You may have heard the persistent rumors that the old AT&T network operated a series of highly-secured, highly-reliable telephone switches. That these switches were buried ten stories underground at strategic locations; that the knowledge about where these switches were located was closely guarded; that the switches were hardened to withstand a near-hit from a nuclear devices.
These rumors are true. Even the wall clocks in these underground locations are shock-mounted on springs so a near-miss won’t shake them off the wall.
I thought of these switches as I read about yesterday’s earthquake and how Internet services were disrupted. The earthquake occurred along a narrow corridor that houses all the undersea cables that connect Taiwan with Hong Kong; and the connections to Taiwan ultimately lead to the US. These cuts and others disrupted both Internet and telephone services across Asia and between Asia and the US.
I will be interested to see what the consequences are for Internet telephony. As companies scramble to restore service, what priority will Internet telephony services be given? Ordinary Internet data can travel by satellite; voice calls do best on wires; a logical choice would be to reserve bandwidth on the remaining cables for voice calls and move data with either lower priority or via satellite. This argues that we’ll see long-term degradation of Internet telephony quality, until service is back up and running; and that could mean movement away from Internet telephony, which will be tagged as less reliable than classical telephony.
The other possibility: since Internet telephony can scavenge packets from any Internet connection, Internet telephony will gain in reputation as something that keeps working even when ordinary connections are unavailable.
Let’s see what happens. It ought to be interesting.
When considering social software, we tend to conceive of software that is a filtered aggregation of individuated and personalised experiences.
Nokia’s Jan Chipchase and Indri Tulusan reframe this perception by asking what happens when people share an object that is inherently designed for personal use?
There’s a lotta talk about the ‘next billion’ mobile customers, largely from the developing world, but very little real empirical study of what those users might need. Contrast Doom-playing OLPCs with the work of The Fonly Institute…
Chipchase and Tulusan’s field study of Ugandan mobile, this past July, documents some very revealing observations…
- Phone borrowing is is driven by cost and price sensitivity.
- Phone lending is driven by hospitality, personal relationships and community well-being.
- The notion of ’sente’, using prepay airtime as a form of cheap, secure and convenient banking.
- Employing missed calls - ‘beeping and flashing’ - as a form of free messaging.
- Phones as community ATMs.
- Pooling prepay credit between customers when sufficiently small prepay denominations are available.
- Mediated Calls - where literacy becomes a barrier to participation.
- Community address books to encourage repeat business and conveniently recall commonly dialled numbers.
- Step messaging - physically carrying a phone containing a message to its recipient…
Chipchase and Tulusan conclude that sharing is driven by cost, but that low costs lowers the propensity to share; with initial experiences governed by sharing, they also conclude that this may shape future usage. It’ll be interesting to see how individual ownership might affect social cohesion and mobile usage in the very same communities.
What’s striking about the research is that all the observed innovations in shared usage are a result of user inventiveness, rather than handset design or network services; a case of user-generated services that really serve the needs of the consumer…if the mobile industry paid closer attention to such innovation, it might provide that ‘next billion’ users with the tools they actually need.
BTW, during a vacation in Pakistan this year, I noticed that a lot of people carried 2-3 handsets and SIMs as tools to mediate their friendships, family and professional availabilty…
(I started writing this post at my personal blog, then realised it would actually make for an interesting ETel article, so apologies for those who have picked it up twice!)
So the iPhone really is here. (Actually, it’s been here since October 2005 at least, but more on that later). I was recently given an evaluation unit of the new Linksys CIT300 Dual-Mode Internet Telephony kit, a member of the Linksys iPhone line. The kit includes a combination landline / Skype cordless phone and a base unit that connects to your landline and a PC running Skype. I was excited to put this new gadget through some paces. I’m not a huge Skype user, but if this device truly integrates Skype with my existing home phone service, that has the potential to change my calling habits.
I’ll say right up front that I had an overall very positive experience with the CIT300. The phone is well designed, easy to use, and could go a long way towards bringing Skype into even more households. It does an admirable job of including key Skype functionality on a small handset, and handles its dual life as a landline cordless phone gracefully. But for several factors, the biggest being the inconsistent quality I experience with SkypeOut and SkypeIn calls, I’m not going to be switching to a device like this in my home anytime soon.
This is one of the more interesting Skype add-ons I’ve heard about recently. According to this BBC article, KishKish will be offering lie detector software that works in conjunction with Skype and will analyze the stress levels of the voice on the other end of a Skype call when the software is installed. (The KishKish site is down as I write this, so I don’t have too many details.). While one could imagine objections and privacy concerns about these kind of programs, Skype seems on board with the idea. The BBC article quotes Paul Amery, director of Skype the developer program:
This is a really excellent application, and the kind of thing we want to see more of. Lie Detector is the latest in a variety of product in our premium add-on programme which greatly enhance the Skype communication experience.
The software can reportedly monitor and display visual stress level indications in real time, as well as store calls for later analysis. (Thanks, Brian!)
John Littler has written an excellent series of articles on the Linux-based Nokia 770 Internet tablet computer over on our ONLamp LinuxDevCenter, but his latest installment will be of particular interest to readers of this site as the 770 now supports SIP calling. VOIP on the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet covers how to upgrade the 770, make SIP calls, and even how to put Asterisk on the tablet computer!
Nokia’s 770 Internet Tablet is more than a Linux-based device; a recent software update made it a handy VOIP device. John Littler examples how the upgrade works and walks you through setting up VOIP and Asterisk.
Don’t miss this article if you’re interested in the Nokia 770 or interesting Asterisk implementations.
Skype did always maintain that the free North American calling promotion would go away at the end of this year, and they’ve now made it official. Skype 3.0 for Windows has gone gold today along with the news that starting in January it will cost $29.95/year for outbound (Skype Out) calling to the U.S. and Canada. There is a $14.95/year introductory rate for those who sign up for the plan during the first month.
$30 a year pretty drastically undercuts most other comparable calling plans, but it’s a whole lot more than free and it can be difficult to get people to change their habits and start paying for something they’ve gotten used to getting for no cost. Especially with the inconsistent and sometimes extremely poor quality that many (including myself) experience with Skype Out calls to the PSTN, this may put a dent in their North American usage. The change is being hailed by some as a welcome move towards a business model that might actually generate some real revenue though. IP Democracy points out:
The $29.95/year charge is slightly noteworthy because it reflects the first viable attempt by Skype to start generating serious mass-market revenues since the VoIP pioneer was purchased by eBay in October 2005 for $2.5 billion, a figure scoffed at by some industry experts as exhorbitant. Now, at least, eBay is on the road to getting a reasonable payback from Skype.
The Venice Project has (sort of) launched via an invite only public beta. Until you get an invite from a pal checkout some official screenshots and read the early feedback to peak your curiousity.
Just when you thought it was safe to dorkout the Nerd (aka Ward Mundy) returns with a new tutorial showing how to setup his US Zipcode Weather Station on Asterisk. Major geek props to Ward for documenting some seriously nerdy ways to use a PBX such as how to add an iTunes Telephone Controller. Hats off, my man.
ABC News is reporting a story that claims the FBI can access and control a cellphone that is turned off, activate its microphone and transmit any audio it picks up to a FBI listening post.
I’ve been testing the Nokia N80i (Internet Edition) for the past month or so. As I write this, I am at cafe in Buenos Aires. I have been trying to come up with a shorthand way to describe making a VoIP call from a wifi hotspot.
Voice over WiFi is too long, and too techy. So what about Spot Dialing? What do you think? If you like, pass it along.
Recently, Stewart Butterfield was one of the first to show off the N95.
Today, news is out that Kevin Rose has iPhone details! Currently, Revision Premium Members can watch his video here about it.
Or, just read the same excerpt I read on macnn.com today:
The new unit will ship in 4GB and 8GB storage capacities for $249 and $449…will feature two separate batteries to power the MP3 player portion of the device as well as the telephone aspect of the handset…will feature a slide-out keyboard and a touch-screen face…reportedly works with all major phone providers including T-Mobile, Cingular, and Verizon with support for all major standards including GSM, TDMA, CDMA, and Spring PCS.
Note: I presume that was an error and they meant Sprint PCS. :)
According to a post on TechCrunch Azureus is announcing their Zudeo beta on Monday. It certainly appears that they are trying to take a stab at The Venice Project before it launches (rumored to be in early January).
If the post is accurate by claiming partnerships with over a dozen major TV and film studios to provide free programs, Azureus is very likely hinting at the coming Venice Project BizDev strategy: partner with the major video content holders, legitimately distribute ad supported long format High Resolution content using P2P mechanisms, and focus less on user generated content (which can be better handled by sites like YouTube anyways). Granted, there’s still a strong social network aspect to Zudeo but that’s more than likely to try to build a viral network than to focus on user generated content.
In a hypothetical world where the next generation of video distribution was really just between these two players I’d place my bets on TVP. The reason being if only because having eBay in your corner (even if that relationship is unclear) means there’s a deep pocket looking to own a piece of a new important marketplace. All eyes will be on Niklas and his latest venture. Points to Azureus for showing us some biz strategy evolution in this space.
Those of us following major issues in the VoIP space can read between the lines here and predict that there will be some upcoming issues in this space involving network neutrality. Legal issues only get thornier if either of these projects gain traction. The fat pipes of the internet (which happen to provide video content too) will not be so happy with P2P traffic eating through their bandwidth and competing uber-aggressively on price for services they offer too.