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Posts from December 18, 2016 - December 24, 2016

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.