privacy features of social networks are just really evolving, and with each new application, the bounds of what wasn't becomes what is. If you want to hook up using FaceBook, KipCall may be for you. Their blocking feature (ala GoogleVoice and others) makes it also easy to tell someone to "hang it up" but the best way to not have to say "googbye" is to simply not start with them in the first place. That said, I don't think KipCall, Vonage or whatever comes next will be the last to want to say "hello" to the hundreds of millions of FaceBook users...and in reality the service has merit, as it does provide a meaningful service to audience that is really all about growing up.

Now beyond the fun and games, one of KipCall's neat features is the benefit of knowing who of your friends are near you, up to 6/10th of a mile. That approach is what got COLOR, the new photo/social network, funded to the tune of $41 million this week. A second neat feature is the ability to send an email, right from the app..that means if you don't reach them, you can do more than leave a voice mail, and that's not as easy to do from the basic iPhone Facebook app.

I say...Give it a try.


Rogers Adds Wi-Fi Calling For Business

Being at CTIA I was looking for a story that was overlooked by yours truely last week. Well pal Jon Arnold tells us that Canadian cable and mobile phone leader Rogers has launched a Wi-Fi calling service aimed at business, aptly named Wi-Fi Calling for Business.

Basically, its the same UMA based solution that T-Mobile and Orange use that comes from Kineto Wireless. It's a half-way solution to Fixed Mobile Convergence, and is not providing VCC (Voice Call Continuity) the way technology from client CounterPath or Varaha does. With their technology the call control is managed by the network and can be switched from the mobile network to the Wi-Fi network or vice versa.

But the benefits of UMA should not be mistaken as not solving a key problem. Wireless coverage.

While some carriers are fooling around with femtocells, Rogers move into Wi-Fi based calling solves a couple of problems. First is CAPEX costs to the customer. Wi-Fi is already usually in the campus or office building, so its accessible. There's no need to install any more hardware on the customer's location, and lastly, and directly beneficial to Rogers Business sales team, is the potential of selling more bandwidth to each customer. Bandwidth is easy to provision and deliver. To them, it's more dumb pipe to the premise.

That's smart.

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Sprint Now Welcomes Over The Top Plays With Google Voice Move

Sprint NextelImage via Wikipedia

Sprint, the nations third mobile operator in size, but the company that has always been first in mobile and network innovation, has broken ranks with the rest of the mobile operators and embraced the concept of the Over the Top play with Google Voice. While the news will likely get overshadowed by the AT&T-T-Mobile merger news, for consumers and the industry, the acceptence of GoogleVoice, the use of GoogleVoice numbers and the possibilities this will enable are massive, and the benefits and who wins are not only Sprint and Google, but the consumers, businesses and technology developers.

Let me give you some examples.

For companies like FonYou out of Spain and YouMail out of Irvine, CA, their efforts to be part of the mobile operators eco-systems couldn't be better timed. Both are offering services that are not offered by the current crop of MNOs on a massive scale. Think PhoneTag and how their offerings being accepted by some MNOs. Its the same thing. This also benefits companies like client CounterPath, whose Fixed Mobile Convergence technology, recently featured in RCR Wireless, brings capabilities to the mobile world that are simply not inside the mobile operator or carrier's network yet. For companies like iPass, which brings Wi-Fi roaming into the Enterprise, can now be seen as the business users alternative to 3G data, especially when there's a lack of coverage, and for client Telesphere, the all business Internet Telelphony Service Provider (now a client) it means that their suite of services and SMB/Enterprise customers can now look forward to the day where the mobile operator and the wireline provider actually co-exist in a symbiotic manner.

What Sprint has done by accepting and embracing Google Vocie is opened the door to services and providers who they can now work with and make money with. Which is something they won't be doing with Google.

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AT&T Buys T-Mobile USA-Plays Defense and Gains Spectrum

In what has to be both a hedge on spectrum and a move to prevent anyone else from jumping up in class,AT&T has made a strategic move to acquire all of T-Mobile in the USA.

What they get is similar wireless technology in GSM/HSPA/HSPA+ and LTE, plus they also get Wi-Fi that AT&T can use (or what's left of T-Mobile's network). They get comatible mobile handsets in Android, Microsoft and Blackberry platforms. AT&T also picks up the UMA technology that T-Mobile has deployed in their network to place and receive calls over Wi-Fi. They also get a ton of retail locations, many of which will need to be combined or eliminated.

This also means AT&T can deploy more contiguous coverage across the USA, filling gaps they had.

Unfortunately, this move really reduces opportunity for new technology to have another choice, or option to be sold through in the USA on the GSM side. It means that sellers now have really one major customer, for now on the GSM side of the fence. What it also does is open the door for Sprint or Verizon to quickly look at snapping up Metro PCS or Cricket (or both) and makes Clearwire's presence and relationship with Sprint somewhat more interesting. Lastly, it means LightSquared, which had hoped to work with T-Mobile is now up a creek without a paddle, unless it can strike an MVNO deal with AT&T.

What it also means is the cable companies will now have to likely get into mobile in a big way, working to build out wireless networks of their own, ala what Cox Communications is doing.

The move also effectively blocks European giants Orange and Telefonica from buying T-Mobile here, and also leaves Vodafone, which could have sold off their Verizon stake and bought T-Mobile, out in the cold, and having only one roaming partner for GSM calls thus giving AT&T a monopoly on inbound roaming here in the USA until LTE voice service is up and running fully, after the year or so of the two companies having to integrate.

Now let's look at it from the consumer and enterprise buyer side. More iPhones and iPads for the GSM using crowd. AT&T eliminates a potential enterprise opponent. Unlocked phones, or easy to unlock phones may become more challenging as T-Mobile was very liberal there. Pricing plans-T-Mobile was more aggressive, and with mobile data, had some very interesting, though expensive pay as you go plans.

Who wins? AT&T. Who loses--Read Om Malik's post and find out. (Added)


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Some additional coverage by Stacey at GigaOm..... added post posting..