SMS Wars Are About to Start

Sooner or later its going to happen. Just like we saw pricing wars in voice years ago, SMS has remained a very lucrative market for mobile operators. But with the arrival of companies like mBlox, Mach, Syniverse we saw the first wave of non telco sellers of SMS and MMS services. And then we saw the arrival of Twilio, Nexmo, BICS and a handful of others who began selling SMS and MMS as a CPaaS (Communications Platform as A Service) and that further leveled the playing field.

But what if someone created a multi-service offering that allowed the users to on the fly change to the best priced service provider for the different uses of SMS/MMS? 

If some company did that, then a white labeled solution could be offered. The functions that could be offered from multiple service providers would be offering access to SMS or MMS powered apps. Think about it, today I'm using a combination of Twilio and Zapier or IFTTT to send notifications to support low level functions like telling people I landed when I'm flying or a package arrived (SMS arrival notifications). When I place an order and the verification comes to my inbox and bang, since my Zapier account monitors my inbox when certain key words are mentioned in an email, I get sent an SMS notification. 

But this could go farther. Things like multi-factor authentication can use a multiple services to send SMS, MMS or in app notification all reducing the risk of security breaches at one. This is also an ideal solution for multi-country operating companies who are using SMS or UDID to send messages related to package or transport tracking.

Someone will come along and crack the market open, and that will be a near term rival to Twilio and Nexmo....

 

 


The Comunicano for Friday May 19 2017

 

 
 
MAY 19 - ISSUE #87
Andy Abramson
 
 
Google I/O, which provided a month’s worth of news in a few days with all the new and updated efforts from the Mountain View giant is over. ZD Net and Axios both have concise wrap ups for those who are interested. The really impactful news though comes from the FCC who, as expected, is rolling back Net Neutrality. The effects we’ll start to see will come from the telcos and the cable guys who control the pipes. 
 
As for today, May 19th, it’s a day from 1974 I’ll always remember. That was the Sunday in Philadelphia that the Flyers would win the Stanley Cup. I was there at The Spectrum and what a day it was. It was also the day of the first ever professional box lacrosse game in Philadelphia, when the Wings debuted. If you don’t know what box lacrosse is, here’s a video that I served as a Production Assistant on back in 1974/75. (I’m actually in the far background at the 16:51 mark of the video). That was in the era when I worked for the Wings, starting as the “Public Relations Assistant” at age 14. It was my first job and I learned from the best in the business, Sy Roseman. 

As a day to start a career, I couldn’t have done it any better. I still remember asking the Bruins to “leave” their locker room as the Wing’s players needed to get ready for their game. The look on Phil Esposito’s face as he first looked at me, and then my two chosen “porters” to help get the message across was one I’ll never forget. I had the Spectrum security’s own twin towers, “Slim” Elijah Hughes, all 6’-9’“ inches of him, complete with the Stevie Wonder sunglasses, and John Turner who at 6'4 265 pounds, was an NTA by day at Philly’s Simon Gratz High School, only the toughest school at the time in the city of Brotherly Love. In perfect pitch, they asked, "can we help you with your bags, boys..” and out went the Bruins…..what a day…..

So, kick back, get ready for the weekend, but first, give a read to today’s COMUNICANO.

Legal Watch

Net neutrality going down in flames as FCC votes to kill Title II rules

Apple Is Lobbying Against Your Right to Repair iPhones, New York State Records Confirm
Facebook Watch

Facebook will broadcast 20 MLB baseball games live

Facebook Messenger debuts a new look focused on improving navigation
Uber Watch

Uber launches Uber Freight, its app for long-haul trucking jobs

WebRTC Watch

Verizon May Have (Thankfully) Revolutionized Mobile Customer Service

Odds & Ends
Medium now offers audio versions of its stories for members
Telegram now lets users buy things from chatbots in its messaging app
Consumers 'would rather chat with bots' than customer support humans
SystemOne and Vodafone Tackle Medical Challenge with IoT
25+ Fully Remote Companies That Let You Work From Anywhere
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Are Sonus and Genband Getting Hitched

Rumor has it that Sonus and Genband, two long time legacy VoIP players are getting hitched. While this has been talked about before, it seems to be gaining steam once again.

At the end of the day Genband has lots of legacy pieces and parts, and their KANDY WebRTC platform has been not much of anything at all, and a lot of their inventory has been recycled Nortel products. On the Sonus side there comes a lot of switch customer overlap, which means Sonus is hoping to bring their switches to the Genband customers. 

This is an example of two companies who have not seen profits ever and should have. Thats speaks to management or the lack of. Sonus has been growing their top line based on acquisitions like Performance Technologies and Taqua revenue, not their own home grown revenue. Genband has been doing pretty much the same.

Perhaps carriers need to look at more profitable modern VoIP homegrown infrastructure players and avoid working with companies that end up having to integrate and blend together first, before servicing them.

The fallout though may not be seen that soon. Broadsoft, who is a big customer of Sonus via the Taqua acquisition won't be so hungry to feed the competition in softswitches. Don't be surprised if they look elsewhere for what they've been buying.


The COMUNICANO for Monday May 15 2017

 

 
 
MAY 15 - ISSUE #83
Andy Abramson
 
 
Could Y Combinator’s Sam Altman be in the running for Governor of California? As a state which has seen actors ascend to the top spot at least twice, don’t rule it out….Telco operation 8x8 adds more Reguslocations around the world…Lyft plays let’s make a deal…Those stories and more are all in today’s COMUNICANO.

Sam Altman for governor?
 
VoIP Watch
8x8 and Regus Expand Global Cloud Communications Partnership
 
Lyft Watch
Lyft and Waymo Reach Deal to Collaborate on Self-Driving Cars
 
Microsoft Watch
Microsoft Is Surprisingly Comfy With Its New Place In A Mobile, Apple, And Android World
 
Broadband Watch
AeroMobile expands globally, awaits US voice ruling
How Australia Bungled Its $36 Billion High-Speed Internet Rollout
 
Streaming Watch
Streaming-enabled TVs reach mainstream in US
Live sports streaming on social media gains ground
 
Odds & Ends
Netflix App No Longer Available For Rooted Android Phones
Licensing for the MP3 Format Used on Original iPod is Officially 'Terminated' as Patents Expire
How to Save Thousands of Dollars and Have Better Relationships With Your Business Infrastructure
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Hello! It's Alexa Calling or Is There An Echo?

TechCrunch broke the news on what I'm going to name, "ALEXA CALLING" a new feature from Amazon for the Echo line of digital assistants. Now a few hours later the service is up and running.

AlexacallingClearly, it's a first generation service, and in many ways it's nothing new, just Novel. Right now the service is a way to call and text other Echo users and make outbound calls to others in your address book. A call to a long time VoIP industry executive yielded at best a G.711 quality call in the era of HD-Audio. Our collective guess is that will improve. The audio was scratchy, and reminded me of a cell phone call from the 80's and a VoIP call from the 90's circa Free World Dialup and Net2Phone days.

Next I had him call me back from his Alexa app and I answered the call on one of my two Echo DOT's. Interestingly, the call rang all four of my Echo devices so SIM ring is part of the service, but while I can move my Spotify audio between them, I couldn't pull the call to the iPhone Amazon app the way I can transfer/handover a call using the Dialpad app and service.  Our collective guess work came to the conclusion that Amazon is not really doing any IP signaling but instead simply piping audio to the "apps" either on the Echo or to the app on an iPhone, iPad or Android device. This means that things like call control are not yet live, but likely will come in a future release.

The other feature in the service is a messaging platform ala SMS. Call this AMS or Alexa Messaging Service. It's unclear if the messages are encrypted or not, or even if the voice traffic is. My guess is that they are not (yet) but will likely be offered by a third party or Amazon themselves. As with the direct calling between users, both parties need to either have an Echo enabled to place and receive calls, or the Alexa app needs to be installed and enabled.

Alexa Calling also is capable of outbound calling. The way that works is the app on your mobile device uploads your address book and then you have that in the cloud. You can then ask Alexa to call or send a message to someone in the address book. As a long time user of Webley since the late 90s I found the audio detection system's accuracy to be about as good as the mother of all IVR systems. Here again, the audio codecs being used are not the highest of quality, but it's likely they too will be added.

To me, there's a lot of promise here, but Alexa Calling is a far cry from being a replacement today for my mobile phone or VoIP service providers based solely on the current set of functions and capabilities today. But as my colleague and I discussed, there's a lot of promise and potential here, especially for conference calling. All Amazon needs to do for that is boost the audio quality to real HD audio ala OPUS, add in real signaling, some  synchronization, and call recording and you'd have an awesome audio conferencing platform and soon, a great video one.

That said, Dialpad is due to release Alexa enabled calling, but the first iteration will be a call set up routine, not full two way voice calling. Knowing that makes me think this is really is an example of what can be done. Think of it as a proof of concept gone live. It's been done most recently by RingbyName and before that by Telzio. And what I foresee is Amazon creating a platform that all VoIP and Conferencing service providers can ride on using AWS and their global reach. By providing the hooks into a network, Amazon becomes a telco backbone. The infrastructure is there, and its clear Amazon is up to something in that area....

My only question is, can call Amazon Customer Service this way?


Google Fi: The Mobile Operator for Travelers

I originally wrote and posted this over on the Xceptional blog. In thinking about it, I decided that the VoIPWatch audience should see it to.

Googlefiimage

After having GoogleFi on my Google Pixel for a few months, I finally got to use the service outside the United States on an extended three-week trip to the UK, France, and Portugal.

The Fi eliminates a lot of hassles that impact the idea of "staying connected." Beyond the obvious of not having to deal with the concept of roaming and the costs associated with it, Google Fi solves others. These solutions include not having to deal with the hassles of changing SIM cards or only using Wi-Fi to communicate when you can find a hotspot. So as a T-Mobile customer who can roam for free, with their service I only receive free 2G coverage in LTE markets, but have to pay an enormous up charge to buy real LTE coverage if I want it. That's why the combination of Google Fi, a Pixel, and even an iPhone SE, or iPad, using only a Fi data SIM was a very powerful combination on the trip.

One of the best use cases was connecting my Amazon Echo Tap to the portable hotspot I created with the Pixel. As I traveled from hotel to hotel, the idea of trying to connect the Tap to hotel Wi-Fi was a nonstarter. Instead, I linked it to the SSID of the Pixel and the use of the Echo and what I needed from Alexa was only a question away. This consistency from hotel to hotel and country to country eliminated one more time wasting setup and provided an instant workaround to the limitation of the Echo’s operating system.

The second use case is the data only SIM card option which GoogleFi now provides. I grabbed one just before my trip started and popped it into my iPhone SE and used that as a second phone to my iPhone 6 Plus that had a local SIM in each country to use as the smaller form factor has its own set of benefits at events and while in motion. The biggest pluses were using Dialpad and Telzio to make and receive calls and the use of Apple’s iMessage and FaceTime as the Google Fi SIM presents a voice-capable mobile number, something most data plan SIM’s do not.

The combination of those everyday “data” services provided me the same functionality as if I had a regular mobile phone SIM in my iPhone but still allowed me to receive calls or be messaged by my contacts back home quickly, as well as to make international calls. It was in many ways a better solution than the local SIM for calls, as the locals I was calling would recognize my US number but not know my new local in-country numbers. That alone eliminated phone tag in some cases.

The last technology benefit I found with the GoogleFI SIM regardless of the device in use was how well it worked with all my apps and services. As someone who is heavily reliant on Zoom and UberConference for conference calls, I was able to have the best of both. Using the Zoom app, I clicked, and the data network provided my connection to the video and audio service, while a call via Dialpad to UberConference dropped me into the bridge directly.

The other benefit to GoogleFi is price. For $20.00 a month subscribers receive one gig anywhere and unlimited voice and text, with credit for unused data. When more data is used, you are billed at a flat rate of $10.00 per gig, on a pay as you go basis. It’s the best deal around, as there’s also no throttling back on the data once you bust your data bundle limit.

As rock solid of a service and price competitive GoogleFi is, the value is really appreciated when you leave the USA and have a hassle-free experience, while always “Staying, CONNECTED.”

 


Customer Service Needs to Be Local


Maybe Donald Trump is right about bringing jobs back home. Let me compare two experiences I recently had with British Air under the exact same scenario.

My flight to Marseille from LAX was on two separate record locators. In the past all that took to correct was a call to BA's executive club desk and as they were both Avios tickets, the club could cancel out the continuation segment, put the miles back in my account, then reapply them to my already existing reservation and everything was on one record. They used to also do this all for free.

When I knew my final travel plans were locked, I called up and was received warmly by the Indian call center team member, but all I got was polite, "we can't do that any more" or long holds of 20 minutes while "he checked with a supervisor" and finally the help desk. That's when magically the way to get it done was revealed.

So when it came time to check in, I was able to check in for my LAX to LHR flight the day before, but not the continuation to Marseille. When I got to LAX I was told it appear d my Marseille bound flight reservation existed but was not paid for as the call center never processed the change fee. This was despite the Indian supervisor politely telling me everything was handled and that the payment department would take care of things. That never happened and it was at LAX that the change fee got collected. Given I was on a 330 pm flight and arrived at 115 no big deal.

But tomorrow's flight is at 725 and the idea of getting to the airport at 6 is already challenging enough, let alone having to be concerned if last Saturday's combining of my two return tickets into one record was done right. Turns out despite Emma from the U.K. assuring me it would be, that this morning it still wasn't processed for payment by the outsourced payment processing group.

Enter Johnny from Manchester. What a hero. Within a few minutes he was able to solve the issue, get to the reticketing eticketing department, and in less time than he promised I was able to check in for my entire flight home.

The old adage of "Once bitten, Twice shy" applied here.

When I checked in at LAX the check in agent lamented to me about how many times the off shore call center that handles calls from the USA says they are doing things that don't get done at all, or are done incorrectly. She went on to say that this only leads to frustration from travelers and delays everyone involved.

That conversation led me to be more aware of things, what cues to look for, and how to prevent a replay.

Avoiding a replay meant calling the U.K Call Center this morning when my routine check-in wasn't routine at all. Oh, and why the U.K call center? Easy, those calls stay in the U.K.

So maybe it's time we bring customer service for companies doing business in the U.S. back to the U.S. The argument that it's cheaper to outsource may apply to those who outsource, but for customers whose service gets outsourced it costs more in wasted time and added frustration than is ever really necessary.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad





Almost Half of Travelers Want VoIP on Airplanes (In Asia/Pacific)

This is one of the most controversial tech subjects I know of. VoIP on airplanes. A recent survey in the APAC region shows that 42 percent of the travelers there would like to see VoIP calling allowed in-flight. That's 2 out of every five traveler who want to be able to make a call from the air.

As someone old enough to remember when Airfone was found in the seatbacks of domestic airplanes here in the USA I really don't see what the hubbub is all about. As long as people use what is known as "public voice" and keep their sound levels to a quiet conversational tone, voice calling isn't such a bad idea to see come back.

What's more I'd be happy to see some restrictions like no calling on a night flight or red eye after 11 PM. of the destination or limit calls to 3 minutes or less and no repeat calling the same number more than once in an hour. Let's face it, with text and email we've already proved we can cut down phone calls and get the same message across with text and attachments..


Accor Hotels Blocking Skype, Thankfully There's Dialpad

This week I've stayed in three Accor brand hotels, a Mercure and two Ibis Styles. Granted they are not my usual type of accommodations, but when it comes to traveling along the wine route for Decouvertes du Rhone, they are conveniently located and value priced. What they don't have though is functioning Wi-Fi and never really have.

For years I was challenged by their blocking of the ports to allow use of anything but WebMail to the point of creating a Google Apps domain back in 2007. Then it became harder to also use Microsoft Exchange which led to a full switch for the company to Google Apps.

Now it seems they block Skype. And not only Skype, even Skype's web page so to renew a Skype In number I had to do it on my mobile phone connected over LTE vs. the Mac.  

Thankfully services like Dialpad, Zoom, WhatsApp and Telzio all worked on my Mac, and on the mobile Telegram and WhatsApp too. The biggest issue was talking to my staff. Instead of doing it all on the laptop I had to use the mobile..no big deal, but in this day and age, I shouldn't need a VPN in branded hotels....ugh


More VoIPWatch Coverage of Enterprise Connect

Wrestlemania is less than a week away in Orlando, and you would think that in the battle for enterprise communications market share that at Enterprise Connect there would be more rumbling. But the news isn't from the challengers as much as it is from the established heavyweights.....HMMM. YAWN...That's why what was done at TadHack Mini was so important. It's about what's NXT..(a pun of sorts)..So with that, ring the bell and let's dig in...

Cisco can't get away from hardware. It's in their aging DNA. So no matter how many new software companies they acquire, they still fall back to their knitting, and in their case it remains hardware, but smartly they are doing it with a twist. Hardware is the attractive attention getter, but really it's the connective tissue software that's making things so interesting and clearly worth a look.

Yesterday at Enterprise Connect Cisco made a flurry of announcements that Network World covered, and while some may look at the hardware as the key drive, much of the surrounding news was really from the software centric Spark-the group that is at the core of Cisco's next wave of workplace collaboration. 

To me, the Spark Hybrid Media Service and Spark Care are where the action will be, not the hardware centric Spark Room Kits. Today people use their own devices, even at work. BYOD has become the winner, but the connection to those devices seems to be really where Cisco is going.

Comcast put out some news about Voice Edge, a Chrome browser plug in that makes Skype for Business more friendly. The real play here is to get away from expensive Windows boxes and to have enterprise businesses start to deploy ChromeBooks and ChromeBoxes. 

RingCentral keeps adding more integrations and they also expanded into more countries in Europe, following a play a few years ago by 8x8. Honestly, they are becoming the kings of integration.  Here's my take:

RingCentral is using the integrations as a way to lure customers. Say you're using HubSpot, PipeDrive, Agile CRM or SalesForce as your CRM. RingCentral integrates with them and then says, "we're the best phone service to use with X, Y or Z." By integrating with more, they are opening up the door to the people using the services and giving them a reason to switch to RingCentral. Of course, switching can be painful, and doesn't happen overnight. But give them credit for being perhaps the most integration friendly telco.

As far as expanding into Europe....well, with roaming rates going away almost in June, and with rock solid broadband arriving in more places in more countries, the timing is very good. That said, this is a better play to sell to US companies who have operations there than to try to go up against the local incumbents. Vonage, 8x8 and others have all tried at times to build a business in other countries. It's an uphill battle.....and adding POPs isn't the same, nor is having a reseller program. It's not about selling in , it's about selling through, so unless these reseller can convert customers from their already embedded carriers, it's uphill.

That's it..One, Two, Three...