Saturday, April 30, 2005
What Steve is saying is that SIP is good for bellheads and NGNs, but not for the end-user.
SIP + RTP are protocols that are well suited for performing IP telephony within and between enterprises and carriers. These protocols are clear about how to set up and tear down voice media streams when you know the IP address of the other sides proxy and you yourself can configure and maintain a URI. This is great for, say, an service provider to interface with the PSTN via a carrier like Level(3). Or for an enterprise PBX that supports remote branch offices. Or an enterprise interfacing to a carrier. These are huge fractions of worldwide voice communications. The protocols are mature, debugged, well supported, and have industry momentum.Ok, this is basically true, although some may say for this purpose H.323 is even better ;-) But is even getting better:
What they're not good at is being run on a home machine behind random, generic NATs, firwalls, and NetNanny filters. The ATA is a kludge, and it's problematic in that we're asking the average consumer to install and configure a home router in order to make a VoIP call. And your average user has no idea how to set a sip:user@host URI. They don't and usually can't exist in the web namespace, nor do they want to. Thus we have the hack of using PSTN 10 digit phone numbers to call IP endpoints. If you think I'm overstating the complexity of these problems, I would ask whether or not you've ever tried to configure your xten softphone to talk to your residential VoIP carrier. Or tried to write an Asterisk dial plan ...Now this is very similar to what I said in No SIP URI - No ENUM. What I agree here is that SIP is way to complicated to configure and there have already been requests to define a simple SIP profile. What I do not agree is that an average user has no idea to set up a sip:user@host URI. He does not need to, the same way he does not need to set up a mailto:user@host. Every ISP does this for him.
SIP was modelled after e-mail, both in architecture and also regarding the URI, and the intention was to use it in the same way: just put it on your business card and anybody can reach you by typeing in the URI in your phone (device or client). ENUM is just an add-on if you still prefer to use E.164 numbers or may enter only numbers on your device. But basically you need a SIP URI behind the scenes.
So there should be basically no problem for an end-user to use a SIP URI direct or with ENUM (if he prefers using E.164 numbers), but practically there are two problems:
The first and the major problem is: the user does not get a public SIP URI.
Nearly each telco is already providing VoIP with SIP now, mainly because it is cool now-a-days, but most of them are providing VoIP in either a real or virtual "NGN" or "walled garden". And of course if their product managers have their five senses together, they provide preconfigured devices.
The real NGNs are providing VoIP within their vertical networks, e.g. cable operators, DSL operators al la Yahoo!BB, etc. and this is also the approach planned for the IMS NGN. The "simple" NGN can only be used @home, whereas the IMS NGN is planning to extend the reach via roaming to other operators they have roaming agreements with. This is the plan for mobile operators and the fixed opereators want to join the GSMA club via TISPAN and ATIS. They even want to extend this to enabling virtual access from any hotspot via a VPN channel to the SBC. So much about about QoS, it is all about termination fees.
The virtual "NGN" providers al a Vonage do not care about QoS from the beginning, they just care about call charges and termination fees to and from the PSTN. Most of them give calls within the "walled garden" for free, because the costs are marginal, but the connections to other "walled gardens are ONLY via the PSTN and therefore charged. Within IMS NGN of course it is planned to interconnect finally via SIP, but only within the club (e.g via the GRX network and of course metered per minute.
In this definition Skype ist just another virtual "walled garden" NGN using a proprietory protocol. It interfaces also with the others via the PSTN, it may also interface in future with the IMS NGN via SIP, but I suspect this will also be metered.
There are some free SIP providers out there providing their customers with SIP URIs and free interconnect between them, e.g. Jeffs FWD, Thilo's sipgate and some others, but as it looks now, they will be squeezed between the IMS NGNs and Skype. I always warned these guys not to go for POTS replacement (POTSoIP), but for mobility, presence, IM and location based services, but to no avail.
Anybody of them could have done basically what Skype did but with SIP, maybe not so easy because of the bellheads in IETF not defining a simple SIP. And of course much of the success of Skype is based on clever marketing, but they definitely went off in the wrong direction, providing ATAs for steamphones or simple IP-phones looking like normal phones, because this is what the dunb customers want, they assume. This is BTW also what may telco managers assume. Skype proofs otherwise.
So the real fight will take place between the planned IMS NGN and the existing Skype NGN, having a headstart of approx. two years. If the IMS NGN will be able to catch up will be decided finally by the customer, because he will be able to choose on his mobile device if he is using the IMS NGN VoIP or the Skype NGN VoIP. Of course one can download a SIP client also on a Smartphone, try to configure it (good luck) and register with a free SIP provider, in case there are any left. Then he may be reached via his SIP URI and also contact anybody with a SIP URI, if thery are any. Metcalfe's Law will be against this approach.
The minor problem with SIP URIs is that domain hosting services are simple unaware of the required resource records for SIP. Every domain hosting service knows how to forward e-mails and what an MX record is. I contacted my domain hosting service because I wanted to forward sip:richard AT stastny DOT com to my SIP service provider and only earned a blank stare and a reply along these lines: "Nobody here knows what you are talking about, could you please elaborate what a SRV record is?"
So the last chance for public SIP URIs are enterprises wanting to link each other together on the Internet, and as Steve said, they may be able to configue SIP, but who should tell this possibility to corporate IT-managers? The telcos, the softwitch providers or will it be Microsoft?
And will you be able to call a company via their SIP URI on the Internet direct?
I am posting this sitting already in Geneva, because I will attend the ITU-T Workshop on NGN in collaboration with IETF tomorrow and Monday. I am already very interested on the results ;-)
Friday, April 29, 2005
In addition, the Guidelines for VoIP Service Providers of the 2nd Consultation on VoIP I referenced in a previous post is as its name suggests a consultation only and everybody is invited to make comments. It also is not self-evident that this draft guidelines are not in German, but in English, and comments are accepted in both English and German.
Thilo is also criticizing the Austrian numbering ordinance (KEM-V), released last summer and which is one of the most advanced, including already VoIP and ENUM.
Before I go into a detailed response, I have to explain especially for my readers used to the North American Numbering plan, that first Austria is not Australia and therefore a very small country. That means that the difference between local (=regional) calls and "long-distance" calls is marginal, that local calls are also metered and charged per minute, and most important, mobile phones are behind special number ranges (non-geographic numbers, and are charged with much higher rates than calls to fixed lines. In exchange there is no air-time. I consider this un-fair, but it was one reason for the tremendous growth in mobile phone usage. In Austria there are more mobile phones already than fixed lines. An example for the tarifs:
One minute in prime time local=4,9c, national=5,9c and to mobile 21c
One minute in non-prime local=1,35c, national=2,6c and to mobile still 21c
(all prices in Eurocent)
There are zillions of differnt prices and bundles and free minutes, so the above just should give you the basic idea.
Now to Thilos rant:
According to KEM-V these numbers are to be used to provide a service 'at a fixed location' with the additional obligation for the communication service to use technical measures to enforce on site usage.This is not unusual in other countries too, Thilo should basically start complaining in Germany ;-)
And RTR basically thinks it is not sufficient to check a box with subscription confirming that you are a resident (ala Skype in France)
For the avoidance of doubt: I support Thilo's request that virtual geographic numbers are available for non-residents too, because the related problems can be solved. Anybody else supporting this is requested to submit a comment to RTR in time.
But the next statements from Thile are either half-truth or simply wrong:
Alternative numbering resources are available, butThis is only partially true. Currently the alternative numbering ranges (0)720 and (0)780 (will be available and routed! from Mid of May) will be charged the same rate as calls to the nationwide corporate numbers, which is between regional and national calls. Since Austria is not really a big country, the difference marginal, as we have seen. Calls from mobile phones charge the same rate to all Austrian fixed numbers anyway.
o incur higher costs for the calling party
Since calls to mobile numbers are much more expensive (as we have seen), the Austrians are used to high tariffs for certain number ranges, so these prices are considered cheap. Calls from out of Austria to these numbers are charged like calls to geographic numbers and NOT like calls to mobile numbers. If not, you have a talk with your originating operator.
o are almost never accessible from outside of Austria (not likely to change soon)Now this is a nice one, so lets check whats going on here.
o may not be accessible from all Austrian networks (all networks are required to route them in theory, but let us not ignore reality.
Calls to (0)720 are almost ALWAYS accessible from outside Austria, at least as long as your operator sticks to normal routing. My +43 720 number is at least reachable from Germany (fixed and mobile) and also from
UK (fixed and mobile) - I have verified this. This is valid for any country, as long as the originating operator chooses to use the international transit network for any call to +43.
If of course an originating operator chooses not to route this number range, or chooses to route this number range or all calls to +43 via TDM or IP by-pass directly to a national Austrian operator, and now this national Austrian operator is NOT routing this number range, who is to blame?
This is the reason why (0)720 cannot be reached by sipgate and Skype.
So please talk to your national VoIP gateway operator, wake him up, because he is sleeping and loosing traffic and money and tell him to open up the number range.
o bear the psychologial disadvantage of "feeling non-local" to the calling partyThe feeling of non-local is not really an issue in Austria (see above) and not at all for non-Austrians
The immediate implications for extraterritorial communication services providing access through 3rd party networks are:This is nonsense: customers "migrating" to "extraterritorial" communication (I think you mean nomadic services here) can only be existing residents now having geographic numbers. If you read the proposed guide carefully, you will see that these customers do not need to migrate. They may port their numbers to
o customers migrating to extraterritorial communication services are required to renumber
VoIP and also use the geographic number in a nomadic way. They only need in addition a non-geographic number if they want to make out-calls to display this non-geographic number to emergency services as an indication for not being at the home location.
This makes sense as long as we do not have implemented other means of presenting location information to the emergency services.
Since the regulator in Austria does NOT charge (currently) for numbering resources (like in Germany), it is up to the provider if he charges in addition for this number.
So geographic numbers are basically a problem for non-residents and they may as well choose a non-geographic number from the beginning.
As I stated above, the "non-local" feeling is not such an issue in Austria (considering that in Austria more mobile subscribers exist than local subscribers, and they all have a "non-local" feeling.
o customers migrating from extraterritorial communication service may choose to port their newly assigned non-geographic numbersI do not really parse this statement. Customers migrating from extraterrestrial communication to what? Do you mean porting of these numbers? Porting is possible.
o severe marketing disadvantage due to psychological barriers caused by "strange looking numbers"Again, these numbers look as "strange" as mobile numbers and these are the majority, looking quite normal to Austrians. It is basically just another "mobile" number range, and to surprise, surpise, a much cheaper one ;-)
And last but not least my favourite twist: All this is considered to be "technology-neutral", because even mobile operators could use geographic numbers if they only rewired their wireless customers :->This is the last thing mobile operators want, because they would loose this nice high termination charges
But this will happen anyway with IMS and fixed-mobile convergence
Like Stuart I have also to wait for the Symbian version, and I also will wait for
voice, since I have 3G.
Post in Skype Forum:
A bit offtopic but somehow related with Pocket PC. We have early version of Skype for Smartphone available. Please provide feedback directly to me or in this forum.
Download is already available at http://www.skype.com/go/getskype-smartphone
Below are release notes and mini-FAQ
----------------------- Relese notes ----------------------------------------
Skype for Smartphone BETA
* participate in Skype network - log in, presence
* instant messaging
* centrally stored contact list support
Things to be aware of
* no voice (yet)
* network traffic usage - depending on your buddy list network usage can be quite large - up to several megabytes per day even without actively chatting, this is important if you pay per megabyte. There is option automatically disconnect then Skype is in idle and it's switched on by default, feel free to switch it off if you have flat-free rate.
----------------------- FAQ ----------------------------------------
Q: Why not voice?
A: CPU power and network connectivity of currently available phones is not sufficient to enable Skype voice calls
Q: Why such big network traffic consuption?
A: Skype is built on peer-to-peer platform and by nature it requires more communication with other peers than simple server-based messaging. We are working to lower network usage in future versions.
Thursday, April 28, 2005
there is now a much simple method to check it out. Roke Manor Research has up-dated their ENUM Lookup to understand x-skype:callto.
To check it out, one may use the number +431505641636 from Klaus.
One may see here also the usage of sms:mailto ;-)
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
The Austrian Regulatory Authority for Broadcasting and Telecommunications (RTR) is conducting a 6-week public consultation on the document "Guidelines for VoIP Service Providers" and invites all interested parties to submit positions and comments regarding the regulatory approach to VoIP services. RTR already held a public consultation on VoIP in June 2004 with the results influencing RTR's comments to the European Commission consultation on VoIP, This second public consultation on VoIP gives opportunity to comment on RTR's modified position. Due to the international aspect of VoIP regulation, the consultation document is published in English. Comments are welcome both in English and German. All comments received will be published on RTR's website, as long as RTR is not explicitely advised not to do so.
Please send your positions and comments until June 10, 2005 in electronic form (MS-Word, MS-Excel, PDF) via e-mail to konsultationen AT rtr.at
The consulation defines two classes of VoIP services (Class A PATS+ECS and Class B unregulated) and deals mainly with numbering issues, interconnect requirements and access to emergency services.
The proposed position is:
If you are connecting to the PSTN in Austria you are Class A and therefore regulated. One major point here is that if you want to provide VoIP service with a geographic (local) number, you need a fixed termination point at this location. If you provide a nomadic service in addition, you need also an additional nomadic number below for display if you access emergency services.
If you provide a nomadic (virtual) service only, you may use the number ranges 0720 and 0780 (ENUM) only.
Since the outcome of this consulation is important also for non-native VoIP providers, I recommend that VoIP providers interested in providing VoIP services using Austrian numbering resources or to terminate calls via gateways in Austria to retrieve this paper and also to comments on their position.
Back to the story: my younger daughter Julia had a pre-paid SIM-Card where I have the control on re-charging, for very good reasons. For some period of time she used another SIM-card in her mobile phone and the old SIM got lost. This is nothing unusual in a 6-person household where much bigger things get lost: combs and glues just evaporate, mp3-players, power supplies, books, etc., sometimes even one of the kids gets lost.
Basically these things are not lost, they are just lurking somewhere. The easiest way to find them is to buy a replacement, because afterwards they are immediatly popping up. Ok, we do not replace kids, because they show up by themselves if they are hungry or need money, whatever happens first.
So I called the mobile service provider for another SIM-card:
The guy at the phone was very friendly:
No problem, that's just 29 Euro.
But if you get a Nokia whatever in addition, it is only 19 Euro.
Ok, since mobile phones also evaporate (except the old museum bricks), it is always nice to have a spare one.
Nice, but I definitely do not understand the economics of telecommunications. I leave this to the product managers.
Sunday, April 24, 2005
My original post was triggered by Martin, where he said, the VoB is dead, and he also clarified this in his recent post:
The Vob (a provisionless SIP-speaking voice network) is dead. Not even sleeping. SIP will be embedded inside other virtual networks (e.g. IMS, aka “TDM and SS7 on IP”). But they will be overlayed with a ton of proprietary and closed stuff that will make any SIP embedded somewhat irrelevant.I also cited Aswath and he obviously got this in the wrong thoat and be talked at cross-purposes for some time. He meant the SIP protocol suite, I meant the the provision of public and open SIP services on the Internet, providing you with a publicly accessible SIP URI.
Henry Sinnreich has stated many times to everybody wanting to listen or not:
IP Telephony without providing the end-user with a SIP URI is not considered Internet Telephony.
SIP was developed by the IETF and modelled after the e-mail protocol suite to be implemented on the public Internet end-to-end.
Today VoIP (SIP and H.323) is very successfully used within carriers networks, enterprises and offered to residential end-users also. But ALL of the enterprise and carrier implementations, also to residential end-user DO NOT provide end-users with a publicly available SIP or H323 URI. There is only some minor exceptions (e.g sipgate, FWD, etc.)
It is all walled garden and propriatory, starting with Yahoo!BB, Vonage, and ending with the VoIP" services from the various incumbents and cable operators jumping on the band-waggon). The NGN IMS currently specified by 3GPP, to be used also by ETSI TISPAN for fixed networks, will even have his own flavour of SIP (propriatory extensions - sic!) and will NOT provide you with public SIP URIs either.
Why? Ostensible for end-to-end QoS guaranties (ha!) and security reasons (called SBC promotion), but in reality because if you deliver a call to a public SIP URI without an interconnect agreement you are not able to charge terminating fees. This is especially a horrible idea for mobile operators in Europe, because most of them live on this (beside on living on the useful id.. ah parents of kids using SMS).
They are planning to interconnect either on the PSTN (=E.164 numbers) or via IP with bilateral interconnect agreements, which is an adminstrative nightmare and very expensive (OPEX). This is BTW one of the reasons why I have serious technical problems with the implementation of IMS.
Why I am so keen on this issue?
Because linked with the death ah.. non availability of the SIP URI also the future of ENUM.
For ENUM the basic requirement is a public SIP URI and the reachability of the related SIP server on the public Internet. ENUM is part of the provision of the of the VoB.
No public SIP URIs = No ENUM. Period. End of story.
Saturday, April 23, 2005
The ENUM Softphone supports the experimental Enumservice x-skype:callto as proposed here.
The update was required to support the Enumservice voice:sip defined in ETSI TS 102 172V2 in addition to Enumservice sip. The official release of TS 102 172V2 by ETSI is to be expected in some weeks.
The update also features now an optional "Show all NAPTRs" box, for freaks.
If you have any comments or feedback, please contact the author Klaus.Darilion AT enum.at directly.
I am not sure whether I meant to write a requiem for SIP, but it was certainly to be an advice for the young bull. There was a time when H.323 was dumped because it was bellheaded; now it is SIP's turn to get the same label. The interesting thing to observe is that Skype apologists are suggesting that Skype will vanquish everything else. How more bellheaded can one be?I agree. And of course I got the message that the young bull should keep in mind he will be the old bull in the future. And product cycles get shorter and shorter now-a-days. But young bulls basically do not care about these issues ;-)
My post was of course intended to be provokative and I still hope that the SIP-guys get their act together, remember one of the basic design principles of the Internet and one of the major reasons for its sucess: Keep-It-Simple.
There are already quiet attempts (also caused by the sucess of Skype) to get back to the roots and define a profile for Simple SIP. To no avail up to now - you are up against bellheads.
But what if Skype really IS the young bull and taking over the current PSTN?
In quiet moments I had this vision, or nightmare, or whatever, but I did not really thought through all the implications and consequences.
Basically Skype is an NGN in the walled garden terminology of ITU-T, ETSI, 3GPP and ATIS. I use this analogy sometimes to provoke my colleagues during IMS standardization meetings:
- Skype claims to have superior end-to-end QoS, and contrary to IMS NGN Skype has already proven this fact.
- Skype also has an important network element which is essential in IMS NGN: Session Border Controllers (SBC).
Skype has one big advantage: it is available and NGN IMS is not (maybe in two years, if they get their act together, maybe never)
So what if Skype keeps growing exponentially, spreading from PCs to fixed and mobile devices. If finally IMS NGN is ready, the market is taken. What can they offer in addition to get the customers back? SIM-identity? Skype can provide this also.
If this happens, what will be the future of Skype be regarding regulation?
Will Skype have to open up their interfaces?
Will Skype have to make their protocol public and standardized?
Will everybody have to pay royalties to Skype?
Will it be de-regulated and broken up like ATT?
Or will there other systems out and the end-user has a multipurpose client negotiating with the other end-point like now for codecs?
Many questions, few answers, but:
It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.
(choose your own Source)
Friday, April 22, 2005
SIP is history as far as the future of voice is concerned. Get over it. The Vob is dead. Shuffled off to join the big pile of dead over-complex standards. DCE, CORBA — please make some space between you, we’ve got company tonight.
May I add B-ISDN, OSI (X.400), H.323, INAP, BICC,...
Aswath is holding the requiem with citing from the poem The Bull.
And he ends:
Pity him, this dupe of dream,And it is being replaced by another young bull, the “iPod of VoIP”, Skype.
Leader of the herd again
Only in his daft old brain,
Once again the bull supreme
And bull enough to bear the part
Only in his tameless heart.
May I add the very sad last verse:
- And the dreamer turns away
- From his visionary herds
- And his splendid yesterday,
- Turns to meet the loathly birds
- Flocking round him from the skies,
- Waiting for the flesh that dies.
PS: Watch Out
There are still some zombies around, namely the living dead from 3GPP, ETSI TISPAN, ATIS, ... specifying currently SIP on steroids: the IP Multimedia System (IMS).
Thursday, April 21, 2005
So what can a Telco/ISP provide?
- The broadband access to the Internet
- Part of the backbone
- The gateway to the PSTN
- Routing of the E.164 number to this gateway
- ENUM Registrar and ENUM Nameserver service
- VoIP server hosting (residential and IP centrex)
- Domain Name hosting
- Circle of Trust for accounting and billing
- Intelligent packaging for Joe Doe users
- VoIP and video users need broadband - Boosts DSL rollout - $$/month
- SIP Server hosting - $/month
- ENUM hosting - $/month
- Gateway operation - Incoming calls - $/call on PSTN - Outgoing calls - $/call on Internet
- Participation in trust circle - % on each transaction - Certificates $/month
- Sell books, info, sex and flowers (transfer premium rate services to assertions)
- Move up the value chain to services and consulting
Reading the Telepocalypse entry from Martin yesterday: The Telecom Earthquake reminded me on my old presentation not only because of the name relation. He states:
It would be a tragic mistake to underestimate the potential market power Skype is accumulating. According to Skype’s own figures from VON Canada, they’re sustaining a growth rate of 1000% a year. Just another 2 years of this growth and they would have over 200 million concurrent users online. This is not beyond plausibility given how Skype and broadband are symbiotically driving adoption of one-another; the addressable market is exploding too.
That means even if you’re a mega-telco — a Verizon or a Vodafone — you’re screwed. You can create your own Private Voice Application, and start marketing it to your early-adopter users, but who ya gonna call? Ain’t nobody but Skypers out there. Want some Skype presence in your Vodafone-branded VoIP app? Gonna cost ya!
So are they screwed? Is it really Apocalypse Now?
Before I try to answer, lets first look on another blog of the day: James Enck, reporting from a panel discussion he moderated at the ECTA conference in Barcelona - Whose disruption is it, anyway?
Moment of the session, from my point of view, was some fairly impassioned questioning from a representative of a large European cable company. "We have invested heavily in a network and have to guarantee we can service the debt associated with that investment, so why should we tolerate services like Skype and Telio on our network?"
I thought the responses from Espen and Michael were diplomatic, but unequivocal - (I paraphrase) these are the sorts of developments inevitable in an IP world, and you should have been prepared for them. On the one hand, they may serve as accelerators for your sales of broadband connections (a message I have been hearing from Vonage and others in the space since the beginning). On the other hand, the other impacts they may have on your business are down to your cost structure and strategic positioning, which is nothing to do with us. My unstated thoughts at the time were: "the Skype client assigns itself a random primary IP port, with port 80 and port 443 as alternatives, so exactly what do you propose to do about it in any case? It's not what you want to hear, but the only option is to learn to deal."
Here also came to my mind the presentation Sir Terry Matthews (Founder of MITEL, Newbridge etc. etc.) gave at the last Fall VON in Boston with the simple title "Shifting Gears". In his presentation he talked about disruptive technologies starting with the canals in England replaced by the railways and continued via Coaxial Transatlantic Cables replaced by fiber and ending up logically with broadband and IP. All these disrupting technologies caused always and will cause sunk or stranded costs by other investors.
I am not a Sir and simply say: Sh*t happens.
On the other side, as I marked bold in the above statement from Espen and Michael:
... the other impacts they may have on your business are down to your cost structure and strategic positioning, which is nothing to do with us.
I remember a presentation some years ago at a Telemanagement Forum Conference in Las Vegas, where an Analyst presented a survey made by his company on DSL roll-out cost of providers, and he said the CAPEX and OPEX varies depending on how well the providers did their operation and administration between $200 and $1400 per line. Astonishing.
It is obvious that with a monthly fee of $50 for the customer (at this time) you may never be able to service the debt associated with that investment if you are in the upper region of the above range.
A very similar thing happened three years ago to the mobile operators with the weird licence fees for UMTS and the obligations to set up a costly network nobody uses because of the fees charged.
So if you are unable to do your business well, why should to make your customers responsible?
On the other hand, and this is my last hope for the telcos: If they convert to broadband access providers (a business Skype and Microsoft do not want to be in), basically be ISPs AND do their job well, I still see only The Perfect Storm.
IN NAPTR 100 100 "u" "E2U+x-skype:callto" "!^.*$!callto://detlev!" .
The Austrian ENUM Registry enum.at already provides an ENUM Softphone capable of making an ENUM query, recognizing this Enumservice and launching Skype with the callto URI if running. The author of the ENUM Softphone is Klaus Darilion.
The above mentioned link provides you with detailed instructions how to install the client.
BTW, enum.at is also providing a lot of information on other ENUM issues and is available in German and English.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
In the presentation is a very interesting graph about the exponential growth of Skype and the summary given to the regulators was:
• Voice is becoming a software application
• No benefits of regulating VoIP
• Regulators role is to ensure that VoIP can
– easily interconnect with PSTN
– Access to numbers and allow virtual numbers and nomadic use
– Stop network operators to abuse their situation by blocking, not unbundling or rebalancing prices
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Om Malik and also Stuart note that Lenn Pryor, the Channel 9 founder, is leaving Microsoft and joining Skype.
Other news from Skype come from the VON Canada via MobileMag:
At the Voice On the Net (VON) conference in Toronto, Skype Technologies co-founder and CEO Niklas Zennstrom reported that a mobile version of Skype will be available this year.
“We will encourage hardware manufacturers to deploy Skype on their devices.” said Zennstrom. SkypeMobile for mobile devices (our unofficial name for the new Skype) will be targeted to hardware manufacturers for integration into new dual-mode (GPRS + WiFi) mobile devices once made available to carriers. Our guess is that whichever manufacturer will adopt Skype first is the platform SkypeMobile will be released for.
Sunday, April 17, 2005
"I am curious to know Skype’s reaction regarding the URI requirement. I suppose Skype can allocate a SIP URI and then map it to Skype address. But then this scheme allows for easy porting from one service provider to another; probably the anticipated Skype “lock-in” is not so assured."
Rao is as usual on the point and we already thought about this. The solution he proposes is of course valid and workable, if Skype decides to provide SIP-URIs and SIP-Skype Gateways. But has basically nothing to do with ENUM, beside the fact that you may use these SIP-URIs e.g. sip:firstname.lastname@example.org in ENUM. But the implementation is up to Niklas or eventually third parties providing such gateways. For a full sulution (to call back) one may also need to query ENUM from Skype and set-up calls to SIP users.
But ENUM is not providing interworking (it does also not solve the problem of interworking between H.323 and SIP. The basic requirements for Skype to be used in ENUM is to have a URI for Skype and an appropriate "enumservice".
Now the first half of this is already there: Skype "hi-jacked" the callto: URI from Microsoft to be used with the SkypeMe button. If one installes Skype on Windows or Mac, the callto: URI gets registered and if you click a SkypeMe button, Sykpe launches with callto://skypename.
So there IS a URI to be used in ENUM, all what is needed in addition is an "enumservice". I have no idea what the reaction of the IETFwould be if I propose skype:callto to be registered with IANA, but there is a way-out: if one reads RFC3761 very carefully, he may detect in section 126.96.36.199 ENUM Services the following statement:
The only exception to the registration rule is for Types and Subtypes used for experimental purposes, and those are to start with the faces"X-". These elements are unregistered, experimental, and should be used only with the active agreement of the parties exchanging them.
And in Section 3.1.2 Naming requirement:
An Enumservice MUST be unique in order to be useful as a selectioncriteria. Since an Enumservice is made up of a type and a type-dependent subtype, it is sufficient to require that the 'type' itself be unique. The 'type' MUST be unique, conform to the ABNF specified in Section 2.4.2, and MUST NOT start with the facet "X-" which is reserved for experimental, private use.
So we propose to use the experimental Enumservice x-skype:callto, e.g.
IN NAPTR 100 100 "u" "E2U+x-skype:callto" "!^.*$!callto://detlev!" .
This solution would at least allow all ENUM clients running on the end-users device to use this feature. Ideal for a first implementation would be an ENUM client running on top of the Pulver Communicator:
If you enter an E.164 number, the Communicator is querying ENUM and either setting up a call via SIP or via Skype, depending in the result of the query. If no entry is found, it may use SkypeOut or LibreTel, depending on configuation. An add-on on Skype directly may work at least for all x-skype enumservices.
But what about the ENUM queries via SIP-servers or via the +43 780 gateways? Here we are back to the proposal from Rao: if a SIP-Skype gateway exists, this could be used.
The decision on this is up to Skype: do they want to sell only their SkypeIn numbers or do they want in addition +43 780 users to point to their Skypenames, getting in more users with this functionality?
So I am also curious on Skype's reaction ;-)
Saturday, April 16, 2005
The background: After the desastrous licencing of 3G UMTS frequencies in Europe at the turn of the century, nearly all mobile operators ended up with lots of debt and the problem to recover these. In addition, the licence came with the obligation to set up a certain coverage for 3G until a defined timeframe. This time has now come, so the networks are there, but they are not used. The reason is that the stupid customers still have no idea why they should go for MMS and streaming Video on mobile phones. The mobile phone companies stick to the only marketing strategy they know, because it worked so well in the past: they subsidize 3G mobile phones, practically given them out for free.
So I also got one. Not to send pictures or videos with MMS (although my phone has a cam), and also not to watch TV on my mobile phone, but simply to make phone calls as ususal and to access the Internet faster then before with GPRS.
I tried to find out the tariffs for data access, especially for roaming, but I failed, not wanting and having the spare time to spend hours searching the webpage of the operator for the well hidden pages. Since this was a company account anyway, I thought I will get the tariffs anyway with the first bill. So I travelled to Geneva and then to Japan, using the mobile access ONLY in the evening, because I had WiFi access at the meetings anyway. So I spent 1000 Euros (in words: one thousand Euros) in two weeks. My boss nearly fell over, only to feature a similar bill one month later by himself on roaming charges.
Of course there are cheap data tariffs in Austria (do not forget, the UMTS network is basically empty), but not automatically and only within Austria, e.g. tariffs in the range of 30 Euros per month for 500 MB data volume fair use. This is 0,06 Euro/MB. Now if you see this tariff, do you expect to pay MORE THAN 10 Euros/MB if roaming?
Rip-off an understatement
Because of my own experiences I got sensitive on this issue, so I talked to some people already having 3G phones and asked them, if they use all this fancy new features? The answer was ALWAYS the same: yes, I tried it, but I stopped it IMMEDIATELY after receiving the first bill. Some also said that they basically do not know how to use them and that they are confused. These seem to be the lucky ones.
Now I consider this as the opposite to the stickiness I talked about in a recent post. In this post I also talked about how simple to use Skype is.
Offering services to customers they do not understand or use only once is driving the customers out to look for alternatives.
Talking to markting people and product managers of mobile operators reveals the basic problem here. They just tell you: they know better, because we have been so successfull in the past.
Ok, this is true, but why? Because customers like mobility and there where no alternatives. The first services where also quite simple: anybody knows how to make a phone call. Yes, there was SMS, but this is a very special case. SMS was mostly used by kids. They know how to enter a text message fast and they do not have to pay their bill (if they have to, they reduce their SMS traffic immediately - trust me - I have four kids).
So product managers and marketing people only THINK they are good - or as we say: "mit voller Hose ist leicht stinken" (Engl.: It is easy to stink with full trousers).
Mobile operators are making three basic mistakes:
1. Rip-off tariffs
2. Offering complicated services the customers to not want or do not understand.
3. Offering the customers to many choices in services and tariffs (More is Less)
This last argument would require another lenghty elaboration, but I just recommend the book
from Barry Schwarz: The Paradox of choice - Why More is Less.
All three mistakes are driving customers (residential and enterprises) to look for alternatives. As long as no alternatives exist, this may not matter, but nowadays these alternatives are here, for access and services and applications.
Driving out customers is NOT a good marketing strategy and the revenge of the customers will be awful.
A last word to the fixed line operators: do you really want to follow the mobile operators on their way to downfall with IMS? This is like buying stocks if everybody is buying it because the stock was so successful in the last years.
Or do you want to take a different road siding with the customers and avoiding these mistakes?
James is giving an impressive look at the recent breakdown of Skype users by country (top 20), which Niklas Zennstrom submitted to him, contrasted with the previous rankings and percentage contributions (in parentheses) from October 2004 (keep in mind that absolute user numbers have at least trebled in many countries since the previous reading). He also monitored Skype Downloads crossing the 100 Million threshold on Friday 14th, 2005.
But even more important I consider his post on two enterprises opting for Skype on the same day, one in UK and one in Japan, after reading their mobile roaming bill. I will come back on this in my next rant ;-)
Stuart is adding a really nice personal story on this: The 50$ cuban cigar.
Since the IT-departments in enterprises basically do not like Skype for various reasons, this seems to be a major breakthrough, together with the activities of Skype to go for mobile phones and WiFi hotspots.
The entry on Lock-in Strategies fits nice to the stickiness mentioned in my previous entry on Skype.
Stuarts blog is anyway a must read especially for the poor telco employees having centrally managed laptops to get at least an idea whats going on with Skype, third-party applications and gadgets for Skype, e.g. on conferencing. Take also a look at this nice audio conferencing device for Skype.
Andy has some other ideas what Skype should do SkypeNext, namely offering call forwardings. I fully agree, this is exactly what I am personally waiting for ;-)
Friday, April 15, 2005
The next step will be the opening of the ENUM-based number range +43 780. The Austrian Regulator RTR announced today together with enum.at, the Austrian ENUM Registry,that the opening of the number range for service will take place on May 17th, 2005 at 12 pm. From this time subscribers may register individual numbers on a first-come-first-serve basis.
The ENUM-based number range was defined in the new numbering ordinance (KEM-V) issued 12.05.2004 and is intended for convergent services. The numbers in this range may be reached both from the public Internet and from the PSTN and are linked with the related ENUM domain. Calls from the PSTN are routed via SS7 to VoIP gateways enabled to query ENUM to find out the SIP or H.323 URIs of the destination. On the Internet the End-user may query ENUM directly or via a SIP proxy or gatekeeper to find the destination.
So what is the advantage of this ENUM-based number range?
Unlike "normal" E.164 numbers the usage of these numbers is not bound to the provision of a telephone service.
The number range is specifically targeted for communications service providers offering only VoIP and related real-time communication services to provide their customers easily and swiftly with globally reachable E.164 numbers to be reached from the PSTN and also with an ENUM domain. The only pre-condition is to provide their customers with a SIP or H323 URI.
Some will like to hear this, some may not ;-)
The subscriber simply requests the delegation of an ENUM domain in this range via an accredited ENUM Registrar. This registration triggers automatically the number assignment, so no validation is required, one of the major draw-backs of ENUM registrations of already existing numbers.
On the other hand the end-user may control the associated ENUM domain and change the NAPTRs pointing to his VoIP service at any time, thus "porting" from one provider to another.
But the number range also offers benefits to the conventional telcos on the PSTN, because they may provide their own gateway to route these number ranges and keep the money from the calling user, because no cascading takes place and no terminating fees need to be paid out.
ENUM allows the global connectivity between customers of different providers without the need of bilateral agreements both on the Internet and also from the PSTN.
This service is the first to truly implement the horizonal layered model of the future, separating transport, call set-up and applications. These open possibilities will enable an abundance of new and innovative services and applications for the end-users.
Thursday, April 14, 2005
For more information see Switch.
There is only one accredited registrar at the moment and two VoIP Providers.
For more information see Swiss ENUM (German only).
This website is currently German only, because this involved heavly translation work anyway. I suspect the next language will be French and only then English.
Validation method is either by faxing in also the bill if registering manually or via call-back to registered number if you are registering via the web-page with a temporary passcode.
Sunday, April 10, 2005
Now the two leading proponents of the lobbying club of the competitive operators (VAT) made a very interesting statement: Because of the tremendous competition [in Austria] one can make only real money with the monthly access fee for voice and in the area of broadband, so they want the regulated wholesale prices for local loop unbundling reduced by 50%.
How true - the first half of this statement is the first true statement I have heard from these guys. I am trying to sell this conclusion since years: the only money left is in the access.
Ok, so we have a tremendous competition in Austria - so the regulator did his job well.
But what are these guys really proposing: - After we have killed large parts of the telecom market in Austria, most of the competitive operators and nearly the incumbent operator by tremendous competition by carrier selection and pre-selection (Note: Austria introduced as one of the first countries in Europe carrier selection also for local calls), by having too many mobile operators for the size of the country, number portability and by bit-stream unbundling, now lets kill the rest of the market where you may still make money.
So after the smoke has cleared, all remaining competitive operators maybe save one and the incumbent will be dead.
So what is the benefit for the consumer if all (competive) telecom providers are finally bankrupt?
Saturday, April 09, 2005
ETSI is pleased to invite to the ENUM interoperability event, 30th May to 3rd June 2005 at ETSI Headquarters, Sophia Antipolis, France.
The emerging technology of ENUM is attracting a lot of interest. By mapping telephone numbers to domain names, and from those to URLs, ENUM will be a key driver for the increasing convergence between the internet and telephony worlds.
The ETSI ENUM Plugtests event will provide a vendor-neutral setting for equipment manufacturers, operators, ISPs, registries, software companies and system integrators to carry out controlled interoperability and conformance testing. It is a chance to discover ENUM system behaviour with miss-configured clients, servers, and intermediaries, so that they can explore the symptoms of such problems before their customers.
For further details and to register, please visit our web site at the following URL: http://www.etsi.org/plugtests/ENUM.htm , the registration deadline is 16th May 2005. Please, show your interest by registering as soon as possible, but payment is not due before 23rd May 2005. Upon registration, you will be provided with ETSI's preferential rates for hotels and car rental.
This invitation is open to anyone who may be interested, so please feel free to forward it...
To promote, boost or expand your image and products a wide range of sponsorship opportunities are available at: http://www.etsi.org/plugtests/sponsorus.htm
We are looking forward to welcoming you in the South of France.
ETSI Plugtests TM Service
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
11: Ignore presence at your peril!
12: Enable access to location based information, and 1000's of innovations will bloom.
13. Eliminate steps, become device agnostic.
14. Think personal, empower the individual; controls in their hands
15. Act like a brand. (Look at Skype and how it spawns ideas; Skype Home, Skype Personal, SkypeOut, SkypeChat, SkypeMe etc. There is no way to register them all.)
Skype has an execellent way to how they launch and market new services, as I mentioned in the text: "Skype is also steadily improving and expanding their service. From pure peer-to-peer on the Internet, via SkypeOut and now SkypeIn and Voicemail."
And each new service is branded with SkypeXXX and it works from day one.
This also brings me back to Lesson 6: Keep it Simple (Stupid). On my way back from Washington I had some time on the airport and ended up at Borders to purchase some more books and one I liked was The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less from Barry Schwartz. I had no time to read it yet, but what I saw from scanning through is also a message to the mobile operators:
Customers do not want to have so many choices and do not want to sign-up for every tiny service separate. They also do not want to have the choice between 100 different tariffs and bundles, because they permanentely think they have choosen the wrong one and are always a bit unhappy, having the impression that they are ripped off. I will come back to this when I am thru with the book ;-)
Skype offers you only very simple choices, if any at all.
My blog entry was also commented by Om Malik, Andy and James.
James Enck brings my post in relation to the posting of David Kennedy from EURESCOM on The myth of the Stupid Network. which is also commented by Martin in Welcome to planet ZOG.
This post on NGN is exactly what I needed after the last week in Washington, DC. I am keen to comment on this after I have recovered from my jet lag ;-I
Sunday, April 03, 2005
The book is analyzing why ideas, trends and products seemingly out of nowhere suddenly cross a threshold, tip and spread like a wildfire.
The Three Rules are quite simple:
1. The Law of the Few: Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen
2. The Stickiness Factor
3. The Power of Context
Skype started off with a small group of freaks using already their PC, laptops and PDAs to communicate in real-time with their friends and colleagues via different Instant Messaging and
Presence Services. Since these people also loved to be connected via broadband, they also moved on to voice communications via H.323 and SIP. For these people this was basically just another gadget they tried, because these people tried everything anyway. But they also where experts, and could compare, so they recognized the excellent voice quality of Skype (knowing also ILBC)
So these where the mavens and since they also where road-warriors, they where connectors and since they where experts, they also where salesmen.
So much about Rule 1.
Skype is very simple to install and to use. Basically one can download and start using it within 3 minutes without reading any manual. Since I am one of the connectors I saw this happening over and over. The user interface is simple, easy to use and basically self-explaining, but one may also configure anything. I personally have tried many different products and still are using some of them, but Skype is always there - it is sticky.
Skype is also steadily improving and expanding their service. From pure peer-to-peer on the Internet, via SkypeOut and now SkypeIn and Voicemail. There are also little things provided like different buttons like SkypeMe using (hi-jacking?) the callto: URI from Micoosoft. So I am also keen to see the new things coming up.
So much for Rule 2.
Skype was basically nothing new, but it was launched exactly at the right time and in the right context. You need PCs, laptops, PDAs with a certain processing power and broadband connections.
This was all available with a certain density exactly at the time Skype was launched. In addition VoIP was discussed (the second time) all over the place, especially by the Few of Rule 1.
Interesting also to read in "The Tipping Point" the section regarding the Power of Context (Part 2) The Magic Number One Hundred and Fifty: humans socialize in groups and the average group size is about 150.
This also appoximatly the number of entries I have in my mobile phone and which is about the maximum size of a buddy list that makes sense in Skype. Ok, I have more contacts in Outlook, but I am basically not interested of the presence of most of these people. And just in case I may now call them anyway from Outlook Contacts using Outlook Skype (another third party gadget).
So much for Rule 3.
Is Skype reaching The Tipping Point now and is it getting the PSTN of of the Future?
I do not know, but the chances are there.
One very important thing is happening with Skype at the moment: up to now Skype was a propriatory application in a walled garden. But Skype seems not to repeat the mistake Apple did to stay in this walled garden. It is slowly opening up. The first step was providing an API allowing third parties to add applications and this is now going an all over the place, both in SW and in HW. One example is the Pulver Communicator allowing you to make both SIP and Skype calls, so I use the Pulver Communicator (but Skype is running underneath - sticky!).
Another example is all the HW gadgets showing up now, starting with DECT phones and especally the talks Skype is doing with all these mobile device manifacturers (e.g. Motorola, i-Mate, Symbian, etc.). So Skype will get sticky on Smartphones and dual-mode PDAs too.
The third important development is the deals Skype is beginning in UK regarding free access to WiFI hotspots.
So imagine you have a mobile phone which is Skype enable if you buy it, you just have to enter your Skype-ID, get your contacts (they are now centralized) and can start immediately calling all your Skype buddies, all E.164 numbers and you can be called by anybody via your SkypeIn number at any WiFi hotspot or whatever your connectivity is, even via GPRS or 3G (but watch out here. they rip you off with data fees, especially if you are roaming).
Another interesting aspects with Skype is the changed and new communication behaviour and usage of voice communication such as permanent Skype connections and SkypeCasting (Podcasting via Skype)
I just wait now for SkypeVideo and SkypeHome for accessing your Pictures, Audios, Videos and TV (like Orb.com)
What are the lessons learnt (especially for Telcos and Regulators)?
Lesson 1: Do not laugh and underestimate up-starts giving away something for free
Lesson 2: Communication and related regulation is horizontally layered
Lesson 3: Real-time communication is an application
Lesson 4: Voice is a real-time communication and therefore an application
Lesson 5: You cannot charge for application usage per minute
Lesson 6: Keep is simple (this is for mobile operators)
Lesson 7: Do not SELL services users do not need
Lesson 8: Stick to knitting (your core business) and sell access
Lesson 9: You may compete with everybody, but not with your customer (see faxmail)
Lesson 10: Be scared
A last remark: This week I was attending the 3GPP/TISPAN/ATIS Workshop on IMS-over-Fixed-Access, basically a meeting of telcos and mobile operators trying to set-up a competition to what I described above. The plans they have are very complicated, mainly because they want to keep up their interconnect regime and termination charges.
Since you cannot sell or explain this to a customer, they think they can sell this to a customer by offering a guarantied QoS, even if they still have no idea how to do this. Nobody is asking if the customer is willing to pay for this (see Lesson 7).
1. Will this ever work?
2. If it works, it will be way too late (and way too expensive)
3. So nobody will use it.
The only asset they really have is the usage of the SIM-card = trusted Identity
So they should forget anything else and set-up immediately an IMS-light based on SIP using SIM-cards for authentication and roaming. Done. This is what IMS separates from Skype, nothing else. The SIM card is the only sticky thing in a mobile phone.
Many of these people do not even know the enemy. They do not know about or even use Skype.
Because they have company managed laptops and cannot install their own SW.
Friday, April 01, 2005
ICANN and ITU announced that Mr Bernie Ebbers has been retained as a
consultant for the development of reporting guidelines for operators.
ICANN, ITU merge
posted by Mueller <http://istweb.syr.edu/~mueller/> on Friday April 01
ICANN and ITU today jointly announced that they have signed an MoU which
cancels and supersedes the existing MoU between ICANN and the US
Department of Commerce.
A senior member of ICANN stated that ICANN looked forward to adopting
some of the ITU's well-proven practices, notably charging for membership
and charging for access to documents, in order to recover publication
costs and ease budget pressures.
A senior member of the ITU stated that ITU looked forward to adopting
some of ICANN's well-proven practices, notably by charging two US cents
per year for each telephone number, which would greatly alleviate the
ITU's budget and permit significant actions to help bridge the digital
divide. Other ICANN practices to be adopted by the ITU would include
mandatory publication of the names and addresses of owners of telephone
numbers, outsourcing policies regarding spectrum allocation to private
forums composed of the concerned operators, and requiring operators to
provide business plans and financial data.
ICANN and ITU announced that Mr Bernie Ebbers has been retained as a
consultant for the development of reporting guidelines for operators.