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.
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.
Clearly, 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?
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.
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.”
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
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..
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
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...
You have to love the conference industry. When one media company puts on a conference, the coverage from competitive companies is almost non-existent, despite the size of the advance press list. So be it. There is news coming out of Enterprise Connect and here's a summary of what I think is cool...so far.
TadHack Mini-this is the future of Enterprise Connect. The companies that had the foresight to sponsor and engage with the developers who are creating new technology to serve their fellow man. Some very cool ideas so give a read to Michelle Burbicks summary.
As for the rest--Genband keeps pushing Kandy like it's crack cocaine, offering tastes and samples, but not saying who the users are.....Voxbone adds CafeX to their customer base. For CafeX this is all about numbers. More numbers in more places. Telephone numbers that is. ...and for Voxbone, it is too now that Private Equity investment is really driving the business....Genesys, one of the largest providers of Contact Center solutions has taken the Pure approach when it comes to customer experience. And, Genesys seems to have had a revelation of sorts about WebRTC it seems. That means no Voxboning for them much longer.....as WebRTC eliminates the need for a phone number as all you need to do is click and call..For those of you old enough to remember Polycom and how they used to be BIG BIG BIG at Enterprise Connect, well, it's time for a changing of the guard it seems, as Jabra, a longtime pioneer in headset and earphone audio is making a BIG splash with a speakerphone for the Unified Communications sector.
And last but no means least, Masergy is opening up the pipes, the CloudPipes that is, and using a new fangled alliance to cross connect to multiple API's to enable workflow simplification. In many ways, this may be one of the most important announcements to come out of Enterprise Connect. The reason is, the Internet is running rocket fast. More new services, or as Jeff Pulver once called them, Purple Minutes, these new creations, or mashups like those created by pal Thomas Howe and other smart developers. With CloudPipes you can put your service in the cloud, any cloud, and be cross connected to Masergy via CloudPipes. This opens up a whole new rung of service delivery from core Class Five and SS7 functionality to more abstract features....
Got news from Enterprise Connect? Send it my way.