July 25, 2007

The Little Box That Can

In a post today Telco2.0 introduces to us France Telecom’s Livebox . After describing that box, the post goes on to suggest how one can use such a box to “become your own telco”. If you are a consumer, you can currently buy a box like Livebox with more features in the retail market. That is the purpose of this note. I will also extend some of the service concepts suggested in Telco 2.0. DISCLAIMER: I am an employee of ZTE and have worked on the strategy and feature development of this box for more than 2 years, even though currently I am not working on this product. So I do not know the current roadmap and what I say here is not to be construed as a suggested roadmap. I passionately believe in this product category and the service implications of such products.

My tag line for ZTE H110 was: “The little box that can.” The hardware platform provides multitude of interfaces and the software, built on Linux-derived OS, provides functions and features that take full advantage of the hardware platform. H110 is at once a Wi-Fi router, an unlocked ATA that can support two VoIP accounts with failover to PSTN, a mobile router that can connect to an EV-DO network with an appropriate EV-DO PC card and a file/print server. These are the basic capabilities. But there are many advanced features.

The box is not just an ATA; it behaves like a PBX. The two VoIP lines and the PSTN line will be used like “trunks”; the two FXS port and an optional Bluetooth phone will be used like “stations”. The stations can talk to each other as intercom. The route for outgoing calls can be selected based on static configuration or dynamic dial plan.

As a router, it supports multiple VPN/VLAN and facilitates QoS. As a Wi-Fi access point it can support upto four SSIDs, with each SSID potentially belonging to different VLANs. One use of this capability is to allocate an SSID for guests so that they can access the Internet, but at the same time isolate other devices in the home. Different VLANs can be given different priorities.

H110 has a master USB 2.0 port to which one can attach a printer or an external storage device. If a printer is connected, the printer can be shared with the PCs on the LAN. If an external storage device is attached then PCs on the LAN can retrieve contents from the storage device. As suggested by Telco 2.0’s post, the box can act like a gatekeeper of the contents in the storage device and allow access to authorized users in the WAN. This can be done in conjunction with a service provider or by the users themselves.

A consumer may not be ready to configure and operate a sophisticated box like this one. The box can be configured and managed remotely by a third party, they be service provider or a contracting agency. Hands-on consumers are assisted by a browser-based GUI.

Posted by aswath at July 25, 2007 07:27 PM
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