- Telefónica launches Tu Me, your WhatsApp with VoIP calls and messages
Telefónica has announced the launch of Tu Me, a free application that allows users to communicate and share information through a smartphone. You may say that Telefonica has just launched its own WhatsApp, although with VoIP calls. For now, it is only available to iPhone, but soon to be on Android devices.
- Still can’t use VOIP in-flight just as cell phone service
No cell phone calls are allowed on planes, but what if you are using a VOIP service, which is using your flight's wi-fi? That should be fine, right? You might think so, but apparently the answer is still no.
The Internet Freedom Preservation Act was re-introduced in the House yesterday by Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass, according to an article in the Associated Press. The bill, which is cosponsored by Rep. Chip Pickering (Rep), was originally introduced by the two in a Republican house in 2006, but failed to gain passage.
The IFPA seeks to prohibit ISPs from blocking or interfering with consumers’ rights to access content, applications and services of their choosing over the Internet. Markey’s camp would like to point out that this is not to be considered regulation of the Internet, but a general adherence backed by law of the principals of net neutrality that have spurred the growth and development of the web since its inception.
Under the bill, the FCC would be tasked to monitor broadband service providers for compliance, and to determine whether charging extra for certain services (I’m assuming charging by bandwidth consumption) is lawful. They would also be required to hold eight summits around the country to hear input from groups and industry leaders on competition and services.
The FCC is currently investigating Comcast (CMCSA) for blocking p2p sessions (specifically BitTorrent) by sending a packet, seemingly from the computers involved, to disrupt the stream. Chairman Kevin Martin indicates that he understands traffic management is necessary, but Comcast should be forthright about what and how they are doing it.
Comcast complied. On February 12th they submitted an eighty page filing with the FCC, disclosing their traffic throttling practices, and asking the Agency to declare them reasonable. On January 25th they revised their Acceptable Use Policy and updated the FAQ page in an effort to become “more transparent” to consumers.
In early January, Time Warner Cable (TWC) announced that they would begin charging new users on a per usage basis, effectively eliminating unlimited access. TW says that only 5% of users would be affected, and most would not even notice the difference.
The Fox Guarding the Hen House?
Since the beginning of the net neutrality debate, ISPs have agued against “regulation” of the Internet. In an effort to stave off legislation, the industry agreed to abide by the Commissions Internet Policy Statement, a rather toothless document as “Comcast respectively reminds the Commission…of its own words”:
“that the Internet Policy Statement expressly sets forth “guidance and insight in its approach to the Internet and broadband,” not legally binding rules”.
With the failure of the first attempt of the Internet Freedom Preservation Act to pass, the ISP industry has effectively been regulating itself to conform to the vaguest principals of net neutrality. And the results are clear.
The practice of bandwidth throttling clearly violates the principal that consumers have the right to access any legal content, device, or application they choose.
Comcast says, “Independent research has shown that as few as 15 simultaneous BitTorrent sessions . . . in a geographic area served by a single node . . . can severely slow down the time it takes for all users in that area to surf the Web and can degrade the quality and reliability of VoIP calls below the threshold of what is considered to be on par with traditional phone service.”
While traffic management does need to be done to prevent network congestion, spoofing computers to break off a file sharing session is not the way to do it. If a node in a neighborhood is regularly getting congested, then add another node. Tampering with traffic from a specific application is effectively determining what the user can or cannot access. Find other ways. Spend some money.
Paying for bandwidth usage is currently practiced in other countries, with consumers complaining about having to budget their monthly allotment. While it may only affect 5% now, new applications and technologies are being implemented now with more on the horizon.
Public acceptance of streaming video and VoIP is growing, with apps like AppleTV and Netflix’s unlimited streaming plan coming to market. IPTV and Unified Communications are going to be pushing the limits of your pipe, deal with it. Penalizing consumers by making them pay for bandwidth will only serve to stifle development of these emerging rich media technologies.
Without a net neutrality law in place, publicly traded service providers will always straddle the fence between their customers and shareholders. More often than not, they will opt for the bottom line, leaving consumers rights by the wayside.
It is exactly the absence of such legislation that has allowed the cell phone industry to wall in their gardens, offering dumbed down browsers that only access the content that the provider wants you to see (and pay them for). Left to their own devices, ISPs could be headed down the same road. If it starts with BitTorrent, where does it stop?
I have been reading some of the comments around the blogesphere, and have found that many that are against the passage of the IFPA seem to be worried about all the bad things that could happen from a free and open Internet. To them I say, if you’re scared, don’t go there, but don’t deny the millions of consumers their freedom of choice.
When this Democrat Congress took office in 2007, they said a Net Neutrality act was on the agenda, and now it is here. As might be expected, generally Republicans are against it and Democrats for. Read my post Where the Candidates Stand, Technicaly Speaking to find out where our Presidential hopefuls fall on the issue.
For consumers that feel as I do, and believe that legislation preserving the Internet as we know it should be in place, visit SaveTheInternet.com, type in your zip code, and urge your Congressman to vote Yes on the Internet Freedom Preservation Act in 2008.
The upcoming auction by the FCC concerns the band of spectrum between 698MHz and 806MHz, and is divided at 746MHz into what is called the lower 700 and upper 700 megahertz bands, encompassing the UHF channels of 52 through 69. Some of this spectrum is already owned from previous auctions, most predominantly by Aloha Partners, who plan to use channels 54 and 59 for their HiWire MobileTV. Qualcomm’s MediaFLO Mobile TV network owns channel 55. The remaining spectrum is divided into 5 blocks and has been mandated by the FCC to fulfill a number of needs and services.
- Block A is 12MHz in the lower 700MHz and is broken into 176 regions that the FCC calls Economic Areas (EA). This is the current channel 52 and 53
- Block B is also 12MHz and is broken into 734 localities deemed cellular market areas (CMA).
- The C block is 22 MHz and is set aside for commercial purposes, broken into 12 regional licenses, and is subject to the FCC’s open access rules.
- Block D is a nationwide commercial license of 10MHz, to be paired with the12MHz that is set aside for public safety and is also mandated as open access
- Block E is 6MHz broken into EA’s.
Excluding the Public Safety Block D, any winning bidder can end up with multiple regional or local licenses.
The blocks that are of the most interest, and indeed have generated the most controversy, are the commercial block C, and the Public Safety/Commercial block D.
Internet hardware provider Cisco, and cell phone manufacturer Nokia have teamed up to offer users of the Cisco Unified Communications products a handset that can switch between a Cisco WiFi/VoIP network and the cellular GSM networks.
Just announced at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona, the Nokia E61i and E65 hand sets are dual mode and can determine which network, cellular or WiFi, is strongest, and will automatically use that network to place calls. They also contain software that essentially makes them an extension of the Cisco Call Manager IP PBX messaging system.
Cisco and Nokia hooked up last year with the integration of Nokia’s E smart phones with the Cisco Unified Call Manager 5.0, providing the interoperability similar to a Cisco IP desk phone or handset.
The Enterprise Mobility Solution as it is called started beta field tests in January by Volvo Trucks France, who plans a rollout for 300 users. An additional trial has been started by Swedish window company Elitfonster at its home office in Vetlanda.
Advantages for businesses that adopt a fixed to mobile convergence solution include the possibility of one phone number for a cellular network and a VoIP wireless 802.11 network, and cutting cell phone minutes by using the company’s VoIP network where possible.
Cisco is not alone as a provider of FMC to the business community. Telecommunications company Avaya recently bought Traverse Networks, who makes FMC software for cellphones, and the Innovative Technology Alliance of Microsoft and Nortel is sure to bring focus on Fixed Mobile Convergence in the future.
Businesses have for some time now been utilizing Voice over IP Telephony through the building of Converged Networks. As VoIP technology matures and the network pipe grows ever larger, LANs that existed primarily for data transmission are being converted to handle all types of media based on the Internet Protocol. With a well established infrastructure of fiber optic trunk lines, Wide Area Networks can carry much more traffic at much higher speeds than they could have in the early nineties. The next step in the evolution of networking for businesses large and small is one network that handles transmissions of data, video, and voice. The Converged Network.
The same can now be said for the modern residential household. As more of us are building our own local area networks at home to connect our family members to each others data and appliances, broadband connections to the outside world have expanded our pipe to the Internet, giving us plenty of bandwidth to consider converging our home network with VoIP.
But why switch? When one considers the services and costs offered by VoIP providers compared to traditional telephone companies, the reasons are compelling.
First and foremost, the financial savings of talking on the Internet, as opposed to using the Telco’s copper lines, can be significant. In some cases up to 60%. This is best illustrated with long distance calls. As calls are routed over the Internet, they will indeed eventually be switched over to landlines, but not until they reach their destinations local switching station. To the telephone company, this looks like a local call and is thus free.
Pretty much all VoIP service providers offer free calls within the U.S. and Canada, with some including Puerto Rico and even certain destinations in Europe. International rates are significantly lower than Telco rates and many destinations are as low as 1 or 2 cents a minute. Rates may jump when crossing over to a cell phone network, but are still the lowest to be had.
Different countries handle VoIP calls and rates differently. Panama taxes VoIP calls as do many other countries that have a nationalized telecommunications industry. Even so, International VoIP rates have never been as low. It’s just much more cost efficient to route calls over the Internet.
Much like the cell phone industry, most pure play VoIP providers such as Vonage or Packet8 offer various calling plans to suit your individual needs. NetZero offers one of the lowest plans with 100 minutes for $3.95 a month. Vonage has a 500 minute plan for about $15 and Packet8 has unlimited minutes for $20. Even the cell phone companies with their free in network calls can’t compete price wise.
Services provided by Vonage and others compare favorably to local phone companies. Voice mail, call waiting, caller ID, call forwarding, and 3-way calling are standard features with most providers, whereas a local phone company may bundle these features and charge for them. Local number porting allows you to transfer your existing phone number in most cases and premium features such as multiple phone numbers and toll free 800 numbers can be had for around $5 a month.
Some services not offered by the phone companies are the Virtual Phone Number, allowing you to have numbers in different area codes, and Voice Mail to E mail which lets you check your messages from a computer. In fact, many providers offer a soft phone – a software application that turns your laptop, PC or MAC, into a video/telecommunications center.
Voice over IP Telephony may not be for everybody. There are some disadvantages that we cover in the post “Things to Consider Before Switching“. But if you are tired of $80 dollar phone bills and being nickled and dimed for every little add on, then VoIP is definitely a new consumer technology that you should look into.
Visit our website VoIP-Facts.net for more about Voice over IP Telephony.
New on our website VoIP-Facts.net! We have just added an interactive page that contains a comprehensive list of many of the best known VoIP service providers calling plans and detailed descriptions of the services they provide.
Divided into the catagories of peer to peer, pure play providers, cable, telco, and cell phone providers, compare the costs of all the plans of the main stream VoIP players. Basic and unlimited plans for the residential consumers and business plans.
Find out what you get for each plan. The number of minutes, long distance rates, virtual phone numbers, conference calls, E911, caller id, call waiting and forwarding and more.
Everything you need to know about VoIP provider plans on one page at VoIP-Facts.net.
Go there Now!
VoIP Service Providers Plans and Services
Last week Peer to Peer VoIP provider Skype announced it would be charging an annual fee for its “SkypeOut” program, allowing unlimited calls to any phone in the United States and Canada for a flat rate of $29.95. On network calls between Skype members will remain free, and users also have the option of paying by the minute for off network calls.
Owned by eBay, their original plan was to monetize the company through advertising revenue, but apparently with close to 12 million registered users they came up with a better idea. Not that the annual fee is going to break anyone, considering your total monthly telephone bill would be about $2.50. As an incentive for people to sign up, Skype is discounting the offer by half, $15.95 a year, if you sign up by January 31st.
Skype offers a VoIP soft phone, or software solution, that with a pair of earphones and a microphone can turn your computer into a telecommunications center. Throw in a web cam and you can make video calls in network all over the world for free.
It’s a good thing that these pure play VoIP providers should make some money. Although Skype says it’s not intended to replace your land line, for many, a computer and a cell phone are all they need to avoid the inflated costs of the traditional telecomm companies.
Read more about Peer to Peer VoIP