August 23, 2007

VoIP Supply - a Fast Growing Company

Fellow blogger Garrett Smith sent a note to me this morning to inform me that his company VoIP Supply was named to the 2007 Inc 500 list of fastest-growing companies in America and was ranked the No. 359 based on a three year growth rate of 783%. If you do not know of them, they are a reputable place to acquire products like ATAs, IP phones etc. When I was working on an advanced ATA, I tried very hard to place my product with them. Good show, Garrett.

Posted by aswath at 01:58 PM | Comments (0)

August 20, 2007

Lifetime Guarantee

When I first came to the country one of the first jokes I heard was about lifetime guarantee - yes it is guaranteed to wok for its lifetime. Om informs us that GrandCentral/Google have found reasons to change some of the "numbers for life" they have assigned to their customers. Of course such a possibility was suggested more than a month back. Normally this will not require a post of its own, but Om has closed the comments section on his post.

Posted by aswath at 07:26 AM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2007

Same Question, Different Meaning

Remember, Stuart Henshall used to ask "What is your Skype strategy?" It looks like that question still stands, except today it is for those who thought they had affirmatively answered that question. :-)

Posted by aswath at 02:50 PM | Comments (0)

Obligatory Post on Skype OutAGE

I am sure you have heard by now that Skype is out of service for more than 24 hours now. If you didn’t, then I suppose it is not of consequence for you. The speculation on the cause is all over the spectrum, but with no assurance on the accuracy. Of course, Skype being a Web 2.0 company has a blog where they mention the outage but offer no further explanation. For whatever reason I have the following imagery come to mind: The manufacturer of Tylenol pulling out the whole supply chain after poison tinged tablets were found in one town; the CEO of Union Carbide flying to India after Bhopal disaster; Bob Allen, then CEO of AT&T explaining the SS7 shutdown (nervously playing with a paper clip for added dramatic effect). I assume that any meaningful explanation of the outage will give further information on their internal architecture. Hence the conspicuous silence.

I think Skype and SkypeOut customers can easily and quickly find alternate means of communication. But SkypeIn customers have no such option. That is why I feel that Skype could have allowed their customers to forward SkypeIn calls to an alternate destination as identified by the user.

For those who are not commercially associated with Skype this should be a wake up call. It is foolhardy to depend on only one form of communication. This includes all those who want to throw out PSTN, just because it is not stupid enough. We should be greedy when it comes to different modes of communication.

Posted by aswath at 11:34 AM | Comments (6)

August 15, 2007

What We Need are Better Phones

In a recent post, Martyn Davies refers to a survey published by Aricent that claims 60% of the surveyed prefer to use their mobile handset instead of the landline because the former has a built-in address book. Indeed, Aricent states that “the address book remains the primary 'killer application' on a mobile phone.” The same study also found out that “almost half (46%) are making PC-to-PC calls, while approximately a third (36%) are making PC-to-phone calls.” They do not state whether it is because of potential cost savings or because of the convenience of integrated address book and Presence information. We shouldn’t draw too much from this study because it is conducted by a company that has vested interest in next-generation services and the fact that the survey was conducted in NXTcomm with 110 people participating in it. Nonetheless, I am using it to support my thesis that what is required in a more functional telephone set or integration of PC and phone (not necessarily CTI, where the integration took place in a central entity) and not VoIP per se. For starters, how about a diminutive “iPhone” with DECT cordless phone for home use? Or a PC software that allows me to dial through the modem port but use a bridged telephone for talking? But the easy money is there if you come up with a lame call back service or some such server based solutions. We shouldn’t forget that even in PSTN, the intelligence can be put at the end.

Posted by aswath at 04:22 PM | Comments (1)

A Landmark Day

60 years today, India won its Independence using a novel technique devised and perfected by Gandhiji that is well suited for either side in the struggle. During these years, this, at once an ancient civilization and a new Nation has gone through many testing times. Through it all it continues to “discover herself”. In a fitting tribute, today’s New York Times tells us about a refreshing reform taking place in schools. Instead of continuing the tradition of training Macaulay’s army of civil servants, it seems the schools are “emphasizing critical thinking, signaling a major shift in pedagogy.” It is only a matter of time before we reach the levels of Nalanda in discourse and debate. Ms. Malik [the educator] is quoted as saying she could glean what she called “a new thrust” in education. “This book announces India’s arrival,” she said. “I feel good teaching it.” God bless India.

A small team of us who are developing a web application were hoping to release it to coincide with this landmark day, But alas, given the vagaries of software development, we could not. But someday soon …

Posted by aswath at 04:06 AM | Comments (0)

August 09, 2007

An Inefficient Implementation of SIP

While commenting on Om’s post on Ooma devices going on sale soon, Markus Goebel chides that “the land of the free” passively accepts locked ATAs. He contrasts this to Germany where one can get generally available Fritz!Box and register with up to 10 different providers. He goes on to say that with proper dial plan one can always select the appropriate provider that give very low rate, if not free to terminate the call to any given number. In this post I suggest that there is no need use registration procedure to initiate calls.

In PSTN world, a call has to go through the originator’s service provider. Even in the IP world, email clients forward an outgoing message to its server. Most of the SIP implementations follow this model. But this need not be. For example, normally, the browser contacts the server directly; only rarely the browser’s request is proxied. Similarly, a SIP client can directly contact the called’s Proxy without going through its Registrar and Proxy. It is likely that the far-end Proxy may charge a fee to terminate the call, for example if the far-end is a PSTN end-point. In that case the charges can be settled in one of many ways, like a calling card. Granted that Registrar and Proxy are needed to handle/filter incoming calls; but they are superfluous for outgoing call. Hence the ability of an ATA to register with a large number of providers is overrated. Just to reiterate, a VoIP service provider is needed only to receive incoming calls; one does not need to register with a service provider to originate calls. This is one of the fundamental differences between PSTN and VoIP. But unfortunately it is not widely mentioned, not even by self proclaimed advocates of VoIP.

Posted by aswath at 10:13 PM | Comments (5)

August 02, 2007

Ooma Nuggets via Pogue

I forgot to mention in the previous post that David Pogue informs us that the price of an Ooma Hub will increase to $600 next year. So if you are hesitating about getting this one, you know what to do.

Another new piece of information he mentions is that, "If you cancel your home phone service entirely, Ooma still works, but you’ll be issued a new phone number by Ooma." To continue my point from the previous post, Ooma is also hoping to derive some revenue from the access charges.

Posted by aswath at 02:30 PM | Comments (0)

Unnecessary VoIP Peering

In today’s New York Times, David Pogue reviews different Internet calling plans and states as a matter of fact that none of them offer “free” calling to all PSTN numbers, though some may offer to a restricted set of destinations. As an elaboration of this statement, Tom Evslin explains that the access charge levied by different PSTN administrations is the root cause of this evil. He further states that, “If we all start using our Internet access lines instead of our phone lines for our voice communication, the access charge issue should disappear.” He cautions though that there are two “buts”. This note analyzes the two “buts”.

Tom cautions us that the telcos “would dearly like to get those who access you over your Internet connection to pay them”. It is in their nature. Yes, in many parts of the world wireless carriers are given a higher share of the access charges. But the telcos could not charge more for terminating a data/fax calls, even though they can clearly identify whether a call is data/fax call or just a voice call. Also, at that time the data/fax call was perceived to be of higher value. So I don’t think it is possible. What is more it is not feasible. I think the two end-points can camouflage the flow to be embedded sound in a web page, deep packet inspection notwithstanding.

Tom also admonishes the VoIP industry to come up with ways to peer in the IP domain rather than peering in the PSTN domain, thereby being stuck in the access charge mud. Here I have to disagree with Tom, even though he has more inside information than I have. I am of the opinion that VoIP providers like this access charge scheme just as much as the telcos. After all it is part of their business plan – otherwise they can not be so generous with the “virtual numbers”. They are also hoping that the network effect will keep their subscribers in the fold. So I do not hold out hope that VoIP service providers will see much need in VoIP peering. But not all is lost.

During the late Nineties I used to take advantage of AT&T Worldnet’s unlimited access plan (Tom’s master stroke, I might add) and will keep my computer connected all the time. My buddies in India will IM me via Yahoo! Messenger to get my IP address (which will be a public IP address) and then call me via NetMeeting and we used to have voice conversation. (Y! didn’t have voice capability then.) Those days we were not savvy enough to have our own “directory Service” and we depended on Y! for that. Now I know that that dependence is not needed either. NAT Traversal problem has been sufficiently solved for it not to be a hindrance. So I ask why we need VoIP providers in the first place. Shouldn’t we be focused on the end devices?

Posted by aswath at 01:06 PM | Comments (0)

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