Thursday, June 29, 2006

Pulver on the FCC USF for VoIP Order

Jeff Pulver summarizes the seriousness of the recent FCC USF for VoIP order and asks that more people in our community get involved with the legislative and regulatory issues that are being (poorly) decided in the U.S. today. Jeff is one of the most informed and active participants in the U.S. regulatory processes surrounding IP communications and his post today is well worth a read. If you had any doubts that this new FCC order is Very Bad Thing for VoIP, I think Jeff will quickly convince you otherwise. And he doesn’t pull any punches:

At first review, the Order appears to be a laughable, legally suspect, misapplication of the state of the law and prior rulings and an unsubstantiated gross mischaracterization of the opinions of the VoIP community and VON in particular.

For some particulars, check out this scary summary Jeff has initally pulled out of the 150-page document:

Overall the order:

• Is not limited to calls that touch the PSTN - includes IP to IP calls (pg 20)
• circumvents the Vonage decision to allow state regulation of VoIP, if you report actual revenues (pg 29)
• requires pre-approval of traffic studies - but not for wireless providers because pre-approval would be disruptive to wireless, but not VoIP (pg 30)
• requires double payments of USF fees for 2 quarters - waiving the “carrier’s carrier” rule so that wholesale providers also have to pay USF for the same service (pg 30)
• Includes new VoIP registration requirement with the FCC
• does not include a transition period
• indicates a desire to expand the definition of Interconnected VoIP in the future (pg 20)
• includes international traffic• ignores Small Business Administration arguments (pg 121)
• Does not discuss this decision’s impact on VoIP providers, but finds it will have minimal impact on LECs (pg 13)
• requires VoIP providers to pay into USF at the highest rate of any service
• buried deep in footnote 209, relieves DSL of USF obligations

But Jeff doesn’t want us to just take his word for it, he suggests that we should all give this important document a thorough read. And I’d also like to echo Jeff’s suggestion that now is the time to get more involved with the legislative processes around VoIP here in the U.S., and supporting the VON Coalition is one good way to do this.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Dial VoIP in Case of Emergency

When officials in Orange County, Fla., installed a Voice over IP phone system in 2003, they quickly achieved the goal of cutting telecommunications costs by as much as 30 percent. But after a series of hurricanes hit a year later, county managers discovered another reason to love the technology.

To provide services for citizens affected by Hurricane Charley and two other storms in 2004, the host county for Disney World created a temporary emergency center in an empty warehouse that the county was planning to renovate. "It had nothing in it, including [no] communications infrastructure," said John Amiot, enterprise operations manager for the county.
So officials trucked in PCs and network gear that supported VoIP, and within 24 hours, the facility opened for business with a line of storm-weary citizens already forming at the door.
"Our people could cut checks and provide all the things that people needed in order to survive," Amiot said. "We were able to deploy in 24 hours because we had Voice over IP technology already in place."

Since then, the county has integrated IP telephony
into its formal continuity-of-operations (COOP) plans by installing it in a regional computing center.

Expanding Role

Business continuity plans are increasingly relying on new technologies to keep organizations running in the aftermath of natural disasters, terrorist attacks and more mundane incidents, such as local power outages.

"IP telephony and continuity of operations are an excellent marriage," said Jim Biskaduros, a client delivery executive who specializes in security and intelligence at systems integrator EDS.
In Orange County, the newly wired warehouse became an extension of its infrastructure. An IP network provided connectivity among employees and the county's main offices.

"It was as if we had just opened a new building," Amiot said. "This was in the center of one of the most devastated areas in the county, and it was strategically advantageous for everybody to come there versus getting them downtown while trees were down everywhere."

By the time the last of the storms plowed through the area, the warehouse had logged more than 226,000 calls. The system automatically routed some calls normally intended for headquarters to the site.

Other agencies are also discovering IP telephony's flexibility. The Department of Veterans Affairs turned to IP-enabled mobile communications trucks to keep Gulf Coast hospitals running after Hurricane Katrina hit last year. After finding success, the agency is extending contracts to formalize those backup communications tools and COOP plans.

Go here for more of the story.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Microsoft introduces 360-degree conferencing camera as part of VoIP strategy

San Francisco (CA) - At what had been billed as a rollout event for the company's Office Communications and "softphone" software yesterday, Microsoft Business Division President Jeff Raikes unveiled an intriguing new plank of what the company now calls its Unified Communications Platform: Utilizing Office Communications software and Microsoft's VoIP services, hardware manufacturers including Hewlett-Packard, LG-Nortel, and Samsung will be making available a new class of communications devices, not only for messaging but for audio and videoconferencing. Among these devices is a 360-degree camera designed for video conferences called RoundTable, that has apparently emerged from a back-burner project called RingCam from Microsoft's laboratories.
With Microsoft's software driving an online videoconference session, and the RoundTable camera placed atop a conference table, remote participants will see the face or faces of the active speakers as they assume the floor. Participants who may grow weary of the angle changes during heated arguments may prefer the optional panorama view. Documents and PowerPoint slides can also be featured into the picture, synchronized with cues provided by the speakers.

"The virtual meeting experience can be, should be, and maybe in some ways be even better than actually being in the room," Raikes told attendees yesterday. "One of the things that we've learned from our research is that it's possible to view the meeting in about half the time just by using good compression of the normal pauses in human speech - which, of course, leads to the great paradox: If you can review the meeting in half the time after the meeting, who wants to go to the meeting in the first place?"

To demonstrate the potential usefulness of the RoundTable camera in future videoconferences, Raikes participated in a mock session with various product managers and sitcom stars, engaged in a scripted argument over what to order for lunch.

The objective behind the RoundTable device is apparently to sweeten Microsoft's value proposition for its voice-over-IP service, which will need some bolstering in the face of the continuing expansion of Skype, now owned by eBay. Major network equipment providers Linksys (part of Cisco) and Netgear have already announced Skype phones, in so doing, making it clear that anyone who wants to seriously compete in the VoIP field will need a substantive hardware offering.

So here again, that vital term "leverage" will be used in conjunction with Microsoft, to describe how it intends to make use of a business it has already conquered to venture into a business it has barely entered into. "Microsoft is uniquely positioned, given our software focus," said Raikes yesterday. "The advances in software for communications, we already have deep investments in communications, we've already delivered on the basics of unified communications with Microsoft Exchange, our communications server, Outlook, Office Communicator and Live Meeting. We are truly using the software, the power of software to drive the next wave of innovation in the way people communicate at work."

That said, it will still take hardware for Microsoft to be able to make its VoIP play profitable; and with one or two noteworthy except.

Monday, June 26, 2006

VoIP makes phone system hurricane-resistant

When Hurricane Wilma struck South Florida last October, most business owners had to struggle to survive without telephone service. Not Stephen McWilliam.

McWilliam, the president of Florida State Realty Group Inc. in Fort Lauderdale, fled South Florida for Orlando right after the storm. He realized he wouldn't be able to access his downtown office building for about a week. But that didn't slow his business any. He simply plugged his Polycom Internet phone, removed from his office before the storm, into a broadband connection at his Orlando hotel; he was back in business, connecting with clients and trying to keep his pending real estate deals together.

McWilliam is a customer of Cooper City-based STS Telecom, a technology-based telephone company that provides businesses with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service. Even though his office phone service was down in Fort Lauderdale, McWilliam's customers were able to reach him at his regular number.

"It's plug and play," he said. "And the technology helped us maintain communication, which is vital to servicing our clients."

VoIP, also called IP telephony, allows users to make calls without the need for a traditional phone line. All you need is a broadband Internet connection and an IP phone. The technology converts voices into data that is transmitted over the lines like e-mail messages.

The use of VoIP by consumers has skyrocketed because of the introduction of low-cost service by companies such as Vonage. But small- and medium-sized businesses are also adopting online phone service in droves. According to research firm InfoTech, demand for IP telephony by small- and medium-sized businesses surged 36 percent between 2004 and 2005.

"Small businesses are flocking to VoIP in order to save from 40 to 60 percent on their phone bills, take advantage of new services and do things never before possible with traditional phones," said Jonathan Askin, a spokesman for, a Melville, N.Y.-based firm that tracks the VoIP industry. "To ensure business continuity during and after an emergency, many are now looking at VoIP as a safer alternative."

Proponents of VoIP tout lower costs and continuity of service as its biggest advantages. But there are others. Jon Krutchik, president of STS Telecom, said users can also redirect their calls using any Web browser. "If you have no phone service but you can find broadband access someplace, you can log onto your account and redirect your phone calls to your cell phone," he said.

Krutchik said that VoIP service with his firm starts at about $750 per month, which includes a dedicated T-1 broadband connection, phones and hardware. STS offers traditional telephone service as well.

Despite the advantages of VoIP, it may not be right for everyone. After Wilma hit last year, Michelle Soudry packed up her files, backup drive, laptop and cell phone and headed to Orlando.

"My business is very reliant on e-mail and phones," said Soudry, founder of The Gab Group, a public relations firm. "I have national clients and can't afford not to work for two weeks."

Soudry was able to retrieve incoming phone calls to her office from her BellSouth voice mail service, which works even when the power is out. And clients and reporters could reach her on her cell because she added that number to her outgoing message. She never missed a call.

"There was no effect on our business," she said. "Plus, I know two different people who have had bad experiences with dropped calls on VoIP. I can't take that chance because my business is very time-sensitive."

But others, like McWilliam, swear by VoIP service. He recently went on a cruise and was able to make and answer calls using his laptop and a wireless broadband connection, avoiding the pricey ship-to-shore phone service he'd otherwise be dependent on.

"I hate to use the cliché `the wave of the future,' but it's just a matter of time before this becomes the standard for phone service," he said. "There's just no other way."

Friday, June 23, 2006

FCC extends USF Tax to VoIP Providers

Reported from Von Mag.

On Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a new plan for funding the Universal Service Fund (USF), with VoIP providers having to contribute around 7 percent of their revenue into the fund.

The FCC has ordered Internet telephone service providers who connect to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) to contribute part of their venue into the USF, which subsidizes telecommunications access to rural and low-income areas along schools, hospitals and libraries. Wireless providers will also end up paying more, resulting in a rate increase for both cell phone and VoIP customers since fees are passed along to consumers.

Wireless carriers will have to contribute about 4 percent of their revenue under the new FCC plan with new contribution levels expected to take place in the fourth quarter, but there could be a loophole of sorts. If wireless or VoIP providers could prove that their long distance and international revenues were less, they would be allowed to contribute a smaller percentage of their revenues.

Companies offering long-distance and international phone services plus broadband DSL providers must contribute 10.9 percent of their revenue into a $7.3 billion fund, Reuters stated. However, DSL providers will no longer have to contribute to the program after August, setting the stage for another funding adjustment before the summer is out. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin wants to see USF contributions shifted to a mechanism based upon telephone number usage.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Businesses increasingly looking to convergence

Recent research shows that VoIP (voice over internet protocol) projects and IP convergence are increasingly being employed by enterprises to save money and increase flexibility.

The study by TheInfoPro reveals that many US Fortune 1,000 and mid-market companies are planning to implement VoIP technologies, such as IP PBX and Sip products.

Respondents to the survey demonstrated that Sip tools were being used by 22 per cent of businesses interviewed, while 27 per cent planned to utilise or pilot the technology this year.

The new statistics follow a survey by the economist unit of AT&T, the largest telecoms company in the US, which revealed that 73 per cent of senior executives believed that converged IP networks could leverage more efficient collaboration with partners, customers and suppliers.

The AT&T report also indicates that multichannel approaches will increase in popularity over the next two years, with statistics illustrating that whereas only nine per cent of businesses interact with their customers via video link at the moment, 50 per cent of respondents are planning to implement the tool in the future.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Biggest need in the VoIP space: Web-based, carrier-neutral universal VoIP phone directory

Wouldn't it be great if there was a Web-based centralized directory of inbound VoIP phone numbers from all carriers?

A third-party website where customers of Vonage, Skype's SkypeIn service, Packet8, AT&T CallVantage, Verizon VoiceWing, and pretty much any other IP phone service you could think of could list their inbound numbers?

Something that would take the cludginess out of letting everyone know what your new, say, Vonage or SkypeIn phone number is?

This service has been tried in baby steps, but there's so much more to go. And such an upside, that I cannot believe this wouldn't be a huge hit.

Yes, I know about privacy, but youcould opt out and get an unlisted number just like you have been able to do with Ma Bell since the earliest days.

Since VoIP pretty much eliminates locality-based considerations, you could have one VoIP directory assistance site for all of North America. Heck, the world.

I envision the listings as a five-column user interface consisting of last name, first name, email address (instead of physical addy as the dead-tree phone directories offer), phone number, and service provider.

Additionally the phone number would be hyperlinked so that when that number is clicked on, your default softphone would automatically dial the number.
The service could be advertising-supported (VoIP calling services, equipment makers, or other tech-friendly advertisers). Such a service could charge access based on an all-you-can eat, subscription based model.

There's a big, honkin', crying, loud need for a universal VoIP phone number directory.
Would you use one?

And if any VCs are out there, is this something you would fund?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

VoIP heats up while Net neutrality simmers

There have been some rumblings in the wobbly world of VoIP recently.

Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP for short, holds a lot of promise as both a viable technology and a sustainable business model but has yet to do much more than lurch forward. Leading VoIP company Vonage, which had its initial public offering in May, is in deep water now that its earnings picture has come under suspicion. Some stock analysts have gone cold on the stock amid concerns over subscriber numbers.

Those unfamiliar with VoIP need to know that it's a system for using the Internet for making voice phone calls at substantially lower cost than POTS, or plain old telephone service.

Even as its stock price has fallen nearly 54 percent off its IPO price, a few observers have risen to Vonage's defense. Cormac O'Reilly of the Britain-based points out that growing its subscriber base from 100,000 to 1.6 million in three years is nothing to sneeze at.

However, Vonage's willingness to lower its $24.99 monthly rate to $19.99 to keep its subscribers from bolting certainly reveals some market weakness.

Sadly, Vonage's main competitor, Skype, the brainchild of KaZaA founders Niklas Zennstrm and Janus Friis, has made things a bit difficult for Vonage with its own daring price point: free. Skype has millions worldwide using its free PC-to-PC calling software, but to capture market share, it has dropped its price on calling landline and mobile phones to free, as well.

Skype's fee structure will time-out at the end of the year, with its PC-to-PC remaining free "forever" as its Web site claims, while the calls from your PC to phones will again be charged. But you can bet Skype will manage to undercut Vonage.

Still, its niche is different from Vonage's -- as Vonage puts traditional handheld phone sets in users' hands -- but the difference may not be enough to mollify analysts' concerns. We should all hope Vonage makes it because the more competition the better, especially against the increasingly leviathan mainstream carriers such as AT&T and the various cellular providers. A string of telecomm mergers have bloated the Baby Bells, with SBC even resuscitating the AT&T brand.

VoIP has competitive advantages, but its main disadvantage is a dilly: It requires a technology comfort zone, if not downright know-how. I can figure out how to get Skype going on my home computer, and Vonage is certainly even easier, but most people may balk at the notion.

If you feel you're in that category, just head out to the Napa Valley PC Users Group monthly meeting tomorrow night, at 7 p.m. at the Napa Senior Activity Center, 1500 Jefferson St.

Susy Ball will host the main demonstration with an in-depth demonstration of VoIP and how to use it. Susy maintains most people who use VoIP are able to reduce their telephone costs and truly save money.

That sounds like something all of us can profit by.

Late update as my deadline nears: Vonage has been hit by a VoIP patent infringement suit by Verizon. When it rains it pours.

On the net neutrality front of which I spoke last week, things are also heating up, with a modest breakthrough in the ongoing fight in the U.S. Senate.

Net neutrality, or the notion that all players should be treated equally on the Internet with no sides playing favorites or charging higher fees for higher channel capacity, was dealt a severe blow a couple of weeks back with the House of Representatives passing a new communications bill with no promise to respect net neutrality.

Things were better but not good in the Senate until this past weekend when Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK) expressed willingness to include language in the Senate's version that preserves a consumer's ability to travel anywhere on the Internet and use any Web-based application.

What's missing is any ban on multi-tiered pricing, as companies like Microsoft, Google and Yahoo! have demanded.

It's hardly a breakthrough when so little is offered, but it's a start. If nothing else Stevens has offered cover for middle-of-the-roaders to move a little closer to supporting net neutrality. With a little momentum and a couple more conservative defectors, there's hope yet.

It's ironic that net neutrality is considered a liberal cause, when in reality it should be the libertarians in the conservative ranks demanding a level playing field.

The stickler is that conservative ideologues favor a free market, which often favors capital over innovation. Business ends up regulating itself, not through regulation but market manipulation.

And that's something Internet enthusiasts -- and future Internet innovators -- can ill afford.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Verizon sues Vonage for VoIP patent infringement

The bad news for Internet phone provider Vonage keeps piling up, as the company now faces a patent infringement lawsuit from telephone giant Verizon Communications

Verizon's complaint was filed last Monday in a U.S. District Court in Virginia. It alleges that Vonage infringed on patents held by Verizon that describe technology for completing phone calls between VoIP users and people using phones on the traditional public switched network, authenticating VoIP callers, validating VoIP callers' accounts, fraud protection, providing enhanced features, using Wi-Fi handsets with VoIP services and monitoring VoIP caller usage.

Vonage's service uses software that turns voice signals into packets and then transmits them over broadband connections, essentially turning any Internet connection into a telephone line. Verizon sells a similar service, called VoiceWing.

In a statement released Monday, Vonage said "its services have been developed with its own proprietary technology and technology, licensed from third parties." The company also said it would "vigorously defend (against) the lawsuit." Vonage said it hadn't been previously notified by Verizon that the company thought it was infringing on its patents.

Verizon acknowledged that it had filed the complaint, but a company representative declined to comment further. The representative also would not clarify whether the company is looking into filing lawsuits against other VoIP providers.

The lawsuit comes shortly after Vonage's disappointing stock market debut. The company lost nearly 30 percent of its value in the first week of trading. The Internet telephony provider has also been gearing up to defend itself against several investor lawsuits. Shareholders allege that the company misled them and created artificial demand for the stock.

News of the Verizon lawsuit sent shares of Vonage down $1.03, or 8.13 percent, to $8.22

By Marguerite Reardon Staff Writer, CNET

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Residential VoIP To Boom To 44 Million Users

Residential VoIP subscribers will skyrocket from 10.3 million today to 44 million in 2010, according to a new report from market research firm IDC. The report forecasts that VoIP will be used in 62% of broadband households by 2010.

The growth will be accelerated by increased broadband penetration, and consumers becoming increasingly comfortable with VoIP and other new communications technologies, the report contends.

Trends driving VoIP adoption will be mobility, simplicity, and a need for on-demand telephony, the report says. Simple setup requirements will make consumers more comfortable with the technology, and the ability to access IP telephony not just at home, but while traveling will be a driver as well.

IDC sees significant market potential for service providers able to tap into the burgeoning demand. "For those that are able to tweak their service offering to fit the ever changing tastes of the mass market, the potential growth opportunity is huge," Will Stofega, research manager for IDC's VoIP Services program, said in a statement.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Internet Pioneers Warn of VoIP Wiretapping Problems

Grant Gross, IDG News Service
Wednesday, June 14, 2006

WASHINGTON -- U.S. government efforts to require most VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) providers to permit law enforcement agencies to wiretap phone calls could introduce new cybersecurity problems to the Internet, a group of Internet security experts said this week.

A U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule requiring VoIP providers to allow wiretapping by May 2007 would either require a massive re-engineering of the Internet or introduce broad security risks, said authors of a new study released by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), an IT vendor trade group.

In addition, the requirements would stall Internet innovations in the U.S. by adding hundreds of thousands of dollars in set-up and maintenance costs to VoIP providers and potentially to other Internet applications that provide voice services, including instant messaging, and online games, according to the study, which is available online.

The study, co-authored by several people including TCP/IP co-creator Vinton Cerf and former U.S. National Security Agency encryption scientist Clinton Brooks, comes days after a U.S. appeals court upheld the FCC's VoIP wiretapping rules. On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the ruling, requiring that VoIP providers offering a substitute for traditional telephone service comply with a 1994 telephone wiretapping law called the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA).

The FCC did not immediately respond to a request for comments about the ITAA study. But on Friday, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said allowing law enforcement wiretapping of VoIP calls is of "paramount importance" to U.S. security.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Nine Tips For Deploying Enterprise-Class VoIP

Consider tools needed to support virtual environments enabled by VoIP. VoIP provides the opportunity to transform customer interaction and other applications. In many cases, it is inadequate to deploy tools that were developed for more siloed TDM environments. Define in your application the unique requirements to support virtual teams from an architectural standpoint.

John Macario, president of the Boston-based consulting firm Savatar adds the following tips.

Calculate Total Cost of Ownership for your VoIP system as opposed to just the cost for initial deployment. Economic issues that comprise the TOC include:

  • Acquisition costs: What items do you need to write a check for upfront, such as installation fees, new phone purchases, and professional services to update your Local Area Network?

  • Monthly recurring charges: What will you pay for every month, such as local and long distance charges, per user costs, and per seat costs for IP Centrex or your T1 line?

  • Maintenance: What will you pay on an annual basis to maintain or upgrade the equipment?

Evaluate the performance of a VoIP network. A VoIP solution, either IP PBX or hosted IP PBX, is only as reliable as the network that carries your voice and data traffic. Service providers who offer business-class VoIP services carry voice and data packets over a managed network to ensure service quality. Any provider offering such a network should provide information on the network's performance, including security, redundancy, and reliability. When selecting a VoIP service provider, poor network performance is a knock-out criterion.

Look for productivity-enhancing features. A host of VoIP features can lead to productivity gains and give VoIP solutions a significant feature advantage over traditional systems. Some of the more interesting VoIP features include:

  • Unified messaging lets you consolidates voice mail, e-mail, video mail, and fax into a single interface.

  • Mobile extensions make it simple to reach colleagues and to manage call features from mobile devices. They also extend hosted IP PBX features to a cell phone.

  • Uniform dialing plans give remote offices the same features and functionality as your main office.

  • Shared call appearance allows calls to ring on another phone.

  • Personal mobility features including selective call routing, simultaneous ring, and sequential ringing to increase productivity and customer service.

J.W. Olsen has been a full-time author, editor, and freelance book project manager with more than 1000 editorial credits for IT publishers since 1990, and has provided computer, Web site, and editorial services to other clients since 1985. He welcomes feedback via the e-mail response form at

Whether to deploy VoIP is no longer an issue --- it's something you have to do. But there are a lot of high-level steps you need to take before deploying. It's not just technology you need to be concerned about. In fact, say many experts, hardware and software may be the least of your problems. It's the business issues you should be concerned with most.

Which issues are important --- and what to do about them? We've talked to several experts, who offer their advice.

Brett Shockley, CEO of Spanlink Communications, a consultant in VoIP solutions based in Minneapolis, suggests the following.

Clearly define your vision and goals. When migrating to an IP communications system, formulate a detailed plan that maps to the business goals and operational needs of your organization. Be absolutely clear about why you need VoIP and design a system that matches those needs. Otherwise, the risk is that the deployment will be either too narrowly considered or too overreaching to justify the total cost of ownership.

Take full advantage of the business benefits of your VoIP system. Too often, companies approach VoIP as a simple replacement of their current TDM-based PBX voice system with a VoIP PBX. Strategically, design your IP communications system to take advantage of new business processes that make you more competitive. The risk is implementing a solution that doesn't deliver a return, doesn't scale, and therefore must ultimately be re-engineered.

Plan for post-implementation management and maintenance. Set clear goals and create explicit roadmaps not only for the implementation of your system, but also for management and maintenance once it's up and running. Additionally, it's critical to ensure the right system structure to make the system manageable. Failing to have a clear management plan and the proper tools, you run the risk of compromising the environment or bogging down the process with change management and support issues.

Ensure proper training for end users. You can't just swap out employees' traditional phones for IP handsets and expect everyone to be fully operational the next morning and taking advantage of the new capabilities of the system. VoIP deployment can be compromised if users feel the system includes features that few want or excludes the ones they need. Such feelings can be mitigated by proper training.

Define roles for voice and data networking staff. The thorniest question facing VoIP project managers is getting their voice and data networking staffs to work together effectively. Bring your telecommunications managers into planning and implementation discussions with your data networking engineers. The two cultures are often still at odds, so set clearly defined roles for both sets of workers and cross-train them.

Monday, June 12, 2006

VoIP News: VoIP provides small business with a defense against hurricane damage

The cost of phone service was bad enough for Aaron Lee. The potential expense of poor business continuity after a hurricane threatened his business.

As a small business owner, Lee was spending hundreds of dollars each month for two business lines and a fax line at Illuminati Studios, his graphic design and Web production company in Miami Lakes. Even at home, his personal, business and fax lines were topping a combined $150 a month, when features like voice mail and caller ID were added. He also knew that should a storm hit, if his phones went down, he would be incommunicado.

So Lee went from analog to Internet. He signed up with Vonage voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) service, first for his home, and later for his office. For around $100 a month, his office has all the lines and features his landline service formerly offered plus unlimited domestic long distance, and some overseas. The three lines at home, plus a toll-free number, run less than $80 atop the $45 a month for the cable modem service.

"That gives us a lot of telecommunications for not a lot of dollars," he said.

Voice-over-Internet protocol, or VoIP, is changing the way corporate and home-based businesses communicate. In the corporate environment, IP telephony accounted for 8 percent of the business lines installed worldwide in 2004, according to statistics from VoIP provider Avaya. The number is expected to quadruple by 2007.

For most applications, VoIP is relatively simple to install. Its router plugs into the existing broadband Internet connection, which can be DSL, cable modem, satellite or T-1 business-grade service. Then standard or business phones can be plugged into the VoIP router to complete the connection.

VoIP also can become a remote office solution should an office be damaged or closed after a hurricane.

That's the plan for Illuminati. After Lee's office was closed last year after Hurricane Wilma, a large client requested a business continuity plan. Lee knows that if his office loses its T-1 broadband Internet connection, his VoIP service will be lost as well. Should Illuminati lose service, Lee will unplug his VoIP router, and relocate to hotel or office where broadband service is accessible. This way, he can plug in his modem and phone set, and have phone service.

Since VoIP service stores all functions, greetings and voice mails on its servers, messages await retrieval once Lee has accessed the service. Lee can log on to his VoIP account and forward all calls to his wireless phone.

He's also considering the provider's "soft phone" service. With a simple software download, Lee can plug a headset into his laptop and use it to gain full use of his VoIP service. The cost is around $10 a month.

"I can open my laptop in a Starbucks and be in business. There's a degree of flexibility, especially in a disaster scenario," he said.

Jeff Zbar is a freelance writer. Reach him at

Friday, June 09, 2006

Philips unveils gaming screens, VoIP and music gear

Christmas comes early
Rosemary Haworth

Philips yesterday showcased the products it will be pushing in the run-up to Christmas. While a few of the items on show were from its current list of consumer items, there were new takes on some existing models and a couple of real gems.

First, Philips has a cunning deal with the soon-to-be-launched Microsoft Windows Live portal (the successor to MSN) that enables the company to offer Live Messenger IM (instant messaging) contacts lists on its dual-purpose VoIP (voice over IP) and landline telephones.

An exclusive European deal between Microsoft and Philips means users will be able to scroll down their Messenger contacts on the colour VOIP 4331 handset and quickly see who's online and whether they are available to chat. A VoIP conversation can then be initiated at the press of a button, for which no call charge will be incurred.

Alternatively, the handset can be used for standard landline calls, meaning there's no need to have two handsets for separate types of phone call. It is part of Philips' attempt to divorce the VoIP low-cost calls concept from the PC and to embrace a wider, more consumer market.

The VOIP 4331 will be onsale for around £79 within the next week or two via major high-street and online retailers. For houses with several chatterboxes, Philips will be selling a two-handset pack, the VOIP 4332, for £119.

Skype fans may prefer the £69 VOIP 3211, which is a pure VoIP offering but uses Dect technology to offer call clarity and the ability to chat from as far as 300m from the base unit. That unit connects via USB to the PC and piggybacks its broadband connection – again, meaning proximity to a PC is not required.

Gamers get to drool over a 19in LCD screen with some proper built-in 20W speakers that put to shame the weedy things found on most monitors. The 190G6 screen has a refresh rate of 8ms and a native resolution of 1,280x1,024 pixels. It comes with an accompanying subwoofer and has customisable buttons on its base to switch between music genres. Costing around £449, it will be available in around a month's time.

Other interesting product announcements included a micro hi-fi that can rip CDs and has a USB port at the front so you can immediately transfer your music collection to your MP3 player. The MCM760 has a likely list price of £170. Philips is also extending its DAB offerings with a £180 DAB micro hi-fi, the MCB700, and showed us a prototype version of its portable DAB clock radio, which it aims to launch later this year for around £70. According to the AJ5100's engineer, it will run for the best part of a week on a set of six AA batteries.

Philips will also be launching a 2GB flash-based MP3 player that looks-wise is the same as the 30GB HDD6320 MP3 and photo player launched six months ago. There were also hints that the company is looking at launching a video MP3 player in due course.

There will be additions to the line up of 1.3Mp (megapixel) webcams Philips offers, a redesigned and significantly cheaper range of Ambilight 3 LCD TVs and more choice in the digital photo frames category – which, a company spokesman told us, is now a significant market.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

VoIP News: Man Charged With Selling Hacked VoIP Services

A Miami man was charged Wednesday with stealing more than 10 million minutes of voice-over-IP (VoIP) telephone service and then selling them to unsuspecting customers for as little as US$0.004 per minute.

Edwin Pena paid a Washington state computer hacker named Robert Moore about $20,000 to help him illegally route Internet telephone calls through the networks of more than 15 unnamed VoIP companies, according to criminal complaints made available by the U.S. attorney’s office.

Pena presented himself as a legitimate telecommunications wholesaler, while at the same time using hacking techniques to steal networking services valued at as much as $300,000 from each of the carriers.

"They had hoped they had engineered a brilliant toll-free calling network for themselves," said Newark FBI Special Agent in Charge Leslie Wiser Jr. in the statement. "They hoped wrong."
Pena has been charged with wire fraud for violating computer hacking laws, according to the U.S. attorney.

Starting in November 2004, the 23-year-old sold Internet telecom services at inexpensive wholesale prices through his two companies: Fortes Telecom and Miami Tech & Consulting. The telephone service was free for Pena, however, because he was using hacked lines with legitimate VoIP providers and routing the calls without being detected, the complaint states.

Pena and Moore allegedly set up a web of servers to hide their tracks, and they flooded VoIP providers with test calls, trying to guess the proprietary prefix codes used to authenticate VoIP calls on the network. Once they had cracked the codes, the two would be able to route their calls through the legitimate VoIP network, the U.S. attorney said.

With more than $1 million in profits from the scheme, Pena was able to buy real estate, a 40-foot motor boat and customized 2004 BMW M3 sports car, the U.S. attorney said.

-Robert McMillan, IDG News Service

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

NON VoIP News: HP recalls digital cameras for fire hazard

Slow VoIP News I thought I would do this kind of a public service announcement. Besides it's not every day cameras catch fire!!!

By Ben Ames, IDG News Service

Hewlett-Packard (HP) has recalled more than half a million digital cameras, citing the risk of a fire hazard from an overheated battery.

HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., learned of the problem when a customer complained that his Photosmart R707 digital camera had caught fire while plugged into its docking station, according to a press release issued Tuesday by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The flames damaged the camera and filled the room with smoke, but the customer was not injured.

The problem is caused by a mistake in the camera's firmware that kicks in when the device is plugged into an AC adapter or docking station, and attempts to charge non-rechargeable batteries such as the Duracell CP-1, HP said.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

VoIP News: VoIP links virtual transatlantic yachtswoman to real world.

Press Releases

Submitter: David Pincott
Release Date: 05-06-2006
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PRESS RELEASE 5 June 2006 Virtual transatlantic yachtswoman links to real world with new VoIP range ProVu (, the supplier of innovative, video and voice communication equipment today (5 June) launched two new VoIP (voice over internet protocol) phones at a unique event in London.

The solo yachtswoman, Lia Ditton, has just begun a virtual voyage on board the 40-foot racing trimaran ProVu – firmly fixed on dry land. Over the next 28 days she will live and work on board recreating an Atlantic crossing – her isolation broken only by contact via VoIP. Friends, family, and media are invited to talk and interact with her in this unprecedented blend of performance art, yachting, endurance and internet telephony.

Lia will be using two new phones from ProVu. The Siemens Dual C460IP DECT offers the best of all worlds as it provides cordless telephony over both the standard (PSTN) network and the internet – and unlike most existing VoIP phones you don’t need to have a PC. It’s ideal for use in the home or a small business as you can make cheap or even free VoIP calls simply by connecting the base terminal to a broadband router while still having access to standard telephone service. Lia will also be using ProVu’s newly updated Snom 300 IP phone for the first time in the UK.

ProVu considers Lia’s performance art event to be a unique way to demonstrate the benefits of these new phones. ProVu’s chairman, Peter Bryant, said: “Products like this, where the public’s familiarity is not yet at the level where they are readily understood, need to be launched in an attention-grabbing way. Keeping Lia in touch with the outside world whilst she combines performance art with her yachting achievements is unique in that it draws attention to the product whilst demonstrating exactly what it can do.”

For further information or pictures of this event or to arrange your own VoIP talk with either Lia or Peter Bryant of ProVu, please email- or call- 07866 261198 or Robert Dunnett on- or - 07739 903769.

Monday, June 05, 2006

VoIP News: Net2Phone Sues Skype over VoIP Patent

Online VoIP provider, Net2Phone Inc., has initiated legal action against Skype and its parent company, eBay Inc., claiming that the Skype software infringes on one of its point-to-point IP communication patents.

The lawsuit was filed at a U.S. District Court in Newark, New Jersey, seeking a permanent injunction as well as unspecified financial damages.

Skype, eBay, and IDC, which purchased Net2Phone in February, have all declined to comment on the pending litigation, which could potentially result in major changes to the internet VoIP market.

Friday, June 02, 2006

VoIP News:Get Ready for the VoIP Tax


If the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has its way, businesses and consumers alike will be paying more for their Voice over IP (VoIP) calling services. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has submitted a proposal that would require VoIP service providers, including Skype, Vonage, and others, to pay into the Universal Service Fund (USF).

There is no clear indication of how much the USF surcharge will add to the cost of existing VoIP services. However, according to the VON Coalition, an advocacy group consisting of VoIP service and equipment providers, the USF surcharge might add as much as $1.77 per month to a $25 monthly bundle.

Lisa Pierce, an analyst at Forrester Research, said a VoIP tax has been in the works for a long time. "Voice over IP, by definition, is a voice service," Pierce said, "and the whole reason for the USF was to ensure the availability of voice services on an equitably built basis throughout the United States."

Growing Pain

As part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the USF is intended to guarantee the delivery of affordable telecommunications services to every citizen. The fund collects some $7 billion from interstate and international phone calls annually.

For VoIP service providers, the question has moved from whether they should have to pay into the USF to how much they should pay. The FCC is calling on VoIP companies to pay 10.9 percent of 65 percent of their revenues into the USF.

Pierce said there is no question that the cost of the surcharge will be passed on to VoIP customers -- both business and home users -- and that it will narrow the gap separating VoIP and traditional phone services.

Paying It Forward

In the near term, she said, the tax could affect consumers a lot, and companies like Vonage might suffer. "Depending on how far that margin is closed over time, if someone was going to VoIP purely or primarily for economic reasons, it would obviously remove a lot of the incentive," she said.

In the case of business customers, the applications and productivity are still good reasons to choose VoIP over traditional phone services, Pierce went on to say.

"As far as economics are concerned," she said, "in the business market over the long haul, VoIP still has a lot of legs. This doesn't change that."

Were the FCC proposal to pass, she said, it is a good indication that the industry has gained legitimacy and that the government recognizes it is a growing revenue stream.
"This is some of the pains of puberty or adolescence," shd said

Thursday, June 01, 2006

VoIP News: Web Hosting and VoIP Firm Featured on Business Efficiency eBroadcast

San Jose, California - (The Hosting News) - June 1, 2006 - Web host and national provider of integrated voice and data communications firm, Covad Communications Group, Inc. executives will be featured with analysts from Frost and Sullivan for a discussion on the critical importance of Voice over IP (VoIP) for businesses seeking a competitive advantage.

The session, ''Can You Really Afford Not to Use VoIP? Leveraging the Options for Increased Business Value,'' will be led by Sam Masud, Principal Analyst, Carrier Infrastructure, ICT Practice, Frost and Sullivan; Prakash Nagpal, Director of Product Strategy, Covad; and John Grady, Director of Product Management, Covad.

Mr. Nagpal commented, ''It is important that businesses understand the options available to them," according to Nagpal. Different types of businesses need different solutions, and VoIP providers must work with each customer to ensure the service they are using gives them the maximum benefit.''

Mr. Grady added, ''Advancements in VoIP technology have provided new ways to benefit from the convenience and cost savings of a converged service, as well as the advanced features provided by Covad's portfolio of VoIP solutions.''

Sam Masud, Principal Analyst at Carrier Infrastructure, ICT Practice, Frost and Sullivan offered, ''Getting up to speed on VoIP facilitates businesses for growth. Covad's experience as a provider of VoIP for businesses allows participants to understand more clearly how different VoIP solutions can work for them.''