You have to love it when the mobile operators entice you with "unlimited data" and then as demand creeps up on them, they start to roll back on what you get, and raise the price too. Over the past two days, both Verizon and AT&T have made announcements impacting the grandfathered "Unlimited Data Plan" holders. Makes you wonder if this is coincidence or collusion at times. I don't think it's either.
It's likely just more reaction to what T-Mobile is doing.
The reality is it's nice that the carriers are finally coming clean on "unlimited" not being that, with speed caps or real limits, but the reality is what about all those months where some never used their full amount of connectivity they purchased. Some operators actually had rollover plans. Funny, I don't see the large operators doing that anymore. But GoogleFi does.
But, given spectrum and wireless bandwidth, as well as connectivity is finite, unless the carriers want to invest some of their profits in creating more data compressing technologies, this approach to limiting usage isn't going to stop.
All this points to a greater need for Wi-Fi and GigaBit fiber at the municipal level. Make use of the dark fiber, at fair prices, and the carriers won't have to worry about being maxed out...
Update---Want more details. Check out the WSJ's Joanna Stern's post that just popped up.
As the New Year is now here there's an upbeat feeling in the business community bolstered by a feeling that 2017 will be a banner year for non-technology companies expanding their buying of technology startups. With 43 of those types of companies now under my belt, ranging from taking a company wire to wire, to being there at the start, middle and end of the process, there's some key trends I'm seeing, both in VoIP as well as also in the collaboration space.
For starters, Intellectual Property will be a key driver for which companies get acquired. That means patents as well as a brand image and actual customers, are the cachet that your company has as the company that is something more than just a PowerPoint and a slick talking CEO. Valuations will be based on those three factors.
M&A-M&A will be big again this year. So will the IPO. The IPO's will run the gamut from overhyped one trick ponies to really well run companies that have bench strength talent which can survive the departure of the early founding C Team.
While M&A's will be a combination of pure play purchases because the acquiring company lacks what the startup has, there will also be a steady stream of acquihires where companies funding in the low millions, but which have people and technology who are good at getting things done, acquiring customers, have some of their own software, not simply a wrapper around some open source stack, and have demonstrated how they change the game (i.e. put the hurt on big companies) will be the larger share of who gets bought. These low level gamble plays will return the investors in those companies usually half to 2x what they invested a few years ago but none of the acquihires will be homeruns except for those who get jobs in the acquiring company. For the former type, those pureplay powerhouses, they'll start to see 5-10x type of exits. Key there will be customers. Not only how many, but how long they have been able to retain, and how fast they are able to acquire new.
Content marketing will take a turn. Not only will it need to fill pages that drive leads, but the overabundance on SEO and keyword optimization will trigger the need for better content, and fresher content more often. This will be a boon to freelance writers, but will put the content farms to the test to deliver a better product, not just more placements. That idea, of selling pages by the pound will be like what PR has become. Commodity marketing, where everything is for sale, and none of it believed.
Online advertising evolve past programmatic to more dynamic. We're seeing an evolution in advertising. keywords are not just the only driver of what gets offered to you. With big data and machine learning, cloud and faster processing, the ads we see and watch will start to become highly personalized dynamically, on the fly. This means not only will the car commercial be more about the car we're searching for, it will be in the color we looked at, or of your current car. Content that's paid for will also become more dynamically personalized so the so-called "native" advertisers will need to be dynamic and very personalized especially with video.
Hardware-we've been going through a cycle of software this and that. Everything is now software run, operated or maintained. Time has come again to have better gear. So while the hype cycle begins again around the connected car, IoT, drones, newer, brighter and bigger monitors, earbuds without wires, there will be lots of new hardware out there. Expect to see Apple and Microsoft continue to be the market trendsetters, while Google finds ways to make their hardware relevant. The real powerhouse in hardware will be Amazon. They are likely going to be the next wave of innovation in gear.
VoIP and WebRTC collide. If you're in the VoIP business, you need to be working WebRTC into your stack. While those who run private networks may feel they have what they need with SIP, as more creativity comes into the calling and collaboration market, it's going to come from companies using WebRTC.
Privacy vs. Security. These are two big areas and often are as confusing to the general public as the difference between a Service Dog and a Therapy Dog. Privacy is your information and what you keep out of the realm of general knowledge. Security is how you do that. Too often the two are intermingled and transposed. You don't have a HIPAA security issue, you have a HIPAA privacy issue if the wrong people learn about your medical information. The security issue is when the data isn't protected and becomes private. We're going to see much greater use of newer security methods, starting with private key authentication as more of what we have needs to be kept private, not just secure.
Messaging apps like Telegram, Signal, Wire, Messenger from Facebook and WhatsApp are all taking the lead here but other even more deeply thought out solutions for the Enterprise will be the hot story this year. Check out SaltDNA as one example that has gone far deeper than even SilentPhone has.
For Many Global Travelers Roaming is Dead. If you look at Google Fi you realize that roaming can be forgotten. Along with T-Mobile, Google and T-Mobile have pretty much removed the barrier in the USA for the global traveler to need to buy local SIM cards when they go abroad in most places, with SE Asia and the Caribbean being some exceptions. Services for the casual traveler from GigSky and a few others make global data fairly easy to buy and use on an as needed basis. If you're still paying roaming costs, its time to rethink your approach to mobile or get off the road.
Collaboration Apps Will Get Better and Smarter. For the most part conferencing and collaboration apps are all pretty much just horses of a different color. A few call you when your call starts. Other make the connection for you, over the broadband pipe or do the dialing in for you. Those are expected today, and a far cry from when Iotum first introduced those features before everyone else. Given how mobile devices are better at audio and video these days than laptops, expect some smart company to develop a Mobile first conferencing and collaboration service. One that has all the hooks into your data the way you are using things.
This could come from FaceBook with WorkPlace. Already Facebook Messenger lets you have multi-party calls and WhatsApp does the group messaging thing really well. WorkPlace could end up being the business users best place to call. What's more if the call file stays in the group thread it becomes easy to watch or listen to. Add in simple, easy to share functionality with the most used services - Google Drive, DropBox, Box, Microsoft's One Drive and even your own desktop and Facebook could take collaboration to whole new level.
Email becomes your receipt box. As we move to a more app based service economy, your receipts all come by email. But the message, service or product will be elsewhere. Someone will make it easy for all your receipts that come into your inbox to tie back to your accounting system, extracting the data, balancing the charge off against the credit card, bank account or ATM card. This will be like having Evernote made smart, but will work within your inbox. Every month you'll be able to see who you paid what for, all reconciled on when the service was delivered, paid for and by which payment method drawing from which bank. Accountants will love this as it will save hours of bookkeeping. You'll love it because your receipts will also all be in one place.
Lastly, I move my business from what it became the last few years, way too tactical, back into the more strategic realm of building programs and properties that last for companies.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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
- No calls before 7 AM based on the local time zone of where the plane is heading.
- No Call Rows-in the past we had smoking and no-smoking sections. Let's do the same with the phones in coach.
- 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.
- 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.