August 29, 2006

IS this for real?

If you visit AOL's TotalTalk site, you are told that AOL has decided to discontinue thier service as of November 30, 2006. But their other pages like sign-up page seem to be working normally. Since I have not heard of this news item previously, I can only surmise that their page has been hijacked.

PS: I omitted to mention the source because I couldn't locate it at that time and I was in a hurry to post it and improve my Smith rating. :-) Any way, I saw it in Alec's list of digged links, but he didn't comment on it.

Posted by aswath at 02:56 PM | Comments (2)

GTalk and Skype CAN Interop

Om points out an entry in GTalk's blog that suggests GTalk and Skype are exploring the possibility of interoperability between them. He questions whether it is even feasible and calls on me with an ego-boosting remark. How can I not respond?

The short answer is that it is eminently feasible for these two networks to interoperate. After all, Skype clients signal only through supernodes and these supernodes can route the signaling messages to an “XMPP signaling gateway” which translates Skype signaling messages to corresponding XMPP messages. Now it is possible that there may be a mismatch in procedures/messages related to some supplementary services; but I do not anticipate any for basic call setup and clearing. Since both of them use GIPS iSAC codec there will not be any issue regarding codec interoperability. Even though Skype uses encryption normally, (if I recall correctly) it does not encrypt calls to PSTN; similarly, it may decide not to encrypt calls to Gtalk. Thus, at least for calls involving simple setup and tear down, what is required is a straight forward signaling gateway between them.

I would think that exchanging text messages will be equally straight forward, at least for basic capabilities and exclude emoticons and avatars etc. But then again Gtalk does not support many of these “frills”.

Having said that, let me hasten to register once more my dismay at “click-to-call” programs, even though the current press release does not explicitly calls out. The general perception seems to be that pay per call will generate more revenue than pay per click, even though there is another general perception that voice is just an application in the Internet (as if it is not in PSTN). So if Google is planning to charge more for click-to-call links then that is “evil”, in as much as it can be easily circumvented.

Posted by aswath at 06:30 AM | Comments (2)

August 25, 2006

Thoughtless Actions

A few days back, there was a news item about a new restaurant in Mumbai, India calling itself Hitler’s Cross. The owner claimed it is just a tactics to differentiate itself. (It is not clear whether they serve only vegetarian food or not. It would have been ironic if they served meat as well.) I am not sure why he felt that people will be able to relax and enjoy with this background. What if he had named it Ravana’s Delight? At least he had some redeeming quality. In any event, after a couple of days of protests, the establishment is going to remake itself. India can maintain its historical record. What a relief.

Posted by aswath at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2006

Who will really make money in VoIP?

Om raises this question in a recent post with the same title. At one point it was fashionable to point out that VoIP is a product and not a service, even when the poster boy at that time was Vonage only to be replaced later by Skype. Vonage never pretended to be anything other than a service provider; Skype was giving away its product. I strongly believe that VoIP is a product alone. One requires two “services” for VoIP – directory service and NAT traversal service. A properly configured network does not require the latter and there is not much money to be made from the former. So there is not much money to be made from these two. Since the intelligence has moved to the edge anyway, there is no need for a provider for other services. Given that I am not surprised with Om’s observation that money is with the device manufacturers. But the difficulty is in convincing the investment community because they are still looking for ARPU based business models.

Posted by aswath at 11:37 AM | Comments (3)

August 14, 2006

One website can go a long way

Shailaja Neelakantan takes issue with the widespread acclaim bestowed on a village in India that has posted a website. She points out that this and many other villages may lack basic amenities to be connected to the Internet or for that matter basic amenities, period. Being a romantic that I am, I see only positives: the Sarpanch of the village Panchyat and three other Panches are women; the team behind the whole effort is a woman. India may have had a woman Prime Minister and quite a few strong political leaders; but it is noteworthy that this had permeated to the village level. But more importantly, they proudly proclaim that three religions peacefully coexist in this small village. Yes it could be a sunny day and it could very well be a propaganda. But the Internet Transparency would ensure either the village checks any tendency to deviate from social tolerance or they risk of losing the bragging rights. Now think of many other villages following the lead of Handsdehar.

Posted by aswath at 06:53 PM | Comments (1)

August 12, 2006

Omnipresent Andy

Have you noticed lately Andy is appearing everywhere, expounding his knowledge of communications technologies, not just VoIP. Recently he was the lead quote in a Washington Post story on the use of blogs as a PR tool; then he has a few video clips explaining VoIP security, Voice 2.0 and now one discussing Voice over Wi-Fi. Way to go Andy.

Posted by aswath at 11:49 AM | Comments (1)

August 07, 2006

My Rebuttal (?) to some Comments on Net Neutrality

This morning Tom Evslin posted his responses to comments/questions raised by Richard Bennett, one of his readers on the topic of Net Neutrality. According to Tom, Richard “often articulates the telco point of view on Internet Neutrality more coherently than most telcos”. In support of his belief that “we need an Internet which remains essentially neutral and application agnostic” Tom gives an elaborate response to Richard’s questions. In the following, I give my own reasoning that supports my claim that the market will ultimately prefer a neutral and application agnostic network.

My first evidence is the good old PSTN (even though Tom kind of dismisses it). I contend that for all its technological limitations, PSTN is a neutral and application agnostic. Otherwise, we would have been able to run data/fax modems. It is true that in many respects, the transport network was optimized to carry voice. This is true even when the transmission medium happens to be digital (what with robbed bit signaling and what not). Yes, the technology placed limits on the bandwidth (33 kbps symmetrical, if analog lines are involved at both the ends; 33/56 kbps if one end happens to be digital). But if the end-points conform to the transmission restrictions, the network infrastructure did not care the nature of application that generated the traffic. Even the tariff structure was not discriminative. Even though the network knew that a call is a data/fax call, the carriers were not allowed to charge extra, just because the application was different or was considered to be more valued. It was not for lack of trying; after all the carriers wanted to levy “modem tax” to compensate for long holding times observed for data calls. The public objected in unison and political force was used to squelch the idea.

The second evidence is the venerable America Online. Originally they thought that they were delivering content; so they partnered with content creators and pushed their body of work. When others provided generic access so that the users were free to access any corner of the Internet, slowly but surely AOL had to relent.

One can keep listing other examples. The bottom line is that Internet access is a Network Layer service and as such the service provider must concern itself only with that layer and also what is commonly accepted to be the functions of that layer, meaning a connectionless best-effort service. This does not mean flat-rate pricing with unlimited bandwidth consumption (if the market accepts, it could be a measured service); this does not mean that access providers are not allowed to offer application layer services (as long as these flows receive the same best-effort service as those from other providers).

Having made these points, I want to make a tentative proposal. I am willing to strike the following deal with an access provider: you are allowed to deploy as wide a pipe as you prefer, give preferential treatment (at the network layer) to the flows and charge the market rate for such preferential treatment. But this freedom comes with a big constraint: the best effort flows should get ALL the unused bandwidth. This way, if you are proven right that the market demands differentiated flows, you are rewarded; on the other hand, if, as I believe, the market prefers the best effort service, the users get to benefit from the extra bandwidth. I feel that a verifiable deal like that can be a solution to this debate. What do you think?

Posted by aswath at 09:11 PM | Comments (2)

Copyright © 2003-2009 Moca Educational Products.