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Showing posts from August, 2007

Defanged Skype

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For all the fear Skype and other IM-based and peer to peer voice applications and services have created in the broader service provider industry, Skype seems to have crested. Skype still has lots of registered users, but they don't seem to be calling and using Skype chat as much as they used to.

Remember the concern municipal Wi-Fi networks raised just two years ago? Telcos and cable companies were worried muni Wi-Fi would cannibalize cable modem and Digital Subscriber Line services. And dare we even mention Vonage and other independent VoIP providers.

In fact, the only threat that really has materialized is cable companies. At least in North America, cable companies have emerged as the most serious threat to wireline voice and broadband Internet access revenue streams. Everything else essentially has remained a flea bite.

On the video and audio content side, remember the hackles BitTorrent and Kazaa raised? Now we have iTunes, Joost and a legal BitTorrent working with content owner…

Or Maybe Google Phone Looks Like This...

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Who knows? The point is that Google probably has to get involved with handsets at some point, just as Microsoft now has to supply phones, to get other things done. Google wants to stimulate mobile search so it can sell more contextual ads based on location. Microsoft wants to sell more unified communications applications. Each might have to play in the device arena as part of a broader effort to meet a business objective. Voice is just something people expect a mobile to do, even if the supplier objective really is revenues built on mobile search and advertising.

GooglePhone? GPhone?

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Since late 2006, there has been speculation that Google is prototyping a Google mobile phone, optimized to run Google apps, enable communications between Gtalk users and operate as a standard mobile phone as well. The speculation then was that a launch could occur in 2008.

The rumors are out again, suggesting a device that could sell in the $100 range, not to compete with the iPhone but rather low-cost PCs and other Web-capable devices. The device supposedly is powered by Linux, includes global positioning satellite capabilities, and of course will be optimzied to run Google Maps and other Google software.

Google is said to be showing the prototype to cell phone manufacturers and network operators as it continues to hone the technical specifications that will allow the phone to offer a better mobile Web browsing experience than current products, even the Wall Street Journal has reported.

Perhaps more surprisingly is the apparently-serious talk that Google might try an ad-support model. …

EarthLink San Francisco Network Now Toast

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EarthLink will not be providing free wireless Internet access throughout San Francisco. As promised, EarthLink is not proceeding with any new muncipal Wi-Fi networks when it has to pay the full cost of construction, as would have been the case in San Francisco.

Under the original deal, EarthLink would have invested $14 million to $17 million to build the network. EarthLink also expected to be able to charge $22 a month for a premium tier of service.

San Francisco officials probably will issue another proposal request. And EarthLink conceivably could get additional sponsors. But it's getting tough to make the numbers work when tethered broadband rates now are so affordable. In cities where muni Wi-Fi networks are in operation, or have been proposed, it isn't unusual to find tiers of service comparable to Wi-Fi available for $10 to $15 a month.

Also, as video becomes a more important part of the Internet experience, muni Wi-Fi networks just aren't going to be able to keep up.

No Bidders Left for Chicago Wi-Fi

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Chicago has failed to reach agreement with either at&t or EarthLink, each of which had proposed building a municipal Wi-Fi network for the city. Just a few years ago, backers were arguing a business case could be made for either ad-supported free service or for-fee service at rates of $20 a month. But that was before U.S. telephone companies got serious about broadband pricing and dropped access costs behow $20 for service very comparable to what muni Wi-Fi networks were supposed to offer.

at&t charges $20 a month for speeds of 1.5 megabits a second in Chicago and will provide connections half that fast for $10 to new subscribers. In other cities such as Houston, an 800 kbps connection can be purchased for about $15 a month.

In Lompoc, Calif., the city signed up fewer than 500 users out of a population of more than 40,000.

So it looks like we are nearing the end of the muni Wi-Fi craze. Though some networks, primarily for public safety and municipal operations, might still be v…

Ex-EarthLink Employee Site Created

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If you are an ex-EarthLink employee, or soon to be one, this new site has been created for you.

http://exlinkers.blogspot.com/

EarthLink Pays Houston Fine; Might Be Off the Hook

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EarthLink is paying the city of Houston a $5 million penalty fee for missing its first deadline in building the city's municipal Wi-Fi network. The payment might ultimately let EarthLink off the hook for the entire network build, though technically the payment buys about nine months to begin construction. The contract calls for complete construction time of two years.

Of course, EarthLink already has said it is no longer interested in continuing under the original contract terms, so unless the contract is renegotiated in some way, the network won't be built, at least not by EarthLink. It might not be the last fine EarthLink pays.

The city of Houston is also free to take proposals from other vendors during the nine-month period, and could award the contract to another company, observers say.

Considering that at&t offers Houston residents a $15 Digital Subscriber Line service running at 768 kilobits a second, it's hard to see how much share EarthLink might get for a serv…

Vista is a Damn Disaster

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From: Alec Saunders
Sent: August-29-07 9:54 AM
To: Steve Ballmer; Jeff Raikes; Steve Sinofsky

Subject: regarding Windows Vista

Steve, Jeff and Steve…

I am writing you both because I know you from my days at Microsoft from 1992 to 2001. And to put what I’m about to say in context, I have been a Windows PC user since Windows version 1.02, and my home is stuffed full of PC’s, networks and servers… all running Windows – XP, Vista, Home Server. I worked on the launches of MS-DOS 6, MS-DOS 6.2, Windows 3.1, WFW, NT 3.1, NT 3.51, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows CE, Windows 98 SE, and Windows ME before leaving the company. I’m a self-professed geek and will willing put up with a lot of pain in order to have the latest technology as well.

Now that you have the context for who I am, I want to tell you that I am seriously losing faith. My experience with Windows Vista has been a rank disaster. At this point, I believe it to be worse than Windows 98, which many consider to be the worst quality Wi…

EarthLink: Except for Helio, New Course Set

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Saying it has made no final decision about its Helio investment, EarthLink officials have made a few things clear. It simply won't proceed with municipal WiFi networks in Alexandria, Va.; San Francisco; Atlanta; Houston, St. Petersburg, Fla. and Arlington County, Va. unless the terms of those franchises are altered.

It will continue to operate or invest in the networks in Corpus Christi, Tex.; Philadelphia and Anaheim, Calif.

What EarthLink is looking for is risk sharing by other stakeholders, possibly including the municipal governments, chipmakers, network infrastructure vendors or other stakeholders who benefit from continued deployment of municipal WiFi networks. In other words, EarthLink simply won't build if it has to put up all the cash.

For those of you who wonder about the business case, EarthLink is voting with its own wallet: there isn't an adequate return when it has to build the network.

So far at least, EarthLink seems to have made no final decisions about its H…

What EarthLink Didn't Say...

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..in announcing a cut of 40 percent of its current workforce, a tactical move, was what it intends to do about a business strategy with no focus. And that was what EarthLink remains mum about. Helio and municipal Wi-Fi are bleeding cash; broadband is slowing and dial-up is dying.

One thing EarthLink did say is that gross subscriber additions will decelerate in 2008, in part because EarthLink will stop marketing to customer segments it believes likely to churn.

There's something else. The company expects fewer migrations from narrowband to broadband. Why? Because, industrywide, the pool of people using narrowband who want to upgrade to broadband is nearing exhaustion. And the number who see little value in owning and using PCs obviously won't be candidates for narrowband or broadband access.

We rapidly are approaching the point where the "problem" of broadband adoption is no longer a "problem" of access, but a problem of "demand." There just aren…

One Movie: You Blow Your Monthly Data Plan

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Something's gotta give here: Akamai has rolled out a high definition television delivery service, capable of delivering a two-hour feature-length movie encoded at a bit rate of at least 6-8 Mbps, with a resultant file size of 5 Gbytes to 8 GB. For those of you with some popular wireless broadband accounts, that's pretty much your "acceptable use" level of monthly consumption of data! And that's just your problem.

Assume the same bit of content were delivered to enough households to create one Nielsen ratings point. That's 1,102,000 households. Which means the delivery networks would require 6.6 Terabits per second of sustained bandwidth, assuming zero latency and zero network congestion!

I don't care who you are, your pipes are getting to be too small. Local area network bandwidth at enterprises is growing smartly, but consumer bandwidth won't be far behind, if in fact consumer bandwidth does not soon eclipse enterprise bandwidth in at least the downst…

Another Glitch: Not Vonage's Fault

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So here's a prediction: third quarter additons of a wide range of products ranging from cable modem to satellite TV to VoIP service will be lower than expected, or at the very least pushed towards the last month of the quarter, despite the normal lift provided by millions of college students returning to school. The reason? Not the economy, necessarily. Not a slowdown in new household formation. Not fewer college students returning to campuses.

Of all things, the slowdown will come from the perhaps unexpected shut down of a widely-used in-store-activation service supporting sales of Verizon, at&t, Comcast, Time Warner, Cox Communications, Time Warner, DirecTV, Clearwire, Covad, HughesNet and other major service provider retail sales efforts. Oh, and Vonage.

Boston-based GetConnected Inc., a maker of transaction processing platforms for broadband service providers,

abruptly closed its doors in mid-August, leaving Circuit City, Best Buy and Radio Shack without a way to do in-stor…

Sametime, Not Same Thing

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Watching Lotus Notes morph into something beyond email has been interesting. Rescued from irrelevance when IBM changed Notes into an open platform, Sametime now talks to Ajax, making Notes features compatible with all sorts of Web services and legacy telecom platforms as well (with the Siemens OpenScape deal).

That sets up an unexpected new round of combat in the collaboration space that Lotus lost to Microsoft Outlook some years ago. Only this time, the battle is centered around instant messaging, rather than email. Email is a key feature, to be sure. But IM is key, in part because presence features are getting to be so important.

So do companies in technology sometimes get a second chance? It would appear so. Look at Apple and Sametime.

Web 2.0 Corollary: Email as Content Context

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With IBM Launching Sametime and Microsoft getting ready for its OCS launch, we might note a corollary to the trend that has communications being embedded within the context of applications and content. One trend has communications (voice, video or audio conferencing, text messaging, instant messaging, email) being embedded within enterprise applications or portals.

At the same time, stand-alone communications tools such as email are morphing as well. Where today email is a stand-alone communications tool on the desktop, it seems to be pushing in a new direction. It seems to be becoming a tool to coordinate communications or content from RSS feeds, blogs, wikis, IMs, and voice.

Instead of using a document attachment, email might simply point a user to a link that displays a page, a document, a news feed, a site or client where a piece of information or content resides, rather than leading a user away from the message.

Zimbra, for example, pops up other information that embedded in a mess…

at&t, Verizon, Time Warner Telecom Top Ethernet Providers

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Two of the top three providers of U.S. retail business Ethernet services gained port share for mid-year 2007 as compared to year-end 2006 results, according to Vertical Systems Group. In addition, a formerly cable company affiliated contestant entered into the top tier for the first time. Time Warner Telecom, started as an affiliate of Time Warner Cable, has been spun out on its own.

At&t, Verizon Business and Time Warner Telecom are the top three U.S. retail business Ethernet services providers, as measured by ports in service, says Vertical Systems Group.

At&t, including the former BellSouth market share, holds the leading position with a 19.5 percent share of mid-2007 ports. Still, at&t’s share declined compared to the combined year-end 2006 shares for at&t (13.6 percent port share) and BellSouth (8.5 percent) separately.

Verizon Business is second overall with a 15.8 percent port share, up from 12.2 percent at year-end 2006. In third position is Time Warner Teleco…

New Yahoo! Mail Launches

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Yahoo! Mail has launched in the U.S. market. The updated former email client expands the Web mail service into a "social communication" tool, adding the ability to send text messages to cellphones directly from e-mail. The latest update also illustrates a trend: "communication" and "content" apps are blurring and blending. At the same time, communications are shifting, in part, into the context of social networking sites, where communications is a "background" feature always available, and where the current willingness and ability to communicate is known to each social network "buddy."

Yahoo! also has tweaked the interface to make it easier for people to go back and forth between email, instant messaging and text messaging, and to access content from inside the client itself.

The new service includes two real-time communication features that are the first of their kind from a leading Web mail service. These include the ability to send f…

100 Percent Mobile Penetration by 2013

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SNL Kagan now estimates that 84 percent of the U.S. population, including consumer, business and double users, will have mobile phones by the end of 2007. By 2013, penetration will be over 100 percent. It might not even take that long. U.K. mobile penetration is something like 116 percent already, according to Ofcom, and has broken 100 percent in a number of western European countries.

A First for Google Mobile Usage

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Google has seen a spike in usage of its mobile services since May, partly offsetting the traditional summer slump in computer-based Web surfing for the first time, says Marissa Mayer, Google VP.

Traffic to Google's maps, e-mail and mobile searches on mobile phones and wireless handheld devices rose 35 percent between May and June. That reversed the previous annual pattern in which both mobile phone and computer use declined, Mayer says.

Credit Apple's iPhone, at least in part. The iPhone launch apparently lead to a jump of 40 percent to 50 percent in use of Google Maps on mobile phones.

Mobile use remained high into August, even as overall traffic searches surged then fell in the summer months. The traffic traditionally drops by 20 percent to 40 percent between May and June, as computer users in the Northern Hemisphere go on vacation.

Mayer says the numbers suggest growing acceptance of mobile Web applications.

Overall growth in the usage of Google services has begun to pick up ag…

Unlocked Phones?

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Perhaps we will have to hope for Google to win the right to build a national wireless broadband network before we see unlocked phones on a wide scale. To this point, wireless carriers have argued they have to lock phones for several reasons, including some that are technical, but also to subsidize the handsets and control monthly recurring costs. Up to a point, that's reasonable.

But carriers could dispense with the objections some customers have to locked devices in a pretty simply way: create separate plans for unlocked phones. Sell the phones for full retail price and charge different prices for access. Warn users that some features might not work, or work in the same way, as they do on "locked" devices.

Carriers might just find out that most users don't care whether their phones are locked or not. Others will be passionate about using their own devices, and might not mind higher device prices or even higher monthly access fees.

Of course, one significant reason for…

GrandCentral Number Porting Affects 434

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GrandCentral has had a few number porting issues of its own. CEO Craig Walker says GrandCentral had issues with 434 customers whose numbers could not be seamlessly transitioned from one underlying supplier to another.

What happened is that a supplier of numbers and connections "sent us a notice that they’d be exiting certain markets and disconnecting some phone numbers in 30 days," says Walker. GrandCentral immediately began porting the numbers to a larger carrier partner. But 434 couldn't transparently be moved.

Those users had to be assigned new telephone numbers in the same area codes they already were using. Going forward, GrandCentral is emphasizing working with large, reliable providers committed to providing these services long term.

"Although this affected only 15 of the local areas where we offer services, out of nearly 8,000, we take this matter seriously and have done everything to make the disruptions as limited as possible," says Walker.

That is the wa…

Wells Fargo Outage Yesterday

Wells Fargo, the fifth-largest U.S. bank, had an outage of its own on Tuesday, taing down knocked the company's Internet, telephone, and ATM banking services for at least an hour and 40 minutes. Five nines? Not likely.

U.K. VoIP Provider Also Has Outage

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U.K. VoIP provider VoIP.co.uk had an outage of its own last Monday. Users could call other VoIP.co.uk users, but were unable to place or receive calls from users on the public telephone network. Service was out for the better part of a day.

Microsoft OCS Starts to Disrupt

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Microsoft's Office Communications Server 2007 is going to disrupt market share in today's business phone system market. It also is going to take share and rearrange markets in other areas you might not expect, such as the test and measurement space. Huh? Isn't voice quality testing, on both qualitative (subjective) and quantitative (mean opinion scores, for example) dimensions, something that specialized test and measurement firms do? Well, yes.

But Microsoft also is bringing to market its own "quality of experience" server that automatically tracks end user voice quality no matter where a call is placed--from inside the enteprise or at a hotel. No network test probes are required.

That's just one more example of how incumbents are finding their core businesses under threat of rearrangement from upstarts with deep pockets, strategic motivation, different visions and deep expertise in software and networking.

Microsoft OCS Managed Service for SMEs?

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Microsoft's Office Communications Server hasn't begun shipping in general release. But that hasn't stopped OCS from garnering significant mind share among enterprise information technology managers. Some recent surveys by the Gartner Group and Wainhouse Research show OCS in the top spot among unified communications providers, according to Gurdeep Singh Pall, Microsoft corporate VP.

Pall positions OCS as an alternative to private branch exchanges (business phone systems) in either the time division multiplex or Internet Protocol or hybrid flavors. But Pall also notes that OCS obviates the need for a PBX of any sort, though it interoperates with IP and TDM systems. That's one reason Microsoft is introducing a new line of desktop phones that work with OCS.

Less attention has been paid to the issue of how small and mid-sized enterprises will some day be able to use OCS. Warren Barkley, a principal group program manager at Microsoft, says a hosted service ulitmately will be m…

Linked In is Like Email; Facebook is Like IM

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I've never been a fan of LinkedIn (I'm not a "head hunter," and it undoubtedly is a useful tool for people who do that for a living). It might be a nice utility for updating contact information for a small subset of the people you actually know and communicate with. Beyond that I've never had occasion to use it.

Facebook seems like a better version of LinkedIn, though. I was able to get my son's new address when he went back to NYU without using LinkedIn. To be sure, the information wasn't pushed to me. I had to go view his Facebook page. But I got what I needed without emailing or calling.

So why is LinkedIn like email? It's a tool "older" people use for work. Why is Facebook like IM? It's a tool "younger" people (and increasing numbers of "not so young") use to keep up with other people they actually care about. In some important ways, IM also is a "richer" experience, as Facebook is.

Skype: The Ultimate Windows Externality

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"On Thursday, 16th August 2007, the Skype peer-to-peer network became unstable and suffered a critical disruption triggered by a massive restart of our users’ Windows-based computers across the globe within a very short time frame as they re-booted after receiving a routine set of patches through Windows Update," Skype says.

Not everybody buys that explanation. But, if true, it has to rank as the most massive, unexpected software interaction Windows ever has inadvertently caused.

The high number of restarts apparently caused a flood of log-in requests, which, combined with the lack of peer-to-peer network resources, prompted a chain reaction, Skype says. Some have argued that the outage proves peer-to-peer networks are inherently unstable.

It's hard to test that assertion since Skype uses a modified P2P architecture with a sign-in process that is more "client-server" and centralized than most other P2P networks.

Some think there was some sort of hacker attack, bu…

Is Wireless Cable's Achilles Heel?

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In the early 1990s, Comcast and other cable partners invested in an earlier version of "SpectrumCo," a business that would eventually become Sprint PCS, only to pull out later in the decade when the going got tough. Cablevision, for its part, also flirted with creating its own PCS network, but ultimately decided against it.

In 2005, Comcast, Time Warner Cable (TWC), Cox (COX), and Advance/Newhouse Communications banded together with Sprint Nextel to creat the "Pivot" service.

Sprint CEO Gary Forsee says that it took longer than expected to get Pivot off the ground and subscriber numbers haven't been released. That logically suggests uptake has been slow.

Recently, Sprint abruptly withdrew from SpectrumCo, the entity that in late 2006 snapped up $2.37 billion worth of licenses to wireless airwaves. The acquisition had spurred speculation that together, Sprint and cable companies were planning their own wireless network.

All of which might suggest wireless continue…

BitTorrent Throttled by Comcast

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Internet Service Providers don't like BitTorrent because it basically destroys their business model (flat rate access) and stresses the very part of their network most vulnerable to high usage (the upstream). Many ISPs simply limit the available bandwidth for BitTorrent traffic. Cable operators that now seem to include Comcast go a bit further and disupt the "seeding" process that allows BitTorrent peers to act as better upload nodes. In Canada, Cogeco and Rogers Cablesystems also "step on" BitTorrent traffic.

If P2P traffic keeps growing the way Cisco predicts, and if no changes are made in the dominant retail pricing model, throttling of P2P applications will happen on a wider scale. P2P attacks network capacity at its weakest link.

Cisco Predicts Exabyte Networks

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Cisco's recent forecast of global IP bandwidth consumption suggests a 37 percent cumulative average growth rate between 2006 and 2011, or about five times the 2006 level. That's aggressive, but you might expect that. You might even have expected the prediction that consumer usage will outstrip business usage, though business dominates at the moment. You wouldn't be surprised at all to learn that video will drive overall global usage.

You wouldn't necessarily be surprised to learn that Cisco forecasts at least 60 percent of all traffic will be commercial video delivered in the form of walled garden services. And a significant percentage of the remaining 40 percent of IP bandwidth will be consumed by IP-based video applications.

The next network, in other words, will be a video network that also carries voice and non-real-time data.

That would be a stunning change from the originally envisioned view of the Internet. But I think we have to recognize at this point that virt…

DHT Behind Skype Crash?

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Not that anybody really claims to know, but there's some thinking that the Skype outage was caused by some failure of the Distributed Hash Tables that Skype Supernodes apparently maintain. Some say "this is normally very slow and done over UDP," so restoration, even once the problem is identified, will take some time. So even as the ability to send instant messages and set up voice sessions is restored, other niceties, such as correct "presence" information, might take a little longer. The immediate problem, some say, is that if a Skype client cannot find a Supernode (and I am not a techie, but understand a DHT corruption would have something very serious to do with that sort of failure mode, then even if a client is authenticated by a central server, the user would not be able to get onto the Skype network.

All I know is that this failure mode would explain why I can communicate using text, and send audio, but my presence shows as "offline," when I a…

Skype Sorta, Kinda Up

Though my status shows "offline" to Rich Tehrani, my Skype client seems to be up, though sending incorrect status information. Not many contacts seem to be visible at the moment.

Skype Outage Not Over

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Skype initially said its outage is over, but that clearly is not the case everywhere, and we are nearing 24 hours since the log-in problem began. Now Skype warns that the outage is likely to continue through Friday. My U.S. log-in still hangs.

The service had been sporadic but gradually improving during the business day in Asia on Friday, some report.

"There are about 2.5 million people logged in right now, where normally there would be over 8 million, and it's been going on and off every 10 minutes," says Mark Main, senior analyst at Ovum in London.

You may draw your own conclusions about which other application or service providers might benefit, but urges to gloat should generally be suppressed. Nobody whose service uses IP and the public networks is safe from outages or service disruptions.

That's why businesses and networks have redundancy. People who scream and yell about losing their service have only themselves to blame if they didn't build some level of div…

Dark Skype

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Skype Ltd. early today blamed an unspecified "software problem" for an outage that might make the service unavailable for as long as 24 hours. At 9 a.m. EDT Skype said the outage might last 12 to 24 hours.

Most people are finding it impossible to dial out or open an instant message session with any of their contacts. A "Connecting" message just hangs.

Skype rarely goes offline. The last reported outage resulted in the service going dark for several hours in October 2005.

Fred Pitts Back in Service with TeleBlend

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It took 10 days, but TeleBlend customer Fred Pitts FINALLY is back in service.
"My first try to call home this morning continued with the "fast busy" signal; by midmorning, however, it was working," Pitts says. "So, while disappointed to have been without incoming service for such a length of time, I am thankful today that I am back up. I hope everyone else will be back in service soon as well."

A gracious comment, I'd say. At least some disgruntled SunRocket customers who picked TeleBlend as a replacement say they have churned to other providers such as Packet8 and Vonage.

A harrowing experience, to be sure. Perhaps it is only fair to note, though, that of the 60,000 transitioned customers, nearly all made the flash cut without much apparent disruption. Call it 99 percent. But one percent of 60,000 is still 600 customers, and it will be scant comfort to know that (hypothetically) 54,000 customers had no real issues.

That's the devil with mass marke…

And Cisco Goes Down, Also...

Cisco's main www.cisco.com page was offline at 11 a.m. Pacific Time on Aug. 8 and stayed offline for more than two and a half hours. It returned at about 1:45 p.m. The outage was an unintended byproduct of routine maintenance.

at&t EDGE Network Outage

See what we mean? AT&T Inc. acknowledged a brief outage of its EDGE network Tuesday, Aug. 14, which was blamed on routine router maintenance. The EDGE network was also down on July 2 for about six hours.

EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) is the wide area wireless network that services iPhones and many other devices, providing data service but also carrying voice traffic over the GSM protocol.

Voice Quality is Getting Worse: What Would You Expect?

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Those of use who grew up with one phone company got spoiled by the reliability and quality of its communications network (despite "customer service" so bad it became an oxymoron)," says technology journalist Mark Stephens, whose pen name is Robert X. Cringely. "Those of us trying to save a few bucks by piggy-backing voice services on the Internet are starting to get what we've paid for."

Skype itself now is experiencing an outage that might take 12 to 24 hours to fix (Aug. 16).

There's a larger trend at work here, and it happens in virtually all formerly highly-regulated businesses when deregulation and new technology hit. Remember when airlines were highly regulated, and could not compete on the basis of price? How did they compete? Amenities and other non-price differentiators. Of course, prices were high and not that many people flew.

Deregulation hits and all of a sudden price becomes a key competitive weapon. Of course, when people start paying lots …

HNS Launches SpaceWay Satellite

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Hughes Network Systems has successfully launched and deployed its new Spaceway satellite, expected to enable high-speed IP data networking across North America at rates of from 512 Kbps up to 16 Mbps upstream and as fast as 30 Mbps downstream. It is one of the largest telecommunications satellites ever built, and its design includes onboard dynamic multi-beam switching, which will deliver bandwidth-on-demand and direct site-to-site mesh networking.

In a small business application, Spaceway is expected to operate at about 2 Mbps in the upstream. It's a different sort of satellite, using on-board routers to control 780 downlink beams and 112 uplink beams aimed at U.S. market customers. Unlike earlier generations of satellites, Spaceway uses nothing but spot beams, allowing a high degree of frequency reuse. What that means is that a single Spaceway satellite offers capacity equivalent to eight to 10 conventional birds using a single beam with continental coverage.

Commercial operations…

DirecTV Adds Broadband Over Powerline

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DirecTV will wholesale broadband over powerline broadband access services from Current Group no later than the beginning of 2008. The move gives DirecTV the ability to create a triple play bundle of voice, video and high-speed data access in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, reaching 1.8 million homes and businesses over the next several years.

The move shows the necessity of providing a triple play offering in the mass market, whether one approaches that market from the legacy voice or legacy entertainment video business. Both DirecTV and EchoStar have been weighing their terrestrial options for some time, though both have marketing deals with the leading incumbent telephone companies as well.

DirecTV might have additional concern about those relationships since at&t bought BellSouth, which had been a DirecTV partner. It isn't clear yet whether EchoStar or DirecTV will continue to be at&t's partner in the future, but EchoStar's longer history with at&t (formerly SBC)…

Learning to Deal with Failure

Virgin Mobile, the only customer for BT Movio, will go dark at the start of next year. So will BT's Movio service, which provided the transport for Virgin and it was hoped, other mobile TV services.

Tier one carriers are going to have to get used to such failures, as that is the price of experimenting with new services for which demand is unproven. Fixed-Mobile Convergence services have not fared any better in western Europe of late.

That hasn't stopped researchers from predicting a robust market for mobile TV services.

Informa Telecoms and Media predicts that there will be 124.8 million broadcast mobile TV users worldwide by 2010, with an inflection point expected in 2009 as network rollout and device availability allow for the market to reach some level of critical mass.

for the next few years, the most advanced networks will be S-DMB and T-DMB services, dominating broadcast TV handset sales worldwide from its strongholds of South Korea and Japan.

By 2010, there will be 18.11 m…

Service Not Entirely Restored

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"Make it 10 (days without service), says TeleBlend customer Fred Potts. "Last Friday, Bill Fogg of Teleblend posted a reply after a comment I made on your blog. He sent an email follow up asking for a number where he could reach me. I sent my cell number and have sent follow up emails to him each day. The silence is deafening."

Free "In Community" SME Calling from Fonality Trixbox

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Trixbox Pro by Fonality Inc. is free software for enterprises with up to 20 employees that runs on any computer and nearly any phone, including IP and analog models, and providing IP PBX functions.

An Enterprise Edition upgrade for $9.99 per employee per month will provide some business features such as conference bridging, and a Call Center Edition costs $19.95 per call center agent per month.

TrixBox launches with TrixNet, a free in-network calling service to let any TrixBox Pro user call any other TrixBox Pro user, using their regular phone numbers, Lymon said. TrixNet will be extended in the near future to TrixBox Community Edition, a popular open-source software based on Asterisk.

The offering might make most sense for the reseller and value added reseller community, since it assumes some technical skills to deploy.

Resistance is Futile: IP PBX Has Killed TDM

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Forrester Research recently interviewed 516 landline voice decision-makers in North America and Europe and found that enterprises plan to increase budgets for IP telephony or IP PBX systems and services during 2007.

This is not surprising, nor shocking. It is getting hard to buy systems based on older platforms, just as it now is very hard to buy a new PC that doesn't have Vista loaded as the operating system.

New shipments of IPT outpaced those of traditional PBX systems three years ago, and the installed base of IPT lines is expected to outnumber traditional PBX lines within the next few years.

North American and European enterprises indicated that in five years most will have completed their migration to IPT. All of which continues to create a window of opportunity within which non-telco providers can sell hosted VoIP services into the consumer and smaller business markets without fear the telcos will massively convert to VoIP.

Someday, when they have lost enough share, telcos in…

TeleBlend Restores Service

Finally! TeleBlend has got service back up for customer Marc Kruskol, who I would say was one of the maddest TeleBlend or SunRocket customers I have heard from. Kruskil says his outage lasted from last Monday, August 6 until approximately 2:30pm PDT Aug. 14. The problem, I am pretty sure, has to do with termination partners in the Van Nuys area who either took some time to come to identify and strike business deals with TeleBlend, and then to get all the portability and software issues ironed out. Nice to hear that Kruskol now can use his VoIP service.

Yesterday, customer Fred O. Pitts reported that he still didn't have service. "I am now eight days and counting without incoming service." Pitts now says (Aug. 14) that his service still hasn't been restored. That's disappointing. Make it nine days.

Yoomba Hits 500,000 Users

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Yoomba Ltd. says it now has 500,000 uses since officially launching about a month ago.

Yoomba’s peer-to-peer application sits on top of every email network and turns any email address into a phone or instant messenger. Once Yoomba is activated buttons appear inside a user’s chosen email application, providing one-click access to talk to friends, family or colleagues around the world and on any network for free.

It works, though users may notice some slowdown of their email client. That, at least, is what seems to happen when Yoomba runs over Microsoft Office.

Free Phone For Reseller Partners

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All resellers who sign up for the Flat Planet Phone Company yearly $199 Reseller program will receive a free Cisco Linksys SPA942 phone and a $200 rebate on purchases of IP telephony equipment from VoIP Supply, says Moshe Maeir, Flat Planet Phone Company CEO.

FPPC offers resellers a brandable, SIP-based platform supporting hosted PBX service, voice mail and fax-to-email features, call recording, calling cards, disposable numbers, Iotum integration, local international phone numbers, reduced roaming expenses, virtual IVRs and click to call.

FPPC resellers are supported by an integrated rating and billing engine, customer self care portal capabilities and full customization of offered features.

Are Landlines Becoming a Giffen Good?

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Widespread use of VoIP tends to cause voice prices to fall. And classical economic theory would suggest that consumption of wireline calling should increase, as a result. In some cases that seems to be what happens. People call globally more often when the prices are lower.

But it just is possible,under some specific circumstances,for price declines to cause reduced consumption.

A Giffen good, for example, is an “inferior” good for which a rise in its price makes people buy even more of the product as its price rises. Conversely, there is less demand as price falls. To be sure, such Giffen goods are exceedingly rare. But one is tempted, when looking a mobile versus fixed line calling, to ask whether there are not some similarities.

Mobile calling now leads wired connections by a three-to-one margin globally and more people are shifting to "wireless only" calling. And though it is a loose analogy, perhaps we might think of mobile calling as a "superior" product and w…

Verizon FiOS Blows Away Competition

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A recent survey of ComputerWorld readers has Verizon's FiOS service topping the satisfaction rankings in virtually every measured category. Overall, 96 percent of FiOS customers rated the service "excellent" or "good." And though cable modem services scored better than Digital Subscriber Line overall, Comcast fared poorly as a provider. All that noted, and for all the grumbling one tends to see on blogs and discussion boards, about three quarters of the respondents think their services are "excellent" or "good." Upload speed remains the single biggest gripe.

GooglePack Adds StarOffice

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GooglePack has added Sun's Web-based productivity suite StarOffice. I don't see any icon for Google Docs & Spreadsheets in the Pack any more, so apparently Google has decided that the more robust StarOffice functionality warrants the switch. I suppose I would have to agree about that. If you are a heavy Microsoft Office user, StarOffice arguably will operate more along the lines of what you are used to, feature-wise. It's the small things, in many cases. The big thing is the presentation tool in StarOffice that wasn't part of Google Docs & Spreadsheets.

Microsoft Vs. Cisco

For an unfortunately old telecom sort of guy, it really is something to watch the coming battle Cisco and Microsoft will be waging over voice services. If you've been around long enough, it seems discomforting that the key battles are not to be waged between Nortel and Lucent, or Avaya and Nortel.

In fact, it also is discomfiting that the coming battle won't even really be about voice per se. Instead, everything now hinges on capabilities in the unified communications or collaboration areas. Communications requires dumb pipes of high quality, to be sure. Beyond that, most of the heavy lifting now can be done by the applications.

So in some genuine sense, the whole global telecom business is about dumb pipes. Not completely, but largely.

Still, voice and real time communications remain challenging disciplines, though that generally is under appreciated by most people.

Microsoft probably is going to discover that, as Cisco has.

T-Mobile Prepping FMC Service?

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T-Mobile, which has launched a dual-mode (GSM plus Wi-Fi) Hotspot@Home service, looks like it is getting ready to integrate landline service as well. T-Mobile is working with Linksys on a router that integrates home phone lines into the service along with providing VoIP service over cell phones, according to documents with the Federal Communications Commission.

In June, T-Mobile launched its Hotspot@Home service, which allows T-Mobile cell phone subscribers to transfer calls seamlessly between the T-Mobile cellular network and a Wi-Fi hot spot in the home.

My issue with the implementation is that it only supports two phones: the Samsung t409 and the Nokia 6086. So far, no tier one provider has found its dual-mode service very attractive to users when device limitations are that stringent.

The new router, not yet available but already bearing the model appellation WRTU54G, also has two slots that support two GSM SIM cards, allowing users to add up to two additional mobiles.

If T-Mobile wa…

Global Crossing Didn't Do It

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TeleBlend's VoIP network had an outage in late July and there was some confusion about why. Perhaps it was as simple as a temporary financial issue between trading partners. Global Crossing and Level 3 Communications, as major suppliers to SunRocket, likely got stuck with significant bad debt when SunRocket went dark. So you might understand why the providers might be worried about further bad debt exposure related to an account that had just gone south.

In all likelihood there was simply a period where a single payment got a bit delayed and at least one of the underlying carriers moved to protect themselves. We understand TeleBlend had been making incremental payments to the underlying carriers, obviously to limit their risk.

That's not to say there couldn't have been issues related to the SunRocket and TeleBlend back office processes. Under the circumstances, a late payment makes the most sense.

TeleBlend Quietly Provides SunRocket Service

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If you have been following the SunRocket transition story, you might not have wondered just how it was that SunRocket went dark July 16, but nearly all SunRocket customers were still able to call in and out and use voice mail until the SunRocket creditor hard stop of Aug. 5. As it turns out, TeleBlend has quietly been paying Global Crossing and Level 3 Communications, as well as some others, to maintain service to all former SunRocket customers while TeleBlend conducted its marketing activities.

And the only reason TeleBlend wanted to keep that quiet was to avoid its own customer backlash. How's that? Customers are mad at SunRocket. If they then learn they are getting service from TeleBlend, even if free, there's still the possibility of ill will when the lights finally do have to go out at SunRocket. So TeleBlend said nothing.

Where Have SunRocket Customers Gone?

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TeleBlend, the new provider formed to serve former SunRocket customers, says it has 60,000. CEO Bill Fogg says TeleBlend added 3,000 the week of Aug. 6 and 1,000 on Thursday, Aug. 9. Vonage says it has gotten about 20,000 and Packet8 says it also has gotten about 20,000, according to Huw Rees, 8x8 VP. That accounts for about half the former SunRocket base. And there may be significant movement this week and next. As it turns out, nearly all former SunRocket customers have quietly continued to get service that has been paid for by TeleBlend. So as service has gone completely and finally dark on Aug. 5, people who might have done nothing because they were still able to use their SunRocket service will have to do something else, for real.

SunRocket to Packet8 Transition: Why it is so Easy

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Most former SunRocket customers who have moved to Packet8 service have had their new service up and running within three days, says Huw Rees, 8x8 VP. So why is the Packet8 service faring better than TeleBlend, in terms of transition ease?

Serendipity, at least in part. Global Crossing and Level 3 Communications were the primary SunRocket transport providers, and Packet8 works with both of them as well. So when a former SunRocket customer wants to switch to Packet8 service, pretty much all it takes is the letter of authorization, about 24 to 48 hours to get the account re-pointed to Packet8 and away from SunRocket, and time to ship out a new analog terminal adapter.

That's not to minimize the face that 8x8 has had quite some years to get its back office and warehouse operations into place. It's just that having common transport providers in common with SunRocket has made the logistical process of "porting" accounts easier.

Consumer, Mobile Satellite Drive Growth for HNS

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Though its legacy enterprise networking business still generates the most revenue, consumer broadband access and mobile satellite provided the growth for Hughes Network Systems in the most recent quarter, says. Pradman Kaul,HNS CEO.

“The consumer, small and medium business and mobile satellite businesses continued to be the key contributors to our revenue growth,” says Kaul. Over 30,000 new broadband access subscribers were added in the second quarter of 2007, growing the HughesNet customer base to 353,000 at the end of June. That's year-over-year growth of 18 percent.

Revenue from our mobile satellite business showed strong growth of 88 percent
to $35 million in the second quarter of 2007 over the second quarter of 2006.

HNS does not report average revenue per unit for either its enterprise or consumer users. So you might not think 353,000 broadband access customers is a particularly big deal. But look at it this way. Assume that ARPU for a single enterprise customer site is $100 a…

Vonage Work-Arounds in Place

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Vonage has "substantially completed" the deployment of work-arounds for two of three VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) patents claimed by Verizon Communications. Though some litigation remains, the theory that patent infringement would kill Vonage does not presently look like it will match the facts.

Vonage began deploying the two work-arounds about July 1, the company says. The two work-arounds target most of Vonage's customers, with the third work-around covering wireless voice, Citron said.

Vonage also has completed development on the third work-around, Citron notes. The company consulted outside experts to ensure that the work-arounds do not violate Verizon's patents, he adds.

The patent hiccup will be just that: a hiccup. The strategic problem remains Vonage's positioning in a world where cable triple play offers have serious traction, more call volume is migrating to wireless or text modes, and communications are becoming part of enterprise, portal, entertai…