Muni Broadband Still Mangled By Incumbents Political Clout

If you look at the US Telecom preemptive lawsuit against the FCC's Net Neutrality action taken this week and then look deep enough at what is being done in Tennessee you'll likely see the same players working behind the scenes to limit muni-broadband providers expansion out of governmental footprint.

The incumbents already have easements and rights of way, usually grandfather agreements dating back to the last century, where there was only one telephone provider, cable tv was a dream, not yet a reality. The cable guys had to fight, buy and struggle to get the same access, which they eventually did, and as more new communities sprung up, the cable guys got rights at the same time as the telco.

That was before others came along who wanted access. Now with success stories like the Chattanooga public gigabit broadband network that have proven models that can work elsewhere, state government wants to restrict their expansion efforts.  But really, do government leaders want to limit the growth, or are they simply following the requests of their political donors.

One doesn't need to be a genius to figure out that for the USA to be competitive there needs to be more competitive carriers, both public and private to deliver faster, better and more reliable competition for broadband.


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.

 


Citrix Wants To Be In the Phone Business with Convoi

Citrix, best known to many readers here for GoToMeeting and many other enterprise services is getting in the phone business. The are quietly inviting GoToMeeting users into a soft launch for Convoi and they are aiming it to be your second line on your mobile phone, but with features that are geared around business, all based on an Over The Top (OTT) approach.

Convoi

Key highlights include a second number, voice calls and text. Much like Line2, FLYP or the original pioneers in this space Truphone and TalkPlus (both at times Comunicano clients). What's interesting is that Citrix's Convoi is how they upfront are linking it to conference calling, something I'm waiting for Switch to do with their sister UberConference as a native service.

Convoi2

Will Convoi go where others before it haven't? Maybe. And that's because they have likely leveraged the Citrix network, lots of experience at building scalable technology, are adding WebRTC smarts from their free three party GoToMeeting service and just sheer marketing muscle.

 


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.


Marriott Says No More Blocking of Wi-Fi

Marriott Hotels has reversed its position on Wi-Fi and will no longer pursue their lobbying efforts with the FCC when it comes to blocking.

For travelers who use Mi-Fi's this is good news, but more importantly, it shows that Marriott is beginning to rethink their digital strategy, and are beginning to listen to the public and influencers. This may also mean that other member hotels who joined up with Marriott who are members of the American Hotel & Lodging Association will likely take the same perspective but continue to lobby the FCC for clarification. SKIFT has more on this.

Marriott faced lots of pressure from Google and Microsoft, who beyond being influential with their lobbyists in D.C. also have thousands of executives every day who travel and likely were having to also rethink where their executives were staying on the road.


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.

 


Hotels Still Want to Manage Wireless Access

Re/Code is reporting how Marriott and other hotel operators want FCC approval to be able to effectively block the use of mobile hotspots.

If the hotels provided reliable WiFi so work can get done, the need for mobile hotspots wouldn't be necessary. But they don't. What's more this is really a "wolf in sheep's clothing" move by the hotel industry to use Wi-Fi and in essence mobile networks as an excuse to justify how they are no longer making money on:

  1. Phone calls-people use their cell phones

  2. Movie rentals-iTunes, Amazon, Netflix, Hulu

  3. Room service Delivery-Grubhub, Delivery.com, Amazon Fresh

  4. Gift shop necessities-Amazon Fresh

So the mobile hotspot becomes the target of attack but really this is all about hotels wanting to maximize revenue beyond the "free WiFi."

The irony here is when the speeds at San Diego International Airport for Wi-Fi got really slow some years back the suggestion of the IT Director was to use a mobile hotspot. Hotels could do the same and actually reduce the level of customer support calls, dissatisfaction with WiFi and guests opting to stay elsewhere as reliable WiFi is the third most wanted feature by hotel guests.

Hotels, guests, mobile networks can also all be working together. For starters, hotels can rent access to mobile operators, install DAS systems and improve their in building coverage. They can also boost their WiFi, improve the quality of broadband coming to the property and give the guests a work like experience, even if the guest has to pay a fair price for it. To me, paying for reliable WiFi, or paying a higher rate for a room that includes it, is far better than paying less, and getting less, and that's something the hotel industry hasn't quite figured out yet, in their race for profits, at the sake of guest dissatisfaction.




(Don't) Leave Me a Message

Today a story broke about Coca Cola, one of the largest companies in the world, and was all about why they are turning off voicemail in their Atlanta HQ.  It made me think back to a call to my cellular company many years ago where I asked them to turn off my voice mail, and to take the cost of it off of my bill.

They couldn't. And they still can't. My point was I was using GrandCentral and I didn't need their Voicemail so I shouldn't be paying for a service I don't use or need.

But today, the point goes deeper, and is pretty much in line with the Bloomberg story. Not everyone really needs to be using voice mail. And to my point, if I'm not using the service, why should I pay for it.

For starters, almost all the people I deal with professionally are either able to reach me or provide answers to questions via some other messaging service, app, text or email, and most of them have been able to for more years than I care to remember.

Second, leaving me a long voice mail usually will only lead to a follow up. I'm not sure how many times a supplier's customer service team will leave a voicemail, but when they’re called back, you don't get the same person to speak to, and that in turn leads to a whole other issue. Lack of ownership of the problem and often the need to start all over again.

While I'm sure some in business still believe that voicemail is a solution, but for some businesspeople it's really more like voicejail.

Want to solve voice mail hell? Here are a few tips on how to do that:

1. Leave an outbound message saying "Hi, thanks for calling. I don't listen to voicemail, reach me another way."  

2.Use the call forwarding/busy, no answer code function for your carrier and forward it to a number that you set up somewhere with a third party provider, without voice mail. The call will just ring, and ring, and ring. That means instead of leaving you a message they have to call back.

3. Let your voice mailbox fill up, and never erase any messages.