The VoIP Service Blog

Compare and review IP Telephony & VoIP providers. News on the latest technology, from mobile Internet to IPTV.

TalkPlus unveils virtual phone number service

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The VoIP blog scene virtually exploded yesterday with news about TalkPlus and its virtual phone number offering. (Which is ironic, because it's not even a VoIP service. Anyways...) The sources are too numerous to list, but I'll point to Tom and Ken since I read it on their blogs first and their articles are the most detailed.

What is TalkPlus?
The way I understand it, when you sign up with TalkPlus, you'll be able to choose one or more virtual phone number that will point to your mobile phone. A virtual number can be local to any location, so for example, if your primary number has a New York area code, you can pick a virtual number in India that lets your relatives or business partners save money compared to making a long-distance call. You can also make calls from your phone and have the virtual number appear on the receiver's CallerID.

Then you have a management center that lets you customize your call-screening, blacklist/whitelist, privacy, contact, and voicemail options. Essentially your mobile phone now has "multiple personalities". You can have an office number that goes directly to voicemail after 5pm which you only give to your work contacts. And you have a general phone number which you give to your family and friends. Use another phone number when you fill out applications and let the telemarketers always go to voicemail. You can find many uses, even making prank calls, but the first major market TalkPlus plans to service is the online dating community.

Virtual phone numbers provide an added layer of privacy and security for anyone who dates random strangers, whether they meet them at a bar or through a dating service. TalkPlus has recognized that need and has partnered with a yet-to-be-named online dating service. Theoretically, you could have a different virtual number for each dating partner. The service has not yet been spelled out, but should cost roughly $10 monthly.

How does it work?
I mentioned earlier that TalkPlus isn't a VoIP provider. Though they use a data connection to setup calls using the virtual number, the voice part of the call still travels over the standard voice connection, never over the Internet, meaning it will be the same quality as a normal call. It also means that the E911 service will function just fine. It runs from a Java application and works with any WAP enabled phone, which is nearly all phones these days. Hopefully it will be as seamless to use as possible.

Be on the lookout for this Voice 2.0 company to make some big waves.

Skype Mobile Status Update

Monday, October 30, 2006

Jim Courtney provides us with his thorough analysis of the current state of Skype on mobile devices. Here are his criteria for evaluating the overall user experience:
As a guideline for user simplicity, I look for an experience where I can (i) easily "ping" a contact and enter text for a chat session and (ii) simply access a (Skype) Contact or dial a number to make a voice call - an experience that has a minimal installation and learning curve for the user public; an experience that will readily gain broad market acceptance.
So if you're wondering which device provides the best overall Skype experience, Jim has ranked them in the following order:
  1. Sony Mylo
  2. Dell Axim X50v
  3. Nokia N-series
  4. Blackberry™
  5. SMC Skype WiFi
However, each device does have its faults. For instance, the Mylo has no cellular phone capability. Skype on the Axim has a different volume than a regular call. Since the Nokia phones didn't have QWERTY keyboards, text chatting was made more cumbersome. The Blackberry™ requires Skype to be running on a host PC, and the Skype WiFi phones don't support text instant messaging.

Yet the technology is still young. One possible reason for this lack of development is that making low-cost or free calls with Skype doesn't interest mobile phone manufacturers enough to build proper support for it. One way to change their minds is for enough consumers to demand it from their cellular carriers, which run the racket on the features included on the phones. Another way would be for Skype itself to throw tons of money behind the development efforts of the phone manufacturers, although admittedly that cannot compare to the power of the telecoms.

Still, the future looks bright:
Skype France Managing Director JéromeArchambeaud recently revealed in a French videocast panel discussion that Skype and Nokia will introduce a WiFi-enabled GSM phone before year end.
If you haven't already done so, go read Jim's article for all the details.

Mobile Video: the next Big Thing?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Opinions differ on the usefulness of having the ability to see a high-quality live video of the person you're talking to on your mobile phone. While I doubt that everyone in the future will always opt to make video calls, I am convinced that it will be used in certain situations, and that it will be a Big Thing.

Ken Camp sums it up pretty well:

We carry the tools we know we need for planned life events. Today is my grandson’s birthday and we’re going to have a party. I’ll have my Nikon, my video camera and my laptop with webcam because this is a scheduled life event. It’s planned. Unscheduled life events need tools that support impromtu response.

A baby’s first steps, the sheer joy
An auto accident and the trauma involved
An award at school and the radiant face of a child
The surprise business meeting, just because we can.
The victory dance of a child after a soccer goal, touchdown or homerun.
The reporter on the scene and a hurricane, earthquake, fire, or other event.
I think that list is endless.

Peter Csathy, CEO of SightSpeed, has other good uses in mind:

Imagine shopping at the grocery store and not being sure of a particular product to buy. Rather than bring home the wrong one (which I frequently do) or try to describe it to my wife as I meander around the store's aisles, how about simply video calling her from my mobile phone and "showing" her the choices on the shelf and particular items (thereby confirming, much more efficiently than via simple verbal descriptions, whether I have selected the "right" product).

And, think of the SMB user -- let's say, a real estate agent -- he or she could better serve his or her clients by conducting a live video "tour" of a property with his or her mobile device (so that the client need not visit every property).

Mobile video-enabled commerce is another exciting new possibility in this "see what I'm seeing" bucket of potential uses (I can show folks interested in my used car via a mobile video call precisely what the exterior and interior of my car looks like before they drive out to visit me and close the deal)
In addition, the current uses for static webcams will surely be extended to mobile video calls, including relatives getting together over long distances and lovestruck teenagers who want to feel as close to each other as allowable. Let's just see how Big this gets.

VoIP service trends: Packet8 & SunRocket

Let's have a look at search result trends for a couple of the players in the VoIP service market:
Interestingly, it seems SunRocket's popularity is continuously rising, while Packet8 looks like its popularity has peaked and is now slowly fading away. I wonder how this trend analysis compares to the trend in the actual number of subscribers for each company. I was surprised to see this result, as Packet8 seems to stand out a little more in the VoIP space, but at the same time, SunRocket's reputation is not too shabby either.

If interested, The VoIP Girl has highlighted these two companies in the past.

Disclosure: The VoIP Service Blog is an affiliate of both Packet8 and SunRocket.

The block Skype hype

Friday, October 27, 2006

Skype has made a lot of enemies with its proprietary voice protocol. At VoIP Planet, a new article quotes:
"Skype traffic will traverse your NAT or firewall," Montgomery pointed out, "and if you're a good IT security professional, you don't want anything doing that if you can't see what it is, when it is, and who it is. So there's a perceived risk." And since Skype is encrypted, IT departments cannot see 'what it is.'

"We don't really think that it creates a security hole in the sense that it can let other malicious traffic onto the network," Montgomery clarified, "but what our customers have told us is that they just don't know. They don't know if it's secure or not, because it's encrypted."

The other issue—policy compliance—can be either a specific legal issue or merely a corporate IT concern. Many businesses and governmental agencies are required by law to log, archive, and produce reports on all electronic messages. Since, again, Skype is strongly encrypted—essentially undecipherable—there's no way that conversations or message threads carried on using it can be compliant with such regulation.

In the news, we've heard about the controversy at San Jose State University when they blocked Skype. China, UAE, and Jordan have also made headlines by tinkering with Skype blockers. More companies and governments could soon follow as the availability of Skype blocking products increases.

The VoIP Planet article introduced Akonix Systems' L7 Skype Manager as the latest entry into the market of Skype blocking applications. It won't come cheap though, as the suggested price for under 1,000 users is $3,500 and a system supporting up to 10,000 users will cost $5,000. If this isn't right for your organization, you may want to look into some alternatives.

Alternative methods for blocking Skype
  1. NetSpective from Verso Technologies - Can be configured to block over 20 P2P and Instant Messaging programs, including Skype. NetSpective is available in enterprise and carrier versions. Verso has supplied China Telecom with their carrier class of NetSpective.
  2. Packeteer's PacketShaper - detects Skype and other P2P traffic and allows the administrator to apply Quality of Service regulations or block it completely.
  3. SonicWall's Unified Threat Management appliances - SonicWall has a PDF presentation on how to block Skype with their hardware, or you can read the HTML version in the Google cache.
  4. Fortigate from Fortinet - capable of blocking Skype and other P2P applications.
  5. Check Point's InterSpect - Using InterSpect with Check Point's SmartDefense system can identify and block P2P applications including Skype.
  6. Cisco equipment running IOS version 12.4 (4) T - This is the "free" option, providing that your network already uses a Cisco product with this IOS version. See Cisco Tips & Tricks for the instructions.
Skype has been previously described as "unblockable" due to its P2P nature and its use of supernodes that defy older methods of preventing traffic. Now that several vendors have come out with effective means of blocking Skype, it's now Skype's turn to evolve to the next level. The cat and mouse game continues.

(Thanks Tom for your great resource.)

VoIP opens up new opportunities

The Gazette brings us this piece featuring the Tutors Without Limits program:
New and better Internet telephone technology has helped mathematics teacher Anita Grovilkar make an extra $10 to $25 an hour after school, tutoring K-12 students in the United States without leaving her home in Ahmedabad, India.

Her extra earnings may not have been possible last year, say telecommunications experts, who see the technology improvements fueling a worldwide explosion in Internet phone use.

Although voice over Internet protocol has been available for years, VoIP is now catching on small and large businesses alike, as voice quality and reliability improve.

And following close on the heels of these VoIP improvements comes the next big thing: a video version called telepresence, which proponents say will transform video conferencing for business.

Grovilkar and several thousand other Indian and Pakistani teachers recently signed up with Tutors Without Limits of Potomac. Founder Glynn Willett said that without improved VoIP quality that occurred just this summer, his service would not have been possible on such a scale. Willett offers tutoring services to students all over the globe now, using eBay’s Skype VoIP system.
The article continues to describe how VoIP and telepresence will replace traditional phones and dedicated video conference lines, with prices steadily dropping into the forseeable future.

Here's hoping the Tutors Without Limits program will be a success and become a catalyst for more innovative thinking.

Have a little fun with your VoIP!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Gadget Trail has listed The Top 10 Ways To Use VoIP That You Probably Didn’t Think About and they made me smile. You'll need Asterisk for some of the best ones, like routing telemarketers into the Telemarketer Torture system and Caller ID Spoofing, but others can be handled with a standard SIP client or Skype.

Worth checking out.

IBM & 3Com's new single server solution for IP telephony

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

According to Computer Weekly:
"You can'’t help but recognise the benefit of running your entire business and your IP telephony simultaneously on a single system," said Mark Shearer, general manager of IBM System i.
And I couldn't disagree more. While correct that a small business could save on the initial cost of server hardware, Mark fails to mention the downsides of hosting multiple server applications on a single server.

Server administrators have a general rule, which is this: Each function you add to your server increases the probability of something going wrong.

Lets say that "your entire business" includes, for example, an e-mail server. If it all of a sudden get hit with a flood of spam, or a virus manages to infect the system, or it otherwise malfunctions, it could slow the server down to a crawl, or crash it altogether. Guess what happens then? Since the IP telephony system is on the same server, your office now no longer has access to their telephones until the problem can be fixed!

How many important incoming calls would you miss in such a scenario? How much money is that worth to the company? Is it more than the cost you "saved" by not buying another server?

The server admin rule can be reworded as such: Keep separate functions on separate servers. Tell IBM and 3Com thanks, but no thanks.

Note: If you truly can't afford to purchase a server, then at least use VMware to create separate virtual machines on your existing server, one VM per function.

VoIP: A cheap way to stay in touch

The VoIP Weblog has a touching article on how VoIP strenghtens family bonds, even for those on a budget.

From first-hand experience, I can vouch for the unmatchable satisfaction of hearing the voices of friends and family while living on campus as well as staying in touch from overseas. It feels great talking to them, but even when the call is over, it feels good to know that by using a VoIP service, you've saved a few extra bucks in your wallet.

Bloggers claim victory in Jordan Skype decision

Monday, October 23, 2006

I had posted previously on Jordan resolving "security issues" with Skype, thus allowing use of the VoIP service to resume after a month-long ban.

Apparently some confusion arose after an article was published in Jordan's The Star newspaper, causing bloggers and their readers to believe that Skype had been banned again.

However, the columnist who wrote The Star article, Zeid Nasser, confirmed that the Skype service had indeed been restored. The Jordanian blogger claims the decision had less to do with security than it did with public pressure:
Well, it seems the pressure from bloggers, journalists and various IT-activists has caused the Telecommunications Regulation Committee (TRC) to unblock Sykpe!

This has got to be one of the few cases of a governmental organization in Jordan reversing its decision due to civil pressures.
Comments on Zeid's blog showed skepticism towards both his version of events as well as the official explanation.

But hey, blogging didn't hurt did it? Maybe it could help UAE get its VoIP back too?

Publish your own VoIP provider reviews!

Have you written a review on a VoIP service provider that you'd like to share?

I'll either post it in full on this website or provide a link to your published article, whichever you prefer.

All posted submissions will be credited with your name or pseudonym.

Just send your reviews through the comments section or by e-mail to voip_telephony [at] yahoo [dot] com.

I'm looking forward to your great reviews!

Sangoma certified for VoIP work in Malaysia

Sangoma Technologies, a Toronto based hardware provider of WAN and voice infrastructure, has received the necessary certifications allowing it to sell its Advanced Flexible Technology (AFT) series of T1/E1 PCI cards in Malaysia.

The AFT PCI cards are compatible with all motherboards and are designed to connect your WAN to a soft PBX such as the open-source Asterisk. The PBX can then be used to provide high-quality VoIP service, as well as connections to landlines, mobiles, and internal PBX extensions.

With this clearance to sell its product in Malaysia, Sangoma plans to work with local partners to strengthen its market position.

Source: News Blaze - VoIP

Find Sangoma PCI Cards at VoIP Supply - the leading online retailer of Voice over IP hardware and software components.

D-Link, Boston advance the wireless revolution

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Asterisk VoIP News reports on Boston's pilot program to deploy a municipal WiFi network.

Asterisk also relays an announcement that D-Link has launched a new WiMAX router:
According to D-Link, the router is an ideal, cost-effective alternative for delivering a fast and secure broadband connection to consumers who are not reachable by DSL or Cable broadband services. The router is easy to install, provides coverage for an entire home, and can be managed from a service provider's central office.
Great news for people in rural communities who have been left frustrated without broadband options -- great news for ISPs because they get to charge more money for high speed services. Win-win.

Great news for VoIP providers and the SIP community as well. Widespread mobile VoIP service can't be very far behind...

Does anyone care about Net Neutrality?

Russell Shaw, a self-professed student of human behavior, suggests that the reason IT professionals don't care about Net Neutrality is because they simply don't have the time to think about it.

He is, however, only responding to a subset of attendees at a trade show, who may be more overworked than other techies, and therefore less able to worry about the consequences of a change in Internet governing policies. Depending on your view, these policies may expedite or delay the widespread deployment of affordable broadband services, which would facilitate the adoption of such things as mobile VoIP and mobile video conferencing.

On the other hand, the coalition has only managed to gather 1.1 million signatures to date. I'd say that's a pretty low number when compared to the amount of technically inclined citizens there are in the U.S. That would mean that those who haven't yet signed (a) don't care, (b) are against Net Neutrality, or (c) like me, care about the issue but don't agree with either extreme approach.

I'd like to see a middle-of-the-road plan to address this issue. Then again, would anyone care?

My Handheld Holy Grail

Friday, October 20, 2006

VoIP Now asks what the ultimate in electronic gadgets would be, and I already have my answer prepared. In my head, I've designed and re-designed this device, waiting for the technology to mature before my precious is ready to come into existence. I don't want to carry more than one device, and I don't want to leave any at home either. I want the culmination of all current gadget combinations -- the Super-Gadget-Xtreme™ if you will.

The operating system doesn't matter much, as long as it's open for some hacking around and creating new programs. At launch, all the following features should be available:

  • Plays all open media formats and Internet radio (FM optional)
  • Outputs to headphones, built-in speakers, or even external 7.1 surround-sound speakers if so desired
  • Built-in microphone
  • 4" screen with at least 1024x640 pixels
  • Standardized video output for hooking up to a bigger screen
  • Minimum of 3 megapixel camera
  • Should be able to handle graphics as well as a PlayStation Portable
  • Buttons should be in strategic places, like the PSP
  • Office-like applications
  • E-book readers
  • E-mail client
  • Web browser
  • VoIP programs
  • Instant messaging
  • Cellular phone capability (if that's still needed by then)
Other Goodies
  • Speech recognition and Text-to-Speech
  • GPS maps, driving directions, and business search
  • Fold-up or slide-in mini QWERTY keyboard
  • Battery life lasting at least 24 hours when idle, 10 hours when using voice and low graphics activity, and 5 hours when gaming and watching videos
  • At least 16GB flash memory
  • USB and Firewire output
  • USB input (maybe for one of those laptop lights, or just downloading files from a memory stick)
  • Wireless (bluetooth or otherwise) interface for keyboard, headset, and other functions
I'd better stop now. Christmas is still months away and I won't be getting anything near this cool (or uncool, whichever you prefer).

The real question is this: when I finally obtain this long-awaited all-in-one device, what will my new holy grail be?

TiVo over VoIP service = TiVoIP?

Have you ever thought about replacing your old home telephone system with a VoIP service provider like Vonage? Don't cancel your landline just yet! As Garrett found out, having a POTS backup can come in handy during emergency situations.

Keeping that in mind, if you're still thinking about hooking up most of your phones to your VoIP provider, but you don't know if your TiVo or DirecTV will still function, don't worry, there's a solution for you. These DVRs can use your VoIP provider to "phone home", just like using the regular telephone. Then you should ask, do you really want those services eating up your bandwidth? Hey, it's your choice.

Alec's Talkster Review

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Alec has reviewed T@lkster, a new VoIP provider. In fact it's so new that you'll have to wait until the beta release before you can try it yourself.

Some of the cool features include the ability to group a person's phone numbers into one contact. I guess Talkster will attempt each service until a connection can be made.

Another feature is that you can choose whether to make the call, or receive an incoming call from Talkster. They also promise that you won't have to download any software!

Go to Alec's blog for photos and more coverage. Check to sign up for the beta.

Have you had an experience with Talkster that you'd like to share? Leave a comment or e-mail me at voip_telephony [at] yahoo [dot] com and I'll publish your review or directly link to the review on your website.

Takeaways from the ITEXPO

TMC president, Rich Tehrani, gives us an in-depth analysis of their recent Internet Telephony Conference & Expo. While other attendees were unwilling or unable to blog during the conference, Rich moblogged several times a day, providing photos, anecdotes, and videos of the event. This was made possible due to his handy XV6700 and some of Tom's scripting magic.

I'll excerpt some of the points I found particularly interesting. For the rest, read Rich's article.
One of the best parts about ITEXPO is getting to speak with so many thought leaders in the space. One such example is Michael Khalilian, Chairman of the IMS Forum, with whom I had an interesting conversation. While onstage in a panel on VoIP Service, Michael mentioned the need for consolidation in the VoIP space. He says some providers in the triple-play space are ‘gunning’ for the VoIP market and have considered giving away voice to customers who purchase broadband and certain types of programming. The goal here would be to wipe out pure-play VoIP providers so the market clears up a bit.

In Michael’s opinion, the best defense against such moves is pure scale. He advocates VoIP providers banding together as soon as possible so they are in a position to fend off threats from larger providers.
So the major carriers feel threatened by VoIP providers, and they want to take them out. How will they do it? By undercutting the newcomers! Thus, the consumer wins again, at least for the short term. Will this diabolical scheme actually work? Sadly, it just might.
The one concern here is that carriers are spending billions of dollars on technology - they need to be more certain of the ROI of these investments. “What are the money-making applications?” they rightly ask. As an industry we need to make sure we answer these questions to keep service providers investing and reaping the rewards from these investments.
Which killer-apps could VoIP hook up with? Gizmo Project is betting on the social networking craze. Online gaming has incorporated voice long ago. So what's next? With Click-to-Call, we now have some interesting options:

Tech support comes to mind. For instance, while surfing a website, or from within your application, you could click the "Call For Help" button and be connected with a live support specialist. Distance learning is another concept that requires voice. These applications are out there. It's up to the VoIP providers to hook them up with their services and start generating revenue beyond the per-minute charges.

Is it really such a Far Reach?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Garrett, from Smith on VoIP, isn't holding his breath for Far Reach's announced deployment of Mobile VoIP in 76 markets:
What makes me skeptical of this news is the fact that I have never heard of xG Technology, “the greatest technical advance in RF communications in 100 years” or Far Reach Technology, a small, regional ISP.
While I partly share his skepticism, I'm optimistic for two reasons. From the TMCnet article, it will supposedly cost only $50,000 for a base station that can cover a market of 30,000 subscribers. This, coupled with the claim to have at least $100 million in financial backing from some major institutions, gives me hope that this regional ISP can pull it off.

After all, whoever heard of Skype four years ago?

Eight states to pilot Mobile VoIP over xMax/WiFi

Far Reach Technologies is set to deploy mobile VoIP services in 76 markets across eight states, starting with Volusia County, Florida in March 2007. The wireless networks will use xMax technology, developed by xG, and access will be offered for a flat rate.

According to TMCnet:
xG announced in July that it was launching a development program with regional operators to build a U.S. wide mobile phone service using xMax handsets with VoIP. Two manufacturers are now building handsets with xMAX chips. These phones, which will be branded as xG phones, will deliver seamless hand-off between xMAX and WiFi systems.
In a March 2006 press release, xG announced their new handsets would include xMax and WiFi chips alongside Ethernet jacks to enable users to plug into VoIP networks. I just question the need for Ethernet jacks in an age when even the smallest of small businesses use WiFi. Perhaps xG will reconsider.

No doubt this will a development to watch for as the wireless revolution marches onward.

LiveJournal and Gizmo partner for LJ Talk

Sunday, October 15, 2006

GigaOM reports that the blogging and social networking tool, LiveJournal, has incorporated a VoIP feature for chatting and voice posting, using the open Jabber protocol. They call it LJ Talk, and it was developed in partnership with Gizmo Project for smooth integration into LiveJournal users' accounts. Here's what Om has to say:
The software has all the usual trimmings, but what is cool (not a business word, clearly) is the icons displayed on the LiveJournal website and in the software show online presence of friends (available, away or offline). Furthermore, users can update their LiveJournal content via instant messages, or by using the software to record “voice posts” without leaving their computers, ideal for International users who wish to avoid the high cost of calling U.S.-based access numbers.
For more info, go check out the LiveJournal News Update.

Skype security issues "resolved" in Jordan

Friday, October 13, 2006

Following a month-long ban on Skype, Jordanian authorities have reversed their decision on the ban:
Director of the commission's regulatory department, Al Ansari Al Mashaqbah, confirmed yesterday that the recent decision to block Skype had been reversed.

The official told The Jordan Times that the security issues, cited as the reason for the block, had been resolved.
The article goes on to mention that China's Shenzhen Province had previously blocked and subsequently unblocked Skype citing the same reasons.
The popular software programme uses an encryption method that came under attack recently. Technical support representatives at Wanado said the reasons Skype was being targeted was because of possible terrorist activity, and the inability to monitor Skype conversations.
This begs the question: is the "security issue" a cover for "the inability to listen in"? Do the Chinese, the Jordanians, and who knows how many other governments, now possess the ability to wiretap Skype conversations? They would probably not require judicial approval, as in the Swiss case, and could therefore simply adopt the technology without an announcement.

The Cloud, Skype, make (a little) headway in the WiFi revolution

The Cloud, a WiFi provider that operates over 8,500 hotspots in Europe, has partnered with SMC, a network hardware provider, and Skype, the well-known VoIP provider, to make mobile VoIP calls slightly easier. (press release)

SMC has introduced a new WiFi Skype phone and The Cloud is having a limited promotion for people who own this new SMC phones.

It's a step in the right direction, I'll give them that. While it doesn't fundamentally change a whole lot, at least it's creating publicity about the onset of mobile VoIP. But if you watch their commercial, you'd think this was the first phone to ever link VoIP to WiFi. Of course, we know these phones already exist. Skype has also had Skype Mobile for some time now, and it works on all these supported devices.

More WiFi phones emerge, while more WiFi hotspots come online each day. It appears that VoIP and WiFi will have a long and happy marriage. A true match made in heaven.

Should Skype wiretaps be admissible in courts? Should any?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

VoIP Now makes an interesting talking point in response to the recent announcement that the Swiss may start listening in on VoIP calls. The article questions whether VoIP wiretaps should be admissible in courts since it's possible to doctor the audio.

That's a valid point, but the scope here is larger than just VoIP. The same could be said for other types of voice, as well as photos and videos. An eight year old can photoshop an incriminating image in a matter of minutes. Video editing has become so sophisticated that video surveillance could theoretically be doctored too. Even the example given, a spoof of U2's Sunday, Bloody Sunday being sung by President Bush on YouTube, was pieced together from non-VoIP audio. Still, all these types of surveillance remain valid forms of evidence (except in Britain, where the courts forbid wiretaps for fear of putting informants at risk).

My advice? Hire a good lawyer who can get you off the hook no matter how much "evidence" there is against you.

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VoIP Workgroup Feed Aggregator

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

This is brilliant. I just found out that I can keep tabs on all the newest posts in the VoIP blogosphere with just one feed in my newsreader. Thanks to VoIP Workgroup, all the feeds are collected and repackaged into a single feed. If your VoIP blog isn't on it yet, go sign up.

UPDATE: VoIP Workgroup seems to be offline for now. I've notified the admin and I'll update this post when it's back.

UPDATE 2: Looks like it's back now. I missed catching all the new VoIP posts with one feed.

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A step into the future of VoIP

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

As VoIP bloggers Andy, Dan, Garrett, Greg, Jon, Ken, Rich and Tom attend the Internet Telephony Conference & Expo to discover and discuss all the latest trends in the VoIP industry, I decided to blog about one such new trend: Mobile VoIP.

Apparently, in VoIP 2.0 (or will it be 3.0 by then?), making calls from your PC will seem so impractical as to be laughable. Mobile calls will increasingly be made seamlessly over WiFi-enabled handsets, taking advantage of endless new features while long-distance rates will plummet lower than Bush's approval ratings in the Middle East.

This scenario assumes, of course, that wireless Internet (WiFi) will soon be as widespread as cellular signals are today. We already have WiFi at the office, at home, libraries, coffee shops, and so on. San Francisco, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Toronto, and Fredericton are all deploying city-wide WiFi access, with more surely following their lead. This future may not be too far away.

And VoIP service providers are getting ready. Skype Mobile, Gizmo, Jajah Mobile, Rebtel, and Truphone have already begun marketing towards mobile phone users. With the right phone, you can already make very cheap calls or even free calls to other users within the same service. Calls to people outside your service will still be offered at low rates when compared to regular long-distance, but with the growing interoperability of VoIP providers, eventually a user of service A in California and a user of service B in Bombay could theoretically talk to each other using their mobile phones without paying a cent!

Now let's throw SIP into the mix. This open source protocol used by Vonage and Gizmo Project allows free communication between any two SIP-enabled devices, and cheap calls to non-SIP phones. And on the left we have the HOP1515, a SIP WiFi phone that's available for about $40. Can it get much cheaper than that?

Alas, for now, we shall wait until VoIP providers all connect to one another, and until WiFi hotspots outnumber coldspots. Now we must still contend with GSM, CDMA and GPRS, and phones locked into their respective service providers and 2-year minimum contracts. We will have to put up with the headaches and confusion of the current mess of choices in mobile voice.

So while waiting for everything to become clear, you have yet another choice. If you want to use VoIP 2.0 services alongside your current cellular service, you'll probably want to get a dual-mode phone, capable of both cellular and WiFi. You may be interested in the "Hippie 2000", as pictured. Many PDA phones are dual-mode as well. I guess they'll have to suffice.

There are those who may question the business sense in having the ability to make extremely cheap or free calls to anyone around the world. They will eventually open their eyes, lest their eyes be opened for them.

Top 15 VoIP Service Providers

As ranked by ISP Planet, according to number of subscribers in Q2 2006.

Date & Source
Skype (paid VoIP only, customers worldwide, date of this number unknown)
[July 27, 2005]
Press Release
[as of June 30, 2006]
Fact Sheet
Cox Digital Phone* (as of June 14, 2006)
[June 14, 2006]
Press Release
Time Warner Digital Phone*
[August 2, 2006]
10-Q [.pdf]
CableVision (cable VoIP under the Optimum Voice brand name)
[September 21, 2006]
Press Release
CallWave (free and paid VoIP, counting subscribers, not lines)
[May 12, 2006]
SEC 10-Q
Comcast Digital Phone* (978,000 circuit switched customers not counted)
[July 28, 2006]
SEC 10-Q
Charter* (cable VoIP)
[August 8, 2006]
SEC 10-Q
Packet8 (a.k.a. 8x8) (counting lines, not subscribers)
[July 27 2006]
Press Release
[September 27, 2006]
SunRocket Public Relations
Insight Communications* (cable VoIP)
[August 9, 2006]
SEC 10-Q
Mediacom* (cable VoIP)
[August 9, 2006]
SEC 10-Q
Covad (business VoIP only, 1,343 VoIP business customers with a combined total of approximately 44,000 stations )
[August 3, 2006]
SEC 10-Q
GCI (Alaksa only)
[August 9, 2006]
SEC 10-Q
CBeyond (Alaksa only)
[August 14, 2006]
SEC 10-Q
Note: data was unavailable for many VoIP service providers.
Note: services with an asterisk * are digital phone, not true VoIP

Read on for more analysis.