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Posts from August 2012

LTE in the UK Coming Very Soon

If The Verge's news report on LTE going live in the UK on EE is accurate (Everything Everywhere), the combined T-Mobile and Orage play, my friends across the pond will have faster and better speeds soon. According to the report EE will roll things out on September 11. 

The rumor though is that they will also have the new iPhone, and that the Mark 5 version will have LTE in it too, thus mirroring what the iPad already has here in the USA. Having made calls using CounterPath's Bria and Skype over LTE has been a real pleasure, and even on HSPA+ when I was in Europe this summer demonstrated to me how good voice calling over LTE can be, as long as your stationary with the iPad or not moving from one congested cell tower to another.


Yahoo Should Buy ooVoo

If Yahoo's new CEO was ready to buy companies, ooVoo would be on that list. ooVoo has stellar management, proven technology and advertising opportunities all around it making it an ideal fit for Yahoo today. Add to it the fact that ooVoo clearly gets mobile and desktop, as well as video calling, add in Yahoo's global reach and need to diversify fast, and you have opportunity.

Today, Engadget is reporting that ooVoo added four way video chatting to iOS and Android devices, thus expanding its reach. The new apps are available in the iTunes App store and Android Play market for download. Earlier this summer the company announed 12 person video chat on select Android devices from Motorola.

The news is interesting because it clearly shows the smarts of ooVoo and the rising interest in real time video communications. The mobile multi-party participation is something that Skype isn't doing and clearly turns up the heat on Silicon Valley darling, Tango, who remains the cross platform leader with apps for iOS, Android and Windows Mobile. 

Currently ooVoo lacks a Windows Mobile client. But so have many app and services players out thre. Instead ooVoo has focused on making their software work by going down to the actual device level of versions on Android, something that is needed with the myriad of options that one has now with Android and the many versions needed that seem to vary not only by manufacturer, but by model too. My guess is though, that with Windows 8 and Windows 8 Mobile blending together soon the lack of a Windows Mobile client won't be around much longer.

Why is this important? Video is not a sleeping giant. While enterprise and business customers in large companies are not using it as much as the communications companies would like to see, services like ooVoo and Skype are growing. Back in July, 2011 before Skype started counting video on devices like the iPad and Android tablets, 42% of all Skype minutes were video calling. Factor in that and you see why services like ooVoo and Skype, as well as Google's Hangouts are cutting into the revenues of Polycom and others in the video conferencing hardware sector.

ooVoo is also moving into the realm of media (think personal TV) with an emphasis on entertainment so by connecting to more endpoints, the company is poised to become the leader in social television, likely leaping ahead of Microsoft and Google in that area and then being bought by a larger entity, which is why I suggest Yahoo as the player of choice or perhaps Comcast who also has the same need, but already is wedded to Skype. 

Two SIMs, One Phone

For those who want to lighten their load, Samsung's new Galaxy S Duo may be for you. 

The Galaxy S Duo is a twin SIM phone that lets you combine your business and personal lives on one phone. In many countries it's not surprising to see people carrying one phone for each part of their life. With the Android based Galaxy you get a rocket fast processor and performance that Samsung delivers but with the kind of reliability you can expect from a market leader in Android.

Sure, twin SIM phones have been around for a very long time, usually coming out of China. They weren't well known except with the traveling sales crowd types but with this phone mixed live types who are mobile as well as transborder workers will enjoy the convenience of having their two services work.



Report on VoLTE from iGR Now Out

One of my favorite telecom analysts has always been, and remains Iain Gillott from iGR. I first met Iain when he was with IDC before breaking off and establishing his boutique consultancy. Long a watcher of wireless and mobile, today his firm announced the publication of a report on Voice over LTE or VoLTE for short. This is on the heels of a Metro PCS rolling out VoLTE a few weeks back which was reported on by GigOm's Kevin Fitchard back on August 8.

Having had the good fortun to have Iain on panels at conferences and also watched his work for some time, the report will offer concise and credible content that will shed a deeper light into what may become the next generation of voice over mobile networks.

VoLTE is a long term play for the mobile operators, as Gillott points out. I agree, as it's not exactly happening overnight where a switch is thrown and voice traffic moves from the circuit switched networks of the carriers over to LTE.

Back in May of this year (2012) and even earlier pal Dean Bubley had some thoughts on VoLTE as well. Between Gillott and Bubley, the perspectives provide the kind of insight mobile watchers should be aware of on this subject. 


Toll Free Data = Sending Party Pays

The other day, Fierce Wireless had a special report on the subject of "Toll Free Data." It's concise, timely and relevant to the changing market of mobile data where consumption is going to outstrip plans sometime soon. But, it's anything but news to me. In the past, I have written about the concept of "Sending Party Pays" which is identical to Toll Free Data. Sending Party Pays is the phrase pal Martin Geddes proffered up at least three, if not four years ago, over dinner at Smiths of Smithfield in London.

It's a subject I have mentioned relative to Sponsored Wi-Fi Access (November 2009), How the iPad would bring the model to content providers (May 2010) and again in Sending Party Pays (December 2010) in relation to a Bloomberg story about European mobile operators asking Apple and Google to Pay Up in relation to Facebook and other heavy traffic.

I don't believe that Toll Free Data or Sending Party Pays is an aberration, but actually is truly the way things will go as already as the report points out, it's being done, and has been done for a few years by Amazon with their 3G Kindle devices. To me, it's a "when" not an "if".


The Stories to Read About VoIP, Video and Collaboration

You may not be old enough to remember the movie "The British Are Coming," but longtime client Truphone has established an office in Raleigh-Durham's Research Triangle Park, with mobile and technology sales champion Gary Cohen at the helm, reports the Raleigh-Durham NewsObserver's Gloria Lloyd, WRAL TechWire's Rick Smith with two posts in a week and the Triangle Business Journal's Lauren Ohnesorge.

ZD-Net's Charlie Osborne reported that Verizon Wireless and Comcast have received regulatory approval on the spectrum sale. Ay carumba...what this means is a major shift in what consumers and more importantly, businesses, especially enterprise size companies will be able to do. Cross selling was at the heart of this and the business market is really what this is ultimately about, not consumers. Let's face it, Verizon and AT&T are happy to lose local landline revenue. They've milked those old copper wires for as long as they can, and the tell tale sign has been the basic sunsetting of sales efforts around DSL. AT&T's uVerse is a weak sister to what the cable MSO's have to offer with Docsis 3.0, and Verizon is not really expanding markets for FIOS, and is instead putting its money into LTE everywhere. The cable operators basically agreed to get out of the wireless spectrum business and handed over the airwaves to Verizon. In turn Verizon hands over to Comcast the landline wired replacement business that gets fulfilled by their team made up of what was the company formerly known as NGT. Think of it as the fries with your burger sale.

Speaking of spectrum, no not the arena I literally grew up in, but wireless spectrum related... Respected travel blog, Jaunted, thinks former client Boingo is heading the way towards FREE. I say..well, sort of. Boingo as an ad delivery model for free will happen in my opinion. But, it will be for very basic users of WiFi. In my mind, free Wi-Fi will mean Web. Nothing more. No access to POP/SMTP, no access to Skype, no streaming your Spotify, no iTunes download and likely a pipe no bigger than 256k in each direction. In essence, great for surfing the web, where ads can be served up and clicked on. Want the good stuff, PAY BABY. You know the street drug trade slang phrase of, "the first hits free", well think of ad drive Wi-Fi as the taste. Pretty soon, you're going to want more, faster, better. That's when you have to pay the piper. As a traveling executive Boingo will not want to lose the revenue generating customers who need that kind of access. Besides, with the mobile operators all pushing Wi-Fi offload as their salvation to constrained networks and limited spectrum, they need a healthy Boingo to help carry the water for the business traveler, especially in airports and hotels.

ComputerWorld has the lowdown on Medium, a new collaborative web publishing tool from Evan Williams (who was one of the minds behind Twitter.) While details are sketchy, with the service in beta, the idea of co-publishing and co-authoring isn't exactly new. Can you say Google Docs sharing. But to be able to do it right in real time, and have it socialized so the published work becomes contagious is what is at stake here. Basically, Medium is saying that web publishing today is based upon the print model and in many ways they are correct. Back in the 80s I was contributing to the ENA's Netweaver, and we passed files around for joint authoring, editing and even porting. It was as arcane as the vacumn tube system that many newsrooms used to have to send typed copy up to the composing room. Medium is saying, obliterate the old, bring in a new and better way.

RingCentral, Vocalacity and SNOM get some attention in a rather short and incomplete look at small business VoIP in PC World's VoIP Buying Guide. Given the fact that cable operators like Comcast, Cox, Time Warner Cable and the rest also focus on this market with their @Work offerings, and companies like 8x8, Junction Network with their OnSip service, SimpleSignal,, PhoneBooth, Grasshopper and many others are in the space, each offering very different and some more complete packages, I have to say the review, while well written, is not very deep.

ChannelPartners noted that BestBuy's GeekSquad is adding more companies to their VoIP install business, with PhonePower (which acquired Broadvoice) and being two ITSP's that use their mobile band of merry geeks to set up your phone systems.  This is important because as more residential customers want to switch from their local Ma Bell legacy carrier to alternatives, there's a need for proven installers to do what the "phone man" used to do. Why is this important. Two main reasons. The upsell and personal safety. BestBuy gets to upsell better routers, wireless access points, and do the actual installation of the ATA that connects to the router or DSL, Cable or FIOS modem that comes to the house. They then get to connect into the homes already wired network, and plug in a new cordless phone base station that will allow for wireless connectivity around the home. It's actually a needed service as everyone isn't really as knowledgeable as early adopters are when it comes to this.  The key. Making sure phone line power still gets to the handsets. Not many realize but today's cordeless phones stop working when the power goes out.

GoMo News picked up on the Rebtel sponsored Harris Interactive poll about US residents mobile phone habits. It seems that 96 million American have a smartphone. For Sweden based Rebtel that's an important market as their business is based on making it easier for having people cut their international calling costs by using the Rebtel service, and new apps they are coming out with helps make that possible.

eWeek reported on video communications hardware company Lifesize (acquired by Logitech in 2009 or so) adding a virtualized MCU. This is more along the lines of client Vidtel's "MCU Enhancer" that opens up access than Blue Jean Networks MCU Killer which was more about disintermediation, that intermediating.

Telappliant thinks that 4G (meaning LTE) could be the catalyst for rural market VoIP adoption. Here's my twin spin take on that. Blessing. Curse. Right now we have data bundles that make the cost of a VoIP call not as cheap as free. You still pay for the data and you may be paying for the call. As a matter of fact if both people are on LTE and getting a call over Skype we have the return of the Nextel model of push to talk where each party was getting charged. Talk about a two sided business model..Yikes. But then there's the benefits. Using CounterPath's Bria on my iPad or iPhone and being on a real 4G or LTE network (like when I was in Portugal) and TurboBridge or ZIPDX, both of which support g.722 wideband audio for conferenc calls or when making a Skype to Skype call with Skype's super-wide band SILK codec, the call quality blows away anything currently offered by the mobile or wireline operators, so yes there's a benefit. But at what cost?

Last but not least, AOL's HUFFINGTON POST has news on the new CameraMan feature of Google Hangouts, which lets producers pre-screen who's on camera next. Hangouts is an ambitious project for Google as they want to be the new community of video content and by doing so, are enabling all kinds of parallel content to be created, much in keeping with what former client LiveStream is doing. This is interactive TV in what really is it's first true incarnation. Google is wrapping social, search and real time to what they have, and built it by seeing how people use Hangouts. Randy Resnick at VoIP User Conference has been a proponant of Hangouts for sometime, and I am not far behind. To me, Hangouts represents a new era in journalism.

Anyone ready for a VoIP Hangout session?

Something To Fix in the Apple iTunes App Store

The architecture of the iTunes app store was created for tracks of music, and was based on rights management issues tied to licensing of the mechanicals, the words and the recorded works, which is why the iTunes store and App Store architecture is country specific. To gain access to a specific country's app store or iTunes store, you need a credit card in that country or you need to load the account with Apple credit That means creating yet one more account with Apple..Not something I want to do and between business and personal, I'm already getting confused.

But apps are different. Rarely is their licensing tied to countries, so unless an app developer only chooses to list an app in specific countries, it would show up in all. The rub though is with the telecom/mobile operators who forget the pre-paid market of visitors who come to a country with an unlocked iPhone, pick up a local SIM and then want to manage it from their iPhone or iPad, like I do. 

In France the SFR app would very helpful to me, even with my limited ability to speak and read French. I can follow instructions. Same in the UK for T-Mobile or Three. The list likely goes on. All of this is rather niche I know, but for those of us who do know, and do use the iPhone and iPad when we travel, and go through the effort to become a customer, even for a week, it would be nice.


Microsoft Has to Marry Lync and Skype Soon

I think the inevitable threat to telcos is going to happen. That threat is the most obvious over the top, under the floor, or through the pipe marriage of services, media, signalling and features. It's when Microsoft decides to marry Skype and Lync together, oh, and toss in Messenger, and if you want, Exchange too.

Let's look at the facts. Hundreds of millions of people have accounts with at least one of those services. Businesses use Exchange and Lync. Consumers use Skype and Messenger. Don't forget that Skype owns GroupMe, the SMS and Group SMS service too. 

Put them all together, with one giant switchboard, enable termination in and out the way Skype does today, add in some SIP trunking for the Enterprise that doesn't jump fully to SIP but uses Lync and everyone is reachable. 

What do they need to do..well, unlike phone numbers, country codes, area codes and numbering plans, all you need here is an ID (noted that Skype and Messenger have them) and an email address. Just about everyone online has one except those who don't pay the bill and can exist only with IM and Skype.

From there the MSFT Switchboard takes over, figures out how to get the call to where you are, and voila, your connected, all without the telco which become the pipe, not the phone service.

Sure there's going to be a lot of heavy lifting in the middle to make this work, but the writing is on the wall, and the telcos have got to see it...

Thoughts on RyanAir, EasyJet vs. North American Airlines

Over the past two months I have flown on nine airlines, visited six countries, crossed a border somewhere, somehow, 10 times, and experienced everything from Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic to a regular seat on United. I've flown the often attacked Ryanair, the Southwest clone known as Easyjet, the Jet Blue like Vueling and others, and after all is said and done, I'm convinced more than ever that Delta, United and US Air are in bigger troule than they realize.

First, nothing compares to Virgin Atlantic or Virgin America. From booking to getting where I need to be, consistently the two provide an experience that's second to none in the way of being nice, informed, and informative.  I don't know if the hire better people, or have better systems but they just seem to "click" more, and do a better job than all the rest, in an industry where similarity is standard, and exceptional service has been erroding.

Much has been written about how bad United has become, and how US Air is suffering and even Delta, which may be the best of the remaining lot of legacy carriers in the USA, is doing. So I won't really go there. All one need to be is business traveller of many years to know, that it's none of them are the same airline anymore, and haven't been since deregulation, pension cuts and surcharges became the norm. All one needs to do though to see the difference is get on a Jet Blue or Virgin America flight and you'll see why they are winning, as is Southwest (which is sadly becoming the new version of American Airlines) and you'll understand.

But I digress. Over in Europe, there's a who raft of "discount" airlines that one can fly. Air Berlin, Air Niki, Air Europa, Vueling, EasyJet and Ryanair all come to mind. And, unlike the regionals in the USA who make their money as feeder airlines, these carriers compete head to head with the flagship carriers, and are incredible values. In fact, Vueling, Ryanair and Easyjet fall right behind the two Virgins on my list of carriers now for air travel excellence. 

Vueling is a hybrid for customer experience. I've used them for flights between Barcelona and Lisbon, Palma and Barcelona, Marseille and Barcelona as well as Paris and Barcelona in the past. They are cost efficient, offer a great option of either a reserved or non-reserved seat, easy upgrade to what they call a Duo seat, and consistent pricing. 

EasyJet is much like Southwest. You book, you buy, you show up, you fly. Much like the Southwest of old, it seems at first blush to be a cattle call, but most European airlines really are that way. The trick with EasyJet, as with the European airlines, and now more and more with the US ones too, is to read, and pay for what you really need. In the case of Easyjet, you pay for a flight and you can carry on one bag. For day trippers and those who travel light, it's great. But for someone who is on the road for a while, like I've been, at first blush, it's a hurdle. Not so. First, I've been a member of EasyJet Plus, their version of a VIP program. You buy it. You don't earn it. It gives me early boarding for free vs. paying for Speedy Boarding as they call it. When it comes to putting your bag and coat over your head vs. at your feet, it's worth it. You next need to know you will pay for your bag to go in baggage. Knowing your bags weight and purchasing the baggage handling fee in advance is the key. Beyond that, and a trial of reserved seating, EasyJet really lives up to their name. You don't have a lot of frills, you pay in the air for snacks and drinks, they keep the value proposition simple, and if you can keep your schedule they are a wonderful way to jet around Europe. much maligned, but a last minute change to my travel gave me the option of trying them out again. I've flown them once or twice before, and went in with the mindset then, of low cost. This time I went in and approached it differently, using the approach of "can I get what I need" to go where I need to be. Even with all the add ons, I was still at less than one third the price, and a better time to travel, than the other more costly options to get between Porto and Madrid. What I learned was this. If you take your time and read what Ryanair has to offer, they are hands down the best airline to get you from point A to Point B for the lowest cost.

My experience from the first two trips years ago taught me to always buy early boarding and to always pay in advance for luggage handling. Now, I have taken the option of buying a reserved seat, which pretty much gets you in the first two or three rows, or an exit row, but it goes more than with that. The service was exceptional. From the check in person (Angela) in Porto, to the crew in the air, they were professional, cheerful, chatty, (much like the Easyjet crews), well informed about the airline, the changes coming, the city having flown out of and into, and super informative when it came to delays, gates and where to go for luggage reclaim. Unlike what I'm seeing more and more in the USA, there was a gate agent to help you, not just someone to help open the door of the plane. 

From my personal experience, Ryanair and Easyjet have taken knocks in the past for customer service issues, but having now been using them as much as Virgin America the last few years, when it comes to at the airport customer service, and in the air team members, they blow away United, American, Delta and US Air, hands down. 

Bottom line. If you read and follow their instructions, you will have a very relaxing experience, much like Virgin America provides. 

Did PhonePower Acquire Broadvoice?

I received a tweet over the weekend asking if I was going to write about Broadvoice being merged into PhonePower, a transaction which seemed to happen without much fanfare. 

The only indication that it's likely true is found inside the About Us sections of each company that now lists the same address. Neither companies web sites reflect any news about the transaction, so it could have been a sales of the customer base, or a simple customer "handover" if the Broadvoice investors decided to stop keeping the company running. 



Both companies are extremely tightlipped and not major news generators, but just as we saw Earthlnk and West Communications buying up assets in the business space over the past few years, what we're going to continue to see is more consolidation in the VoIP industry as costs to manage more customers gets lower, traffic costs drop, and management tools become more powerful.