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Posts from December 2016

Avaya & Mitel? Maybe Counterpath Also

Neil Shact has an interesting post about a Mitel purchase of struggling and near bankrupt Avaya. 

My view is there's a nice missing piece to that puzzle. It's called Counterpath. The reason is the rich patent portfolio they have that fills in gaps between both companies, especially in the area of Fixed Mobile Convergence, applications provisioning and Wi-Fi calling. Lastly, Counterpath still has the best softphone technology around.

Why Do Calls Sound Worse Today?

In the early days of VoIP we all were affected by things like packet loss, buffering and jitter. Most of that has gone away with the arrival of faster last mile access, faster and more powerful processors on our PCs, in our desktop and mobile devices and most of all better compression with codecs that make VoIP possible. Yet, the decline in call quality, once you go off the traditional mobile or PSTN calling approach seems to be increasing not decreasing.

If you ever wondered why more people call each other on the new apps, this is one more reason that alternative calling is occurring and why services like Slack have integrated voice and video.

For example, my calls from T-Mobile or AT&T to Verizon always have a less robust tonal quality than on-net calls to customers. Of course Verizon to Verizon sounds fine, but throw in a GoogleVoice number in the middle and the call quality really goes bad.

Calls on HD Voice from Dialpad over LTE and WiFi sound pristine, the same with Telzio, Facebook's Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber or FaceTime, as the LTE or Wi-Fi connections I run on are rock solid. But as soon as the calls move to the mobile network or call someone on the other mobile networks it all goes to crap.

VoIP to 800 numbers are even more of a crap shoot it seem. As calls are passed from one switch to another, and from one call center to another the signaling paths and the media goes from bad to worse. And, 800 numbers to international call centers seem to end up not sounding very good when called from any VoIP provider, and only marginally better from a mobile operator.

Most of this is caused by transcoding and then retranscoding. While origination and termination are usually fairly standard, as calls move through the ins and outs, of each network, and the various hops a call takes we end up with so many legs, that the audio gets compressed, expanded, delayed and delivered. 

In the old days, all telephony was the same. Not today.. Standards may exist but the idea of a quality standard is far from being a reality.


Roam Like Home

On the heels of Truphone closing its VoIP app, and going whole hog into the global corporate roaming business, Rogers Canada has expanded Roam Like Home to work on more plans. This service is very similar to Travel Pass from Verizon here in the USA and other services that have long been available in Europe. For example, Three in the UK has had Feel At Home up and running for a few years.

While the bulk of the biz that Rogers will likely see is from people crossing into the USA there's an obvious shift to recoup some of the traffic that has moved to the OTT players. Plans like these do make calling easier, cost more predictable and cheaper. That said, with services like Google Fi rising, there's also going to be even more pressure on the mobile operators to find ways to keep from losing market share.

Going Going, Gone-Truphone VoIP App Officially Bites the Dust

Truphone, pioneers in the mobile VoIP space have officially closed their VoIP app business as of today. An email from the company explained that there's no more service, support or refunds related to the service that created such a stir within the VoIP and mobile industry. For those who never used a Truphone mobile app, the service debuted on the Nokia N-Series at a VON Conference in Stockholm. It allowed users to make calls over Wi-Fi and to actually have a second number on the mobile device.

The service, which was invented by James Tagg, came out of the goal of solving a problem Tagg had at his farm in Kent where cell service was lacking but high-speed Internet and Wi-Fi available. Shortly after Truphone was introduced, Gizmo Project, led by Michael Robertson launched a similar app on Nokia devices. Over time, Truphone established many firsts in mobile VoIP being the first on the iPhone with a very brave debut at Demo, then on Android devices, while also releasing Blackberry and Mac and Windows desktop apps. For many years Truphone was considered the biggest rival to Skype,  a monicker that was certainly their's for the taking, especially after Gizmo was acquired by Google. Truphone also brought calling to iPads and Android tablets. Previously the softphone concept was pretty much left to Counterpath on desktops and eventually mobile apps, allowing SIP based PBX's and hosted services to connect, but Truphone was the first.

Truphone's shift in focus in 2009 surrounded their quest to become a global roaming service. When that happened, it pretty much moved the efforts of the company away from apps and today they operate as an MVNO in seven countries. That service, which originally was named Local Anywhere, started out with a pre-paid offer and then evolved to a post paid service. One of the ideas James Tagg had was to converge the two services, but that never occurred despite lots of interest in Wi-Fi calling today.

Replacements for Truphone abound. Just about every VoIP company these days offers some type of mobile application. 8x8, Dialpad, Vonage, Telzio, the list goes on and on.

A new company, Parakeet, that's in beta is another that is looking to create a niche by bringing a "mobile-first" offering to the table. Given Truphone's abandonment of the space, there's likely room for more as not every call can be done on WhatsApp, Viber, FaceTime or FaceBook Messenger these days as some need to really call someone on the PSTN. So while Microsoft's Skype and Hangouts from Google both offer the capability to call off net, there's still room for another player.

Calling On The Plane

I don't know what the big debate is about when it comes to making calls from airplanes. USA Today and other media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal all covered what is a religious like debate between the FAA, the FTC and various factions in air travel over the viability, technical capability and passenger disturbance factors surrounding calls while flying.

For starters, it's obvious most of the reporters never flew when we had GTE Airfone in existence. There handsets were scattered two for every three seats or so, and you swiped a credit card or used an account code to make or even eventually receive calls. In its heyday GTE  even sold an annual plan for about $1000 a year, paid in advance that provided for unlimited calling, something I subscribed to and used more for data and faxing than for calls as I was flying coast to coast at least twice a month then.

During that era, no one complained to their seatmate for talking on the phone as many of the calls were short, brief and more to reply to a satellite text page that required a bit more detail than the number of characters on them (these reporters likely never had pagers either or forget about them.) The in flight phones were good for things like calling about a flight delay, making a change to transportation, cancelling a hotel room because the flight was being diverted or booking a hotel or rental car when that would happen, or just simply checking in with the office after a five or six hour coast to coast flight as back then, there wasn't Wi-Fi.

In today's era, calling will need some guidelines. Here are some from someone who remembers those days when it wasn't prevented:

  1. No calls before 7 AM or after 11 PM based on take off time zone. Let's respect the fact the some people may want to sleep
  2. No calls before 7 AM based on the local time zone of where the plane is heading. 
  3. No Call Rows-in the past we had smoking and no-smoking sections. Let's do the same with the phones in coach.
  4. Strangling the idiot who is talking non-stop to their seat mate is also permitted if someone wants to do that to the person talking over a Wi-Fi. Otherwise, what's the difference.
  5. Use of foul language is not permitted. The use of it will allow the Flight Attendant to take away your devices for the duration of the flight.

In reality, an in flight phone call isn't any worse than Big Time Bob telling First Time Betty all that she needs to know about flying, where she's going as he's trying to impress her. The same goes for the non-stop yackers on red-eyes who find it necessary to chat when the person in front or behind them is trying to sleep. 

At the end of the day, this all comes down to common sense. As someone who has made calls from aboard planes in the past and even with current technology, it's not the holy war that some are trying to make it.

T-Mobile Has Your Digits

T-Mobile has started to roll out a new beta program called Digits. In many ways it's a next generation FindMe, Follow Me type service that goes somewhat farther than GoogleVoice. 

While I've yet to try it, what seems the most appealing to me is the ability for a call to be placed or received on an iPad or Android tablet as it looks like what T-Mobile is doing is some marrying up of IMS and VoLTE to make that happen. 

I've pinged T-Mobile's PR team to try to get more clarity, and once I've enrolled in the beta I'll provide more insight. For now, the Verge has most of the facts. The most glaring is how T-Mobile wants you to disable iMessage. 

Cord Cutters, Never Corders. Now Meet The Dish Dumpers

The market for OTT (over the top) mobile cable and broadband to the home is growing. It is becoming the mode to watch content by the younger, hipper millennials who still consume linear television, but are also rapidly moving to the SVOD (subscription video on demand) approach being offered by Apple, Amazon, Hulu and Netflix to name a few. But the cable industry isn't the only market being hit by all this. There's another market that is likely also being impacted.

That market is the satellite TV market.  All one has to think about is why AT&T is moving so fast to deliver television over their mobile broadband network post Direct TV acquisition to realize they see the migration coming from the group I've named "dish dumpers." 

This means the satellite operators, like Dish and DirectTV as well, will need to think about how they use their satellite spectrum in more creative ways, including digital delivery to more than just the stationary dish. This also means as more millennials "dump the dish" and consume their content over LTE-A networks or via the cable or fiber provided Internet service, that the impact on the top and bottom lines of the satellite providers everywhere will change, and likely not for the better.

Engadget on Bots and Credit Card Theft is PR Problem For Visa

Having been part of the PR and reportorial world world since before I could drive, I know both sides of the table and am very disappointed at what the world of both PR and Journalism have become. PR people complain reporters don't talk to them. Journalist say they get too many requests. Thus stories don't get told right, and issues, when they arise, tend to fester.

Much of this is caused by the growing "ostrich approach" in Public Relations these days. For those of you who don't know what the ostrich approach is, it means burying your head in the sand, and hoping the problem goes away. This is usually done by simply ignoring the issue, or in the case of corporate PR types, simply ignoring the question. I've seen this behavior rollout over time with AT&T, Verizon, TimeWarner Cable, and now even UBER. It starts where companies eliminate the phone numbers from their website, asking reporters to email in questions. This is largely done to prevent consumers from calling them for help because Customer Service hasn't. The next rung is a voicemail box, but sadly, few calls ever get returned.

Now you can add to the list, Visa which really has an answer to the problem Engadget calls out yesterday in a post penned by Jon Fingas.  Fingas to his credit says Visa should deploy fraud prevention like MasterCard. But in reality Visa already has better technology from Finsphere, which uses a mobile phone's location to determine the legitimacy of a transaction.

For Visa this is a two strike issue. First, they already have the technology to combat the fraud but it's not being sold through to the banks, but they also have the news angle to propel the use of the advanced technology. Unfortunately, by not commenting on the story, they missed the sales opportunity to help the sales team get some air cover and turn a negative into an opportunity. 

Good PR people know how to turn a tough question into those opportunities to propel the growth of a product, service or company. Unfortunately, too much effort is placed on spin doctoring, playing defense or simply being too busy in meetings to deal with the media in a timely manner.  This happens when the PR folks are not in sync with the product and sales teams. Too often their agendas are set quarterly and annually. They have their news to put out, but stop working on last year's news too soon. This ends up harming the company's investment in new products that have very long sales cycles.

To cure this, corporations need to go back to the old school model of having PR types "own" the news around a product, not leave it solely in the hands of the CMO and their organization, which looks solely at lead generation stats vs. addressing real world problems and solving them, which are best told as stories, not as SEO work around keywords and Ad Words.

Rogers One Number Goes To Zero In January

Longtime communications watcher Jim Courtney has been a user of Rogers One Number since it started. But Rogers has decided to dump it, turning it off come January, 2017. The service, which rolled out in 2012 is an example of how fast new technology is being replaced. OneNumber's demise is clearly linked to mobile devices taking over the majority of calls and now with the arrival of Wi-Fi calling, there was a dramatically reduced need for the service. 

OneNumber, which uses technology from Counterpath and Ericsson, pretty much brought Skype like calling to Rogers mobile users who were able to make and receive calls on their computers. It's big value was when Rogers customers roamed, as they could jump on Wi-Fi with their laptops and be making and receiving calls for free.