Thursday, June 16, 2005

Quod licet Mobi, not licet VoIPi - or Vodafone alone @home 

I currently have a serious blog block, because I am at the moment too busy e.g. trying to fix some minor problems TISPAN did not think about in the last year within one week at the TISPAN WG4 meeting here in Stockholm, e.g. how set up a call between TISPAN network A and TISPAN network B via IP, not to mention roaming (this is not an issue at all, because it is not in Release 1). Before one jumps in and posts the comment: what is the problem here, if you use the Internet? This is exactly the problem, they do not want to use the Internet because it is pfui gack. (Which translates to the public to no QoS, unreliable, full of spammers, spimmers, spitters and DoS-attackers, in private to: NO CHARGES can be collected). BTW, since approx. three days I get very interesting SMS out of nowhere e.g .ac, shouldn't this be now .xxx?)

During this meeting a colleague from Vodafone Germany proudly presented the latest Vodafone service to me: Vodafone (alone)@home or "Vodafone Zuhause". (Vodafone allein Zuhause ;-)

If you subscribe to this service, you get an additional SIMcard AND a new geographic number and you can use the SIMcard in any mobile phone within a radius of approx. 2km from your registered home address. If you leave the 2km radius, the phone stops working. In- and OutCalls are tariffed according to fixed tariffs and not like mobile tariffs (this makes a big difference in Europe).

Now this service raises some interesting questions related to the current discussions on availability of geographic numbers for nomadic VoIP services and also regarding access to emergency services for VoIP.

E.g. in Austria according to the current regulation a geographic number can only be provided if a fixed network termination exists at the given address and the address is within the geographic area indicated by the geographic number. This definition has already be stretched by mobile operators to the maximum possible with "Mobile Centrex", providing geographic numbers with DDI to reach also mobile phones. In the extreme implementation all extensions are mobile, except the switchboard, which may also be connected wireless i.e a mobile phone, but has to be nailed to the wall to provide a fixed network termination point. I am not making this up, for details see here (German only).

Since emergency service call takers assume that calls from geographic numbers are originating from the fixed location given, how does this comply with the rulemaking proposed for VoIP?

The Vodafone@home solution is explicetely marketed as replacement of your fixed line phone, potentially running out of battery and dropping dead if you leave the 2km radius. Ok, in Germany you may still use the mobile phone for emergency calls, because in Germany (and Austria) you still may place emergency calls without a SIM-cards and without being registered with your provider, but this may change soon. The reason is that emergency call takers getting fed-up being used as test-number by people in mobile-phone second-hand-shops and at flea-markets checking out if the mobile phone is working. This is BTW the only way to do so, because nobody thought about implementing a real test-number.

Is now a sticker required also on each such mobile phone with a geographic number stating that using this mobile phone may cause serious harm to your health and that of your children? I suggest to re-cycle for this purpose the same warnings placed now on cigarette-packs, e.g." if you are pregnant you may not reach the hospital in time."

Interestingly is not (yet?) offering to port your existing geographic number to the mobile phone, you get a new number. One reason could be that they do not want to blow Deutsche Telekom out of the water in one step, but in small doses. It will also be interesting to watch how T-Mobile will (be allowed to) react to this.

Summary: It is one thing to place strict rules against underdogs and another against a powerful lobby or as the old Romans already knew: Quod licet Jovi, not licet bovi.

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