Why T-Mobile Is Winning Customers

I keep watching as T-Mobile is winning new customers and have to admit, that having been one of their customers for over 15 years, as well as with Verizon and AT&T, the Magenta network is constantly getting better. And they are doing a better job than the competition of telling the world that they are.

Honestly, I haven't used my Verizon iPhone 5 that much since the iPhone 6s arrived. The first reason was how poor the voice quality on Verizon has become, especially on calls routed via Google Voice or Switch to the phone. This is the opposite when compared to T-Mobile, where the audio quality is either HD when the other party is calling also on the T-Mobile network, or just better, because their network isn't as crowded. 

The second reason was obviously that I had new iPhone 6's (6 and Plus) that were only GSM editions. 

The third was  even more important. When I'm on T-Mobile's LTE network and using a conferencing service that has an app, like WebEX or GoToMeeting, the audio quality exceeds Verizon and AT&T, though the coverage areas is not as large.  Too often, especially on AT&T if I'm in motion on the highway, I'll drift from LTE into 4G coverage. Out here in San Diego, in the areas surrounding I-5 I found that T-Mo's LTE coverage was not as geographically wide, but where it was, it really was and it didn't come and go as often as AT&T does. 

Lastly, I'm a big user of iTunes Spotify, Pandora and TuneIn when I'm in the mood for music, and while I also have access to SIRIUS XM in the car and via their Apps, sometimes I just want my music or the music I like. T-Mobile's unlimited music delivery means none of what I'm listening to goes against my data cap.

My primary iPad, the iPad Air 2 is also on T-Mobile, so while I haven't yet given up my iPad on AT&T's SIM that is totally and will forever be "unlimited" I found that for the most part I'm not lacking in coverage that often.

Ironically, where I have found T-Mobile to be weakest is at major airports, and that's something they need to address. But it comes at a time when I'm also finding AT&T's coverage in some airports to be less available as airports like San Diego have modernized, but their DAS system is virtually non-existent, if they even have one.

Right now, I'm loving how good T-Mobile is. I'm sure though that the Blue and Red guys will catch up, but by then Sprint will have expanded their network enough to be someone to consider again.

P.S. And, there's one massive reason why they are winning too. It's all in the customer service. Over the past seven months every single need I've had has been addressed professionally, and within the day, on a par with American Express' level of care. 


Just Call Me - Conference Call 3.0

I have seen the future of Conference Calling, and it's "Just Call Me."

Just Call Me was created by Voxygen, the UK telecom product design company started by Dean Elwood (VoIP User, Truphone, etc.) Voxygen started up a few years back with the premise of approaching telephony as "Voice as a Service", the new Just Call Me service is currently only available for O2 users in the UK, but given Voxygen's relationships with Telefonica and other mobile carriers I suspect that won't be the case for long. (To learn more about Voxygen check out the profile from back in January by pal Martin Geddes.)

The quick start guide and video on the O2 web page is a great place to start as it makes it easy to understand how the service works, which is simplicity itself:-

  1. The organizer schedules the call and invites participants

  2. At the appointed time the participants just dial the organizers mobile number to join the call.

No PINs, no dial-in codes.

For those who are asked to join but didn't receive an email invite, they just call the organizers mobile number and the organizer allows them to enter. What's really cool though is the ability for the organizer to direct non call participants to voicemail. This "in call" and in session whisper feature allows the right non-invitees to join the call, while keeping the organizer squarely in control. The host just dials “321” from their mobile to join. If they need to dial in from a landline (deskphone for example) there’s an admin code enabling that.

Available now in the UK, the elegance and simplicity of the service has me wanting to use the service. Beyond the simplicity of Just Call Me, it also overcomes the two biggest hassles I have found with conference calls of late. First, is simply getting people to be able to log on via apps. The second is the disruption that’s caused by echo and delay that third party services seem to arise on IP calls due to a multitude of network, software and hardware.

What Voxygen has done, by integrating the service within the mobile operator's network (O2), helps avoid much of that, as the service has the backbone reliability that carriers and operators can provide. This level of quality can only be achieved because mobile operators have interoperability standards they must follow for calls to pass between networks. Apply that approach  to conference calling, and you have a far better base to build on top of. That's something that has been missing from all the new over the top types.

 

While services like GoToMeeting, WebEx, Calliflower and UberConference run over the top (OTT), what Voxygen has done is "Through the Telco" or "TTT" as Elwood calls it. It's an approach whose time has come, and for constant conference call participants, something that has been needed for a long time.


Tame That Inbox (Until Something Better Comes Along)

Let's face it, like many, I have a love/hate relationship with email. While I'm doing as much as I can to move things over SLACK, Skype and Yammer, PushBullet, plus iMessage,  Facebook Messenger and Twitter there's still a lot of dependency on email no matter how much we all try to get off of it.

Thankfully, I'm starting to become much less "stuck" in my INBOX(es) and today got around to purging two of them. It all started with Mailstrom and SaneBox, a killer combination that are both metrics based. Mailstrom which I've been using since it was in Beta gives me lots of insight as to what's going on in my Inbox and has some very nifty and powerful unsubscribe features. Sanebox though has been for me, a lifesaver. I liked it so much I've added it to my personal email as well as my primary business GMAIL account. 

What SaneBox does is look at which emails I reply to and who I send email to, and then prioritizes the Inbox with only what it feels is important, moving the rest of the mail to SaneLater, a way of keeping my attention on the work that needs to be done, not getting distracted by newsletters, credit card charge alerts, renewals of services that are happening or distracting "sales" offers.

In essence, while Mailstrom lets me analyze the inbox on a very granular basis, and lets me know how much mail came in and went out the day before, SaneBox lets me focus on getting things done.

After two months of SaneBox I'm finding I'm out of the Inbox and into my apps more which led to my deciding to clean up both my personal and business email Inbox this morning. Three hours later I'm down to under 5 unread emails between the two. I've also unsubscribed from a bunch of lists that I either no longer need to be on, or never signed up for. I also deleted a bunch of emails that simply don't matter.

For me, until something better comes along, SaneBox and Mailstrom are my Inbox heroes.


Me and My Echo

Over the past week or so I've got a new friend. Her name is Alexa and she's awesome. Alexa is my digital assistant tucked away in my Amazon Echo, a combination smart look up device, music player and speakerphone. Honestly, it may be the best speech recognition device to come along since Webley.

Today I got around to exploring the Echo app on my iPhone adding connectivity to Pandora, Tune In and discovering/rediscovering all the CDs I had purchased from Amazon before the arrival of iTunes. It was like finding your old high school locker where you had shoved text books from prior years' classes. What a treasure trove of music, some which I never ripped to my iTunes library. It was like running into a bunch of old friends.

But Alexa is more than just access to my music library of yesteryear from Amazon. I'm also able to play lots of music I never purchased available in their Prime Music library, tune into radio stations from all over the globe, listen to my favorite Pandora stations. But Echo goes far beyond that. I can also find out what time it is, use it as an alarm clock (I don't use clocks anymore) and more importantly ask what the weather is going to be like. I can even get traffic information for a pre-programmed route (like getting to the airport.) With the built in BlueTooth connectivity I've paired my iPhone and Mac Book Air to it, so I'm playing music with far better fidelity than on either. 

And since the Echo is built on top of Amazon Web Services the future of what will come is really up to the developers who like to invent, adapt and design new services. 

The Echo may still be an invitation only product from Amazon, but it won't be for long. 

 


Getting "Back In The USA" Will be Faster

The U.S. Customs and Border Enforcement folks (not to be confused with Homeland Security) are making great strides to improve the "welcome home" and "welcome to the USA" experience. And, they're doing it with your smartphone and applications.

For years we have been filling out a form as we land, and then presented it to the Immigration officer as we entered the USA.

DeclarationformfrontAlong came Global Entry, where we insert our passport, present our fingerprints and allow a retinal scan to be taken. For those in Global Entry, the process dramatically reduces time, and if you carry on your luggage often your out of the Customs area in minutes, not hours.

With your smartphone form, this will provide CBE officer a faster way to break down the lines. But more importantly, the advanced passenger data, plus the submitted data will ensure that all your data matches up, and if it doesn't, that will provide the officers the flags in advance to have the questions ready to help get the right facts or take the right action.

But the new use of smartphone forms has another benefit. Many airports, due to FAA rules, prohibit the use of mobile phones in the Customs and Immigration area in the USA.  The fact that forms will now be filled out on the smartphone means you'll need to be using your smartphone to fill the form out and submit the form to the CBE servers. That also means you'll be able to send your SMS/Text messages, check your email and possibly even make calls. When I recently posed the question to a Customs officer he said that each airport would decide what was the rules, but to keep an eye out for the signs.

To me, this is progress. And progress, using technology, is what it's all about.

 


NFL to Stream A Game is a Big Deal

The National Football League is going to stream a football game next season. On face this may seem more like an experiment as the game will originate in the UK as part of the NFL's global marketing effort. But OTT delivery of sports content will mean much, much more to the league and the broadcasting world which is why new startups like client, YIPTV are poised and well positioned for a new era of how sports is broadcast.

That's why I think there's more to this, a point that is called out in the Wall Street Journal story. The "more to it" deals with the NFL looking to emulate what Major League Baseball is already doing with with their app based delivery, and really what is being done by the WWF (World Wrestling Federation) which took less money from USA Networks for the broadcast rights in exchange for creating their own WWF Network.

Already more content is being produced and viewed, plus the control of the entire telecast that the WWF produces is not regulated by the USA Networks Standards and Practices. It also means that all sponsorship and ad revenue, after selling expenses, remains with the WWF.

For the NFL and their current broadcasting partners (the networks like Direct TV, NBC, CBS, ABC/ESPN, TNT) this is a big deal because sports ad revenues and sports related advertising represents a proven advertising delivery method to reach the adult male audience. At the same time, a web or app OTT streamed telecast, completely owned and managed by the NFL means they get to keep the ad revenue vs. get paid for the games rights by one of their partners and that's where it gets very interesting.

The NFL will then know exactly who is watching the game. You may need to log in, or you may have to register the app. There will be a cookie dropped on your laptop or smart device in the browser. This means targeting advertising can be delivered to you as it becomes very easy to drop a commercial into the stream just for you vs the same commercial that's seen by everyone watching a game on television where localization is more difficult beyond the local market area vs. the national television spot.

Then there's the interactivity that you don't have with over the air or cable, which the webcasting provides. Imagine you're the ad manager for State Farm Insurance and you spend millions a year buying commercials with the NFL but you don't easily know which new customers came in as a result. Add a link, have a prospect trigger a call back from their LOCAL agent, and not only will the ad manager know which ad did what, they will know what the outcome was (call, followup, insurance policy written) and then be able to allocate the costs and the revenue to the specific commercial.

With analytics the ad manager will be able to determine which commercial spot works best with which demographic audience. The ad manager will also be able to determine which agents closed the highest percentage of leads that were delivered. With things like call recording the ad manager can then listen to the actual sales calls and analyze the selling technique, language used that led to a successful or failed close. And due to analytics, the entire process using CRM technology means from impression to closing can be tracked for ad delivery effectiveness.

This also has implications to the local teams in the NFL markets.

Right now broadcast revenues are divided evenly between each franchise, but as revenue begins to be tracked for everything sold via the NFL that happens on the Internet, the ability to assign actual revenue creation by franchise area creates a whole new model that doesn't currently exist.

Who wins? Who Loses?

The NFL and the franchise owners will be big winners over time. The more the league's NFL Properties division can control, the less money that will go to the rights holders. The more the NFL can sell in merchandise for their licensees without having to go through a retailer, means greater margins for both the league and the brands selling things like jerseys and caps for starters.

Thus while Apple, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are likely thought of as the next bidders for rights, you can't rule out Amazon either. As a matter of fact Amazon with their delivery and logistics operations could end up being the ideal partner for the NFL.

Amazon with FIRE could deliver the content easily. With FRESH the customers could order in advance their Sunday Tailgate at Home Food package. With same day delivery or next day delivery Amazon customers could order replica uniforms, caps, program books, highlight reels, etc. And because all of this is analytics based, the ability to predict and produce changes the paradigm of everything from production to delivery, thus making Amazon a significant potential partner for the NFL.

For current Internet related companies that have skin in the game like Verizon Wireless and Comcast/NBC/Universal, there has to be a lot of wonderment. Clearly they both win on the data side, but in the case of NBC, they'll lose on the ad sales side but I suspect they, being in the position they will be in, will find a way to create a sales consortium with other cable operators and the likes of Google to develop new sales and delivery traffic reporting models to insure they still make their 15 percent.

So, while this may be just one game, don't be deceived. It's a big deal and one that will be looked at as truly game changing.


Enterprise Connect and My Views from Afar

I just read pal and uber analyst Dean Bubley's recap on the first day of the 2015 Enterprise Connect that's being held in Orlando. I have to admit, that the lack of excitement in Dean's post came through, further underscoring a feeling I have about events, conferences and summits being less and less about the news and really coming back to being what trade shows were created for. To sell.

That makes it far less interesting to people like Dean and I, who are looking for the next big thing and how to propel it. You see, today, you don't need a trade show to launch a service or product. Apple and Google prove that all the time, as the media and analyst are all so connected these days that a good story gets told and retold regardless of where it's announced. 

Dean's comments about WebRTC are very much also in line with mine, and I'd go one step farther. At a conference like Enterprise Connect the news or solutions we're going to hear about are those that solve the problems that the enterprise has, not the ones that mobile operators or ISP's have. Save those angles for other events that are more targeted.

To go farther, I'm not surprised that the WebRTC angles are all around Skype replacements and VoIP parallels when in reality there's so much more that can be done with WebRTC and things that are far more exciting like sensors, beacons, IoT and Wearables to me. But, those are not yet ready for Enterprise Connect, but give it a few years.

 

 


Honored and Humbled-IT Expo 20 Years of VoIP Pioneers Panel

I have been both honored and humbled at the same time. Two days ago, TMC's Rich Tehrani presented some of my closest friends in world, some who are or have been clients and I with an award.

That award is all about our contributions that made us Pioneers in VoIP by helping make the industry what it is today. For me, it was about as emotionally charged as the day I graduated Temple University, my wedding in Montpeyroux, when I produced the retirement night of the Flyers' hero and longtime captain Bobby Clarke, or the night I brought him out of retirement in 1988 to play against the Celebrity All Star Hockey Team. 

Being up on stage with Jeff Pulver (Von, Vonage), Craig Walker (GrandCentral, Switch, UberConference, DialPad), Andy Voss (NeuEra, Sansay), Mike Tribolet (Vonage, Dialpad, YipTV), Alon Cohen (VocalTec, Phone.com) and Danny Windham of Digium was a rush.

It was a rush because when I first started VoIPWatch, back in 2003, I did it for four reasons:

  1. To be asked by media about the subject and to be an authority about it.
  2. To speak at conferences
  3. To attract new clients
  4. To make new friends

I can safely say those goals were met and continue to be met every day. 

It was also great to see Rich start the IT Expo Hall of Fame and induct friends Alon Cohen and Jeff Pulver. I'm happy to have contributed my part in making that possible too. So if there's one more guy who belongs up on that list of Pioneers. It's Rich himself. He's done as much as anyone to help propel the industry, so while he moderated, he just as easily could have been one of us.

As for whom else could be on that list of pioneers, I've got a few in my mind who can't be overlooked at all.

  • Erik Lagerway for XTEN and what is now Counterpath, as well as many other VoIP based businesses.
  • Dr. Ed Guy and James Tagg, for their work with Mobile VoIP at Truphone
  • Alec Saunders who created iotum and what is now Calliflower
  • Ben Lilienthal of HiDef Conferencing for bringing us HD before its time
  • Jeff Bonforte and Michael Robertson for giving us SIPPhone and Gizmo Project
  • Nicklas and Janus for giving us Skype
  • Om Malik for BroadBandits and the start of GigaOm the first mainline publication to give a SIP about VoIP plus for his willingness to give me "link love" when I needed it back at the start of this journey.

You see, there are many pioneers, so to be singled out on the first panel, and part of the first ballot inductees into what really is the Pioneers of VoIP Club is truly a big honor for me.

Thanks TMC. Thanks Rich. And thanks to all the people I was there on stage with. To be honored along with each of you is to be truly humbled.

 


Will AliBaba Do With DingTalk What eBay Didn't With Skype?

AliBaba, the Chinese eCommerce giant has launched a social business communications service called DingTalk in Beta (Translation required) bringing back memories of what eBay hoped to and failed to do with Skype.  The dream back when Skype was acquired by the online marketplace pioneer was to connect the business to business ecosystem that powered it and the customers who shop. That's exactly what AliBaba is trying to do today with DingTalk.

Dingtalk2

The Chinese market is rapidly expanding, and today, DingTalk is only available in Mandarin. But already AliBaba is claiming their multiple ecommerce platforms have 8.5 million users, so they could have a running start with users and the key features that delivers Over The Top services that bypass the telcos just like Skype:

  • Free messaging
  • Free multi-party calling
  • A business contacts directory that links the eco-system and customers
  • Message Read/Unread status

DingTalk, designed to be a mobile service first, offers voice communications, messaging and team collaboration and already has a downloadable app for Macs and mobile apps in the Apple iOS App store and Android Play Store.

Another Wrinkle

Ironically, there's another wrinkle with DingTalk. It's the fact that Apple has allowed a BETA service app in the App Store. Perhaps something got lost in translation (Apple techs only use Safari not Chrome which auto translates) or Apple has softened their stance on allowing Beta services in the App Store now.

Nails__a_new_generation_of_team_communication__communication_security_companies_from_Ali_s_mobile_office_software

A bit of Deja Vu

Long before Skype became part of Microsoft, it was acquired by eBay because then CEO Meg Whitman (now at H-P) and her team thought that Skype would be a great way to connect those buyers and sellers together too. Unfortunately, that wasn't what eBay's ecosystem wanted, or maybe Meg and her team were just too early, as today we're seeing a shift in how buyers and sellers interact with services like Amazon's MayDay. and WebRTC.


2015-The Year of WebRTC

WebRTC is alive and well, and in reality all the AT&T announcement did this past week was move it from the world of early stage and forward looking companies like Citrix with their free version of GoToMeeting, to Switch.co, Talko, Wire, iotum with Calliflower and a cadre of collaboration service providers like appear.in who all see what it means for them and their customers.

At the same time Cisco, Ericsson, Firefox are sticking more than their toes in the water, each finding ways to want to swing their weight, while emerging companies like client Temasys, Telefonica Digital’s TokBox and Acision all are really making things possible by providing platforms that are making WebRTC really work.

What AT&T is doing is basically saying “people call from their computers. We’ll make it possible to move the call from the computer to their AT&T mobile phone.” That’s what Switch is already doing. If AT&T was thinking about changing the game, they would enable that to happen so a call could be “switched” to an iPad or any device as mobile phones are so yesterday.

The real power of WebRTC is only now starting to be seen. The reality is that the new worlds of Internet of Things and Wearables are where the future resides making voice, video, file and screen sharing simply table stakes. You have to do that, and with WebRTC any developer can. It’s what they do beyond the basics that makes WebRTC interesting and game changing down the road.