Sunday, October 30, 2005
Via Frank Muto from the Washington Bureau for ISP Advocacy
SBC CEO Edward Whitacre is fully confronting the "Upstarts" Google, Microsoft et. al. in a BusinessWeek Online interview: "At SBC, its all about Scale and Scope"
When he was asked the question:
How concerned are you about Internet upstarts like Google, Vonage, MSN and others?
"How do you think they're going to get to customers? Through a broadband pipe. Cable companies have them. We have them. Now what they would like to do is use my pipes free, but I ain't going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it. So there's going to have to be some mechanism for these people who use these pipes to pay for the portion they're using. Why should they be allowed to use my pipes?
The Internet can't be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment and for a Google or Yahoo! or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!"
What? Which pipes? For free? In what other sense the Internet can be free? Please elaborate!
Hello, Mr. Whitacre: Not Google is using these pipes, it is your customers!
So again somebody is competing against his customers? Maybe he should read Clay Shirky's Zapmail example again?
And you customers are not using these pipes for free, they are paying for the usage anyway. They just do not want to use your clumsy applications and services, and they are entitled to do so. At least this was my opinion when I heard about the FCC's Internet Freedoms?
Loss of Reality, Megalomania or just desperation?
SBC Telecommunications' financial performance of late hasn't been much to write home about. For the third quarter, it just reported flat earnings of $1.2 billion on revenue of $10.3 billion, up a scant 0.3% over the same period last year. But given the onslaught of competitors eating away like pigeons at SBC's bread-and-butter landline business, scant growth is better than the alternative. "Is [our] revenue growth great? No -- it's terrible," says CEO Edward Whitacre, who adds, "but it's a lot better than losing."
And you think you are on the winning path? We will see.
Saturday, October 29, 2005
In his wrap-up at the airport Rich Tehrani says:
"Perhaps what surprised me most this week was the lack of dissent among keynoters. Everyone seems to agree we are headed to VoIP 2.0. It is unanimous. Certainly this journey must bring along Web 2.0 and must also integrate with IM, video and e-mail.
If there are any hurdles our industry faces it has to be the threat of regulation. This threat can come from a federal level or even a state level. Rural telephone companies do not want to lose their USF subsidies and these companies know how to lobby. Telephone companies are excellent lobbyists. They know how to work with government to exert influence.
For the most part the VoIP industry does not have this lobbying power and there is just not enough money in the VoIP space to allow us to effectively fight ILECS and rural telephone companies who could really influence politicians to place an undue burden on our market.
The problem for regulators is that we have really unbundled telephony from physical networks and it will be impossible to police and regulate the next generation of VoIP services that don't touch the PSTN or use a numbering plan based in the US
It is a pity Rich did not write this last paragraph a bit earlier, so I could asked
There is also a interesting article on some statements from the parallel event Telecom 05 conference in Las Vegas in the VoIP magazine: "Developing Stealth Strategy for VoIP Rollout". Also here seemed to be no dissent among the keynoters, but obviously there is much dissent between the conferences.
... CTOs of major carriers hinted at what could develop into an intriguing strategy for rolling out IP telephony on a broad scale to residential markets: keeping it quiet. That would allow both service providers and their customers to obtain the benefits of voice over IP, while freeing customers of the need to worry about the well-publicized concerns that surround the technology today.
What are the benefits for the customers here? Need to worry? Well-publized concerns ;-)
Now this is interesting, especially the statement from Verizon CTO Mark Wegleitner:
"Voice over the Internet in the long run is probably not going to provide the five-nines or high-quality voice that consumers are going to require."
This statement also caught the attention of Ted Wallingford.
The statement needs to be analyzed, because it is very tricky:
Mark does not say that the PSTN is better that the Internet, he only says that the consumers WILL require this, but everybody is ASSUMING that he is talking about the PSTN. So he cannot be proven wrong.
De-facto the PSTN has no better reliability then the Internet. The Internet was designed to be very reliable and it is (the core). The analog PSTN WAS very reliable (and I am talking here about the strowger system), because it was a completely distributed system. All switching systems with centralized control never reached this reliability again, especially not the digital systems, although the effort built in was tremendous (and expensive). I know what I am talking about, since I was involved in the development of the DNS-100 and EWSD.
But what the normal subscriber sees is the reliability of his subscriber line. This never reaches the reliability of the core systems, not in the PSTN and also not with Internet access. It is not
impossible to have the similar reliability for an Internet access, say a DSL-line, like for a POTS line, but basically nobody is willing to pay for it - especially not a residential customer.
2. High-quality voice: What does that mean: guarantied low quality or best-effort high-quality?
VoIP is providing normally much better quality than the PSTN, but not always. And there is a trade-off between guarantied quality and functionality. Customers are already used to this: it is mobile phones. They trade to have (sometimes?) low quality (or no quality at all) against mobility.
3. So we are coming to the last statement: ... the customers are going to require.
What does the customer require? As we have seen from the mobile phones, the requirement from the customers are very low regarding QoS - some may say they are spoilt already. It can only get better with VoIP. I am very happy with VoIP, if I have broadband access. So my problem is not VoIP, it is having broadband access (as my readers may already know ;-)
So what is Mark Wegleitner really after? The well-publized concerns.
1. Telling the customers VoIP is insecure, bad quality and unreliable to prevent them to use VoIP from virtual access providers in the short term.
2. In the meantime, convert all internal systems to IP, as they are doing all over the place already.
3. If this is done, they will change their commercials to tell the customers that they are already talking over VoIP all the time, it seems not so bad and there is no reason not to talk over VoIP also over the last mile.
Or as Bill Smith states:
Bill Smith, BellSouth's CTO, described a solution that combines the cost savings of VoIP with the last-mile reliability of traditional telephony. "What we've talked about is why can't we go out to the DSLAM, in the case of a fiber-to-the-node customer, and basically terminate that analog POTS signal at the DSLAM, and then handle everything from a voice over IP perspective in the network," he said. "You still get all the cost advantages of a voice over IP network, and yet that customer's interface doesn't change, and if you're line powering it you've still got the lifeline kind of capabilities."
Oh my good: putting the ATA in the DSLAM and the lifeline argument again. Normally one uses mobile phones for emergency calls anyway (in Europe). This is the reason they do not like to provide coverage at residences in the US. The author concludes quite correctly:
Still, to bring residential customers all the benefits of IP telephony, it'll be necessary to bring the IP part all the way to those residences. That will require making it as reliable as traditional phone service. Once that happens, there'll be no need to keep it secret — nor to make a big deal out of it. Because in the end, the VoIP industry will know it has succeeded when no one considers it an industry at all, and it has simply become part of the communications industry.There is only one problem with this: as long as the subscriber has an analog line, this is POTSoIP = VoIP 1.0. One cannot have all the nice VoIP 2.0 functionality, such as presence, IM, video, nomadicity, etc.
So the same may happen to the ILECS here as Rich Tehrani said above in direction to regulators:
Providing POTSoIP (VoIP 1.0) will send customers fleeing to VoIP 2.0 alternatives that are beyond the ILECS reach - or if you create a walled garden (Bell South is also going for IMS), until you are finished, your customers will all be save and happy outside.
I was invited to speak about Access to Emergency Services from the Internet, one of my favourite topics ;-)
I partizipated already last year and I enjoy this conference, because the audience and also the topics are a bit different to the more technical conferences I normally visit. It is mainly laywers both from regulators and from operators and the topics center about legal regulatory and competion law issues, and it is European centric. One major issue at the conference was the market definitions within the New European Regulatory Framework (NRF), the second was about the new hot topic - digital rights management (DRM) and copyright laws and the third was regulatory compliance (see especially BT Group Regulatory Compliance)
Since the presentations are not available for the public (except mine), I will concentrate only on the major issues.
Regarding market definitions, notification and remedies the hottest topic was of course market 16, wholesale mobile termination. Roland Belfin from RTR, Austria presented the latest developments in the field of mobile termination, especially the proposed glide path to unify mobile termination fees.
Other markets where also discussed, especially the access markets, LLU and bit stream access, also in context with triple play and service bundling and VoIPand NGN in general.
Alain Van Gaever gave an overview on the first day regarding the framework and the current status of discussions, Inge Bernaerts from DG Competitions gave an overview an the second day on the current status of market definitions and notifications in general. The picture here is quite mixed, some countries have already most of the markets notified, some are quite lagging behind, some have none yet notified. Interesting that no country has yet analyzed market 17 International Roaming. There are also some vetos from the commission, but she said this is improving because the regulators and the commission started pre-notification discussions.
One statement from Inge Bernaerts was quite curious, becuse she said that the market definitions have shown to be "future-proof".
This was considered interesting and rejected by some (me included), because the conference showed quite clearly that there are lurking many problems regarding the market definitions with new applications, such as VoIP, NGN in general, new access technologies such as WiMAX, FTTH, bring-your-own-broadband (BYOB), triple play, bundling, IPTV, etc.
The EU comission is plannig to revise the market directive and afterwards the NRF, which is IMHO the wrong order.
Another hot issue was DRM, in specially regarding audio and TV broadcasting, but also for other media such as publications. Here also seems to be a conflict between the rights of the owners of the publications or media and the consumer rights, especially on privacy. The role of the intermediaries are also problematic. The whole discussion is at the moment very confusing and solved only partially be solutions broken at introduction already. I think it is necessary to first make a clear requirements statement.
I was also very impressed by the presenation and the discussion on the round table day following the conference from Keith Read, Director for Regulatory Compliance, BT Group. First, I consider it interesting that such a department exists at all within an incumbent, and Keith showed enthusiastically the benefits of regulatory compliance for the regulator, the partners, the customers and finally for BT itsself, because this saves BT a lot of hazzles and also money. For more information on this see BT plc compliance policy and especially the recent Annual Compliance Report.
I already complained here about the shaky Vodafone Mobile Connect SW. This time I detected another problem. My settings for connections are "UMTS preferred". This means that if an UMTS connection is available, it should connect to UMTS. In Brussels it connected to a GPRS network (BASE), which was very, very slow (appox. 1200 b/sec). Since my mobile phone was also conencted to BASE I thought this is the only network available. But suddenly my mobile phone changed over to Proximus and showed 3G/UMTS. So I finally looked up the available networks and found 5 networks, two of them UMTS. If they are unable to comply, why do they ask. This was the same with SkypeZones: if it detected a new network, it always provided a checkbox: do you want to connect automatically the next time? It was useless to click on this box, because it was simply ignored.
Vodafone Mobile Connect has another annoying feature. If you insert the card, it asks for the PIN code to be entered. This is ok. But if you enter the PIN code immediately, another window pops up telling you that no network is available und you type the last digits into limbo. You have to click on the window again and start over. This is nothing really serious, but since it happens every time, it is very annoying.
To finish my rant: connectivity on Brussels airport. Some time ago they had a Swisscom hotspot nobody seemed to use because of prohibitive prices. Now they finally have at least in the lounges free and high-speed wireless LAN access, at least a poster in the lounge said. Only drawback, it did not exist. The only Wireless LAN available and visible was Proximus, but nobody could connect. Seems to be a mobile operator feature (like T-Mobile) to build up fake Wireless LAN hotspots that do not work to demonstrate how bad WiFI is and how much better and reliable GSM/UMTS works.
Final rant: The airport express in Brussels is a candidate for the Guiness Book of Records. It is the slowest express I ever used. It is not stopping in between, but the average speed is about 5mph, with the maximum not exceeding 10mph. The only excuse could be that on that day there was a big strike in Belgium and although the trains worked, it could be that they went extremely slow in sympathy. On the other hand, since no ticket office was open, the ticket vending machines did not work and no conductor showed up, at least I had a free ride.
Monday, October 24, 2005
(Note: see also Rich Tehrani's recent post: Where is VoIP Peering headed?)
Rich Tehrani has proclaimed that 2006 will be the "Year of VoIP Peering", it looks like he may not have to wait until 2006 to see a huge jump in efforts to directly link VoIP networks together.
Neustar, best known for managing the PSTN number database, has announced a new join effort with Equinix, TELEHOUSE, and the Amsterdam Internet Exchange to build a SIP-based peering exchange.
In addition, Sphere Communications and BroadSoft announced today at IT Expo an agreement to enable Sphere's customers to directly peer via SIP with providers running BroadSoft's call management platform. Finally, FiberNet announced today a new "carrier-grade platform for VoIP" peering. FiberNet will host its peering point in NYC.
About a year ago or so my colleague Dan Golding set up a mailing list for the discussion of VoIP peering. After a brief initial burst of activity, the list has been almost dormant for the last six months or so. I think that's about to change. (To subscribe, send a message to "email@example.com" with "subscribe" in the message body, an archive is available as well at http://psg.com/lists/voip-peering")
All these announcements show a growing level of interest in VoIP peering, and with it perhaps the next phase of IP communications is rapidly approaching, where VoIP-to-VoIP calls replace PSTN trunks, offering significant potential for lower costs, as well as the opportunity to piggy-back additional services such as instant messaging and presence.
Trust can also be established via other means, e.g. with certificates.
So what is left is E.164 number mapping to SIP URIs. For the ones new here, this is called ENUM.
The IETF ENUM workgroup is in this moment extending its scope to include public carrier or infrastructure ENUM to provide E.164 number to URI mapping for carriers-of-records.
In parallel IETF is trying to set up an additional WG to define VoIP Peering. Stay tuned in approx. 3 weeks whats happening here at the next IETF in Vancouver.
The motto is a combination of Richard Shockey's Law: "Money is the answer, what is the question?" and Martin Geddes' "Internet Monitization System" for IMS, adding 2 and 2 together:
IMS is the answer, what is the question?
There is e.g. one post on a very serious question:
Here an operations director and a marketing director of an unmentioned mobile operator are discussing in a Socratic conversation if IMS is primarily for cutting cost or growing revenues.
Of course the operations director sees the major benefit in cutting costs, although he is not precisely stating how and why, and he is also not stating related to what: the existing circuit switched system or a plain SIP implementation on the Internet.
The marketing director finally seems to win the argument by growing revenues with new services (or so, maybe, I have some difficulties to follow the arguments)
MD: But new services don't just drive usage & price (ARPU) they drive adoption too - new services have been one of the key reasons why Vodafone
This leads of course to the basic question: What new services to implement? (New in context of circuit switching - not compared with e.g. Skype or other SIP implementations - here most of these services are old hats already).
IMS-insiders tries to answer this question too. Since nobody else seems to have a basic idea, they raise the question: What New Services will IMS best enable?
IMS technology is clearly developing fast. However, it's unclear which new services will be the winners in an IMS-enabled world. So, what criteria should telco marketers and product developers use to prioritise their services?
Chris Barraclough, who used to develop propositions for European mobile operator, Orange, and who's now a consultant at our sister company STL (www.stlpartners.com), describes the issue as follows:
"We all know that the voice market is in decline. Operators we speak to are desperately seeking new services that can leverage IMS. They got lucky with SMS. Since then they are trying to work out the next 'big product'. The problem is there isn't a single one.
Operators recognise they need a portfolio of services, and they're getting there...but very slowly. And it's even more difficult to define a portfolio for IMS-enabled services that don't yet exist - it feels too hard, too esoteric.
Note: finally a true statement ;-)
As a result, we see very unscientific approaches to making investment decisions today, and they are not factoring in IMS enough/at all.
So they do a survey: Top IMS Services - IMS World Forum Survey . They
... created a short-list of 22 services that could be significantly enabled or enhanced by IMS (listed below). These guys know their stuff - they include an ex-CEO of a major European Mobile Operator, an ex-Marketing Director of another European Mobile Operator, an ex-Business Transformation Director of a US Fixedline player, an ex-Strategy Director of a European FMC company, and a consultant who previously set up a Mobility Centre of Excellence for one of the Big 5 Consultancies and also worked in Product Strategy for a leading NEP.
Clever guys ;-)
The next post already showed the results: Top IMS Services – Survey Results
1. Video Sharing 30 votes
2. Unified Messaging 29 votes
3. Single Virtual Directory 25
4. Unified Communications 23
5=. Click to Conference 22
5=. Net Meeting 22
7= Personal Assistant 19
7= Multiplayer Gaming 19
7= Friends & Family Tracking 19
10. Virtual PBX 18
Location-based profile match 13 votes
Security Monitoring 9
Field Force Efficiency 8
Logistics/Fleet Tracking/Mgt 7
Single Number/Dual Ringing 6
One-Device, Two-Number 6
Inbound call screening 6
Call completion 5
Intelligent Call Centre Routing 4
Multi-Channel Tele Voting 4
Group Hunt 1
Integration of video clips into a voice call, where both parties can view and discuss the video
Single mail box for email, voicemail and other asynchronous messaging, which can be accessed through any device.
Single Virtual Directory
Directory of contacts (personal and/or business) accessed from any device. With optional gateways to public directories.
Multiple numbers (fixed, mobile, Instant Messenger ID, VOIPid) combined to behave a single logical number for all real-time communication services.
I think we all can learn from this. What? This I leave to your discretion. Und aus.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Some of the companies say the users are hogging bandwidth, taking up too much space on networks and slowing down service for all customers that tap the Internet for email, video, music, phone and other services.
If you think about it, this is simply outrageous:
Let's assume, you are a customer having subscribed a DSL-service with an Internet Access Provider, say 2MB/sec downstream and a 5 GB download limit per month. You naively assume the deal is that you may use e.g. a bandwidth of 2 Mb/sec (what you never get anyway) until you used up the 5 GB. And you also assume naively that you may use the 2 MB/sec for whatever you want to do with it: webbrowseing, voice calls, file download, audio- and videostremaing, etc.
And now you are blamed out-of-nowhere by your IAP that you are a bad guy and "clogging" up the bandwidth and slowing down service for the other users.
1. The other users are not your problem, an IAP is not a church where you have to care about your brothers and sisters.
2. Especially on a DSL line (the first mile from your point of view) you have exclusive use. That the IAP is calling this the last mile is typical for his point-of-view, BTW.
3. If you are somewhat involved in Internet technology, you also know that bandwitdth on the backbone is no problem at all, there is enough fibers and lambdas around, and if not, there is still enough un-lit dark fiber waiting to be lit..
So what is the problem?
It is the Second Mile.
Your DSL line is connected to a DSLAM and DSLAMs are concentrators. The provisioning was done some years ago, based on customer behaviour at that time (which was mainly web-browsing, e-mail and some uncritical file-transfers). All these applications where not real-time applications and not time critical. In addition, at this time most DSLAMs where not fully equipped. Most customers had between 512kb/sec and 1024kb/sec down. So for many DSLAMs 8Mb/sec back-haul to the routers of the backbone and a 20 to 30 overbooking seemed ok.
In the meantime the customer behaviour, the applications, the speed of the modems changed and also the DSLAMs are now fully equipped. The only thing that did not change was the capacity in the backhaul.
Who is to blame for this? Definitely not the end-user. So dear customers, do not feel guilty, it is not your fault.
So, dear access providers, do your job and fix this, and stop blaming innocent customers.
Note: I used DSL here as example. With CableCos and GSM GPRS/UMTS providers, this second mile begins immediately behind the CPE.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
Der Aufsichtsrat der BAWAG ließ durch seinen Präsidenten Günter Weninger verkünden, dass es vorerst keine personellen Konsequenzen geben werde, da die Vorgangsweise des BAWAG Vorstandes zwar einigermaßen blauäugig gewesen sei - aber auch durchaus gesetzeskonform.
Naja, dass der Vorstand einer Bank gesetzeskonform handelt, sollte ja wohl selbstverständlich sein, aber das Letzte was ich mir als Eigentümer einer Bank wünsche ist, dass mein Vorstand blauäugig ist.
Offensichtlich gehört dies aber bei der linken Reichshälfte zum Anforderungsprofil für Vorstände, wenn man sich die Geschichte des roten Bankwesen so anschaut. Der Verkauf der BA-CA samt Zentralsparkasse an die Hypovereinsbank und somit weiter an die italienische UniCredit war ja auch so ein blauäugiges Glanzstück.
Linke Reichshälfte deshalb (für nicht-gelernte Österreicher), weil die BAWAG im Eigentum des Österreichischen Gewerkschaftsbundes steht. Ich frage mich nur, was sich nun ein einfaches Gewerkschaftmitglied denkt, das in den Postillen des Gewerkschaftbundes und nahestehender Organisationen (zB der Arbeiterkammer) ständig Schlimmes über die bösen Heuschreckenkapitalisten lesen muss, und wie schädlich der Kasinokapitalismus und die damit verbundenen Erscheinungsformen der Globalisierung für die armen Werktätigen sind.
Und jetzt hat die im Besitz des ÖGB stehende BAWAG auf erfrischend unbürokratische Weise einen Kleinkredit von 425 Mio Euro gerade jenem US-Finanzkonzern "Refco" gewährt, der als eines der Nervenzentren des globalen Kasinkapitalismus gilt, wo man auf so ziemlich alles wetten kann, von Schweinebäuchen über Soja zu Devisen und Diamanten.
Wie schreibt Christian Ortner so schön in der Presse am Freitag: Das ist so als würde es sich herausstellen, das die Erzdiözese Wien mit ein paar hundert Mio Euro Kirchenbeiträgen an einer Kette von Abtreibungskliniken beteiligt war, dass diese Kliniken nun pleite sind und das Geld weg ist.
Das ist nämlich ein zweifaches Problem: nicht nur ist das Geld weg, sondern auch die Glaubwürdigkeit.
Ich als Gewerkschaftmitglied würde sagen: I am not amused. Gott sei Dank bin ich keins.
Jetzt bin ich nur auf die erste Bank der Grünen gespannt, eventuell als Joint Venture mit ATTAC und Van der Bellen als ersten Direktor. Wenn aber auch dort Blauäugigkeit gefordert ist, könnte ich den HC Strache empfehlen. Dann ist wenigstens endgültig Ruhe im blau-orangen Karton.
SBC Communications Inc. sees little challenge to its traditional telephone business from services such as Skype that offer free phone calls over the Internet, SBC‘s chief financial officer said on Thursday.
"I don‘t see it as a significant threat," SBC CFO Rick Lindner said in an interview with Reuters. "The fears of what may happen there are overblown."
Linder is whistling in the dark.
In response to Whitmans: "It is very clear that voice communications is moving on to the Internet. In the end, the price that anyone can provide for voice transmission on the Net will trend toward zero."
... Lindner said while some "techies" might want to "scour the Internet and buy applications and services from a number of different providers," the mass market of customers will prefer to buy voice, video and data services from one company on one bill.
True, but maybe he has not heard yet from Visa and MasterCard, and he did not get the message from PayPal and Google Wallet.
"Why has WalMart been successful in areas like groceries? It‘s because its convenient for people to go to one location and buy everything," he said.
Yes, I could even now pay all my communication charges including Internet access on a single bill with my mobile operator, but only over my smoking dead body (and the dead body of my boss). People like it comfortable, but not at any price. There are limits, e.g. a roaming charge of 10 Euro/MB.
Lindner also said consumers will prefer to send calls over reliable networks. Most U.S. telephone network equipment is designed to go offline for no more than a few minutes per year.
"That‘s a big difference from simply relying on the public Internet to handle your communication needs," Lindner said.
This is always the final argument. Ok, I will not come up now with the reliability of mobile networks, especially in the US, this would not be fair, but also the fixed network has its outages.
Basically the Internet is VERY reliable, it is designed to be so. What is unreliable on the Internet is the access, and this could be improved if customers would be willing to pay for it, and second, who is providing most of the Internet access? The telcos and the CableCos. Another source of unreliability is misconfiguration of routers and DNS servers by the ISPs (also mostly by Telcos and CableCos playing ISPs - I could tell you stories ...)
Friday, October 21, 2005
However, when it comes to wireline broadband services offered by the incumbents, they will very likely leverage that same argument to thwart free VoIP services in order to restrict users from using alternatives to their own revenue-producing voice services, even where the latter offerings by the incumbents may also be VoIP, as well.
Truth be told, while VoIP works best over broadband facilities, it doesn't "consume" very much bandwidth at all.
and he concludes:
One could suggest that the Incumbents' light more lambdas over their fibers in the transport networks that feed those last mile access networks, and start taking advantage of the alleged bandwidth glut that is said to still exist, and stop whining over red herrings like VoIP, which, admittedly, does serve to draw revenues away from the incumbents, but at the same time do not consume all that much bandwidth. For what it's worth ...
I can only agree.
This was followed by a post from Alec Saunders: Voice 2.0: A Manifesto for the Future pointing to his Voice 2.0 Manifesto posted on Iotum’s Simply Relevant blog.
As a follow up to the interview by Whitman Ronan Lipton (MCI) pointed me to Google Rumors on Google Wallet close to launch?
The series ended by an article in the Wall Street Jounal (restricted): Phone, Cable Firms Rein In Consumers' Internet Use.
Let's start with Whitman (some citations):
In a few short years, users can expect to make telephone calls for free, with no per-minute charges, as part of a package of services through which carriers make money on advertising or transaction fees, eBay's chief executive said on Wednesday.
The company is betting that by combining electronic markets, online payment systems and Web-based communications, eBay can emerge as a leader in all three businesses.
The chairman and chief executive of the world's largest online auction site said the transition to completely free voice communications will not happen in the next year or two, but that could happen in the next three to six years.
"Our belief is that the winner in this space will be those that have the largest ecosystem," Whitman said.
"What I mean by that is: the largest number of registered users, the largest number of voice minutes, the largest number of developers who develop the platform, the best product ... that users are willing and want to pay for."
EBay said it had 168.1 registered users for its online auctions as of the end of September. It had 68.0 million active users who signed on to bid or sell in its electronic marketplace over the past 12 months. It had 86.6 million current accounts on its PayPal payment service, it said.Alec Saunders in his VoIP 2.0 Manifesto for the Future is taking this further. He starts:
We’re witnessing the beginnings of a titanic clash between the internet and the telecommunications industry. My hope is that clash will be the, albeit painful, evolution of Voice into a full blown internet application — the birth of Voice 2.0. Voice 2.0 is the next step from where we are today.
He continues that POTSoIP like Vonage will not be successful.
Some of the headings of his manifesto:
Talk is the baseline
The meter is off
Applications as the value creators
The builing blocks: Presence, Directory, XML
The value networks
Now if you add to Skype/Ebay/Paypal Google with his Wallet and Yahoo! will also soon come up with something, it is clear who will be the new "incumbents" and provide the VoIP 2.0 applications Alex is talking about to the end-users. And Microsoft is lurking.
And what is the reaction of the telcos? They are ranting:
Several large telephone and cable companies are starting to make it harder for consumers to use the Internet for phone calls or swapping video files.
Some of the companies say the users are hogging bandwidth, taking up too much space on networks and slowing down service for all customers that tap the Internet for email, video, music, phone and other services.
Wireless phone companies like Verizon Wireless and Vodafone Group PLC stipulate in their subscription contracts that customers can't use the company's high-speed Web-access networks for Internet calling -- or may prohibit usage in the future. Several cable companies are using technology to cap the speed at which some of their customers can swap videos. A number of equipment companies are selling software and other products designed to block and monitor Internet applications such as phone calls, video and photo downloads.
Many telephone and cable companies have begun to closely monitor the uses of their network with an eye toward controlling activity by users who are swapping movies, TV programs, pornography and other video files. Operators say file sharing is growing so quickly, it threatens to sharply slow down other uses.
and so on and on ...
In essence: phone calls and porns are slowing down the poor other users.
Or is it the 1000:1 disconnect in the access Brough Turner was talking about at the Fall VON 2005 in Boston. For this only the access providers can be blamed. But help is already there, also pointed out by Brough in Boston: give the end-user fiber access to the backbone and the problem is solved once and forever. And the new elephants can finally make their money with their new business models.
To come back to Whitman:
"Our belief is that the winner in this space will be those that have the largest ecosystem," Whitman said.
"What I mean by that is: the largest number of registered users, the largest number of voice minutes, the largest number of developers who develop the platform, the best product ... that users are willing and want to pay for."
EBay, Yahoo!, Google (and lurking Mircosoft), each of them has a much larger ecosystem and capacity to develop the platforms whitman is talking about then even the biggest telcos, not to mention the tiny national telcos.
They cannot compete here, they missed this opportunity, game over.
So either they concentrate at the problem at hand they can solve and where they still can earn money: the access, or also this will be taken away from them by independant fiber providers.
Rich Shockey in an e-mail today in discussion with Alec:
Shockey's Law: Money is the answer, what was the question?
I agree there are three billable items here .. access, directory ( which btw includes naming such as phone numbers and domain names) and applications.
And the integration of full real-time communications into commercial and retail transaction is IMHO the real story here.
What the ROBC's refuse to understand is that they are losing the high margin customers to alternative technologies thus leaving them with commodity services they cant profitibly price.
So we really live in interesting times (Chinese curse for telco employees).
I understand that Flock is very beta, but one basic idea of Flock is that you can integrate your blog and post directly from Flock, to easily integrate citations from wepages and also pictures from Flikr. So the first thing I tried was to integrate this blog into Flock and make a post here.
The description sounded easy: "Just click here and enter your blog URL, and we do the rest." The only thing what came up here was an error message "unable to contact Blog (although they claim to support blogger) and the option to configure it manually. I tried this, it came up wanting things to know, I up to now didn't even know they exist, so I entered something what seemed to be appropriate, and then Flock crashed.
So Flock is done for me. Maybe in one year I may try it again.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
I had not time to check out all postings up to now, only this one entry, but I am not sure if the missing t is a spelling mistake or not. To get a feeling about the blog, some citations:
What are the implications of the eBay/Skype on the telco industry? I don't think the financial analysts have quite got it yet. I also think this news could be a stimulant for faster IMS adoption.
I asked Dr Kenn Walters, Head of the IMS Practice at our parent company STL (www.stlpartners.com) to give his view. ... Here's his take:
Ebay is a massively successful internet company based around online auctions and online payments systems. It has agreed to purchase Skype, which is a rather small, non profitable company specialising in VoIP and chargeable connections from VoIP to other telephone services. It's main assets are 54-60 million users.
The merged Ebay/Skype company needs to rapidly adopt IMS to allow the effective deployment of these new technologies and services. A successful implementation of an effective IMS strategy now becomes vital.
Now this seems to be the joke of the day. I cannot speak for EBay/Skype, but I would say, not before hell freezes over.
Maybe Mr. Walters has read the "Innovators Dilemma" and is now thinking IMS is a disruptive innovation related to Skype as incumbent, and they should downgrade their service to enter new markets.
Why should Skype adopt IMS and loose all the features they have now, features IMS may eventually implement some unknown time in the future. Currently the IMS community is completely busy specifying PSTN Emulation (or was it Simulation - or both), a step Skype simply jumped over.
It seems that S4 is more contagious then bird flu.
An anti-terror law makes Internet cafe managers check their client's IDs and track the websites they visit, reports Sophia Celeste in the Christian Science Monitor:
After Italy passed a new antiterrorism package in July, authorities ordered managers offering public communications services, like Mr. Savoni,to make passport photocopies of every customer seeking to use the Internet, phone, or fax.
This new law creates a heavy atmosphere," says Savoni, his desk cluttered with passport photocopies. He is visibly irritated, as he proceeds to halt clients at the door for their ID.
Like other owners of Internet cafes, Savoni had to obtain a new public communications business license, and purchase tracking software that costs up to $1,600.
The software saves a list of all sites visited by clients, and Internet cafe operators must periodically turn this list into their local police headquarters.
and he rants on:
Most tourists who wander in from the streets, he explains, leave their passports at home or are discouraged when asked to sign a security disclaimer.
Savoni says the new law violates his privacy, comparing it to America's antiterrorism law that allows authorities to monitor Internet use without notifying the person in question.
"It is a control system like America's Patriot Act," he says.
So will I have to show soon a passport also in the US if I open my laptop at Starbucks?
Does anybody think this is improving security?
On the other hand, this could be improved substancially: you get your passport on a chip and implanted in the ear, like a dog or cow, and Internet access is available. This will then be called Identity 2.o and saves you remembering tons of userIDs and passwords.
A big advantage of this could be that WindowsXP may finally recognize that you are sitting in front of the laptop and does not blank the screen after some time, e.g. if you watch a movie. WindowsXP or maybe Vista may now finally reach the intelligence level urinals have since years.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Monday, October 17, 2005
I stayed the night before at the NOVOTEL CENTRAAL in Den Haag. I asked at the reception if there is Internet access in the hotel and the lady happily nodded and started to explain that there is an additional jack beside the phone where I can plug-in my modem for dial-up ...
Since I never used the modem on my laptop since purchase two years ago and not wanted to start this hassle now, I said: "No, I mean broadband." She said: " oh yes, there is a T-Mobile hotspot also".
Ouch, I never used a T-Mobile hotspot in my life, for three reasons:
1. In most cases it did not work at all
2. In the rare cases it worked, I considered it too expensive
3. If I really needed it and decided to use it regardless of price, I could not sign-in.
And so it was: I detected the signal and also associated, got an IP-address, but was not able to get to the welcome page (so I never will know how much they wanted to rip me off).
Anyway, I am in a civilized country and the proud owner of a red Vodafone PCMCIA card, so what is the problem? The card searched very long for a network (it did not find a Vodafone network, shortly displayed a KPN network and when I tried to connect, the SW showed the error message I know from former experiences requires a reboot of the lap-top. After the reboot the card decided to be offended and did not show any networks at all for the rest of the evening.
Interestingly my mobile phone showed a strong signal from T-Mobile, but when I tried to connect via the phone (with USB, not bluetooth - not this again ;-), the connection was rejected.
So I was stranded, connectivity wise - no, no modem, I am not an addict, there a limits ;-)
Of course one cannot blame the hotel for being located in a wireless blind spot in the center of Den Haag, 200 meters from the Dutch parliament, and also for Dutch mobile operators being incompatible with the rest of the world.
Some people also say I do not understand business models, which may be true somehow, and definitely in this case:
how to make business with a product that does not work?
Sunday, October 16, 2005
James Seng also posted on this and provided also some additional references to warnings of Steven Bellovin, to the more supportive John Levine: "This isn't quite as stupid as it seems. The GSM industry needs some way to maintain its roaming user database, the database is getting considerably more complicated with 3G features, and it looks to me like they made a reasonable decision to use DNS over IP to implement it rather than inventing yet another proprietary distributed database." and even Paul Vixie who has been one of the most vocal opponents of alt. root chipped in, albeit in a slightly positive tone to many people surprise: "oh and one more thing. a small technical matter, insignificant next to the democracy-related points you raised. neustar isn't doing anything wrong-- the "root" they'll operate will only be seen by GPRS cell towers, not by end-user handsets."
I seems that Paul Vixie is not too well informed whats going on here (see below).
Also James seems to be supportive:
First, GSMA is already using an alt. root system with the .gprs for among their operators for their GPRS peering. What the deal essentially is to outsource that DNS operation to Neustar. In other words, Neustar did not intentionally create a new root or TLD; they are taking over an existing operation and it is unreasonable to expect them to "conform" to whatever norms we have.
Ok, I agree here that Neustar is just doing what the customer wants and they would be stupid no reject this ;-)
Second, there are approximately 1.5b mobile phone users. Put that into perspective, that is more than the total numbers of Internet users at this moment. So as we are converging between the mobile and Internet, be glad they (ie, GSMA) made no demands from us (ie, Internet) to conform to their norms and their root because really, they are much bigger than us.
What I said, they are trying to build a second de-facto Internet, in their walled garden, I just wonder that James is taking this so easy ;-)
Actually I am glad that their alt. root is now in the hands of competent DNS engineers who understand the Internet (particularly ICANN). Maybe we stand a chance to fold the two DNS system so that .GRPS is a recognizable ICANN TLD. Unfortunately, this is going to be take a while because no one knows when is the next time ICANN is going to ask for proposal for TLDs. Given such uncertain environment, you really cannot blame commercial operators moving ahead with their own root and TLD.
There will be no need, James, because .gprs is getting obsolete. To put some things in perspective, I first want to cite Kim Fullbrook's (O2 UK and member of GSMA) response to my post related to this issue on the IETF ENUM WG list:
As a result of the policy, those existing services that use the .gprs domain will continue to use it and any new services will use the 3gppnetwork.org domain. There might be new services in the future that would like to use a different domain name, in which case that domain name must be registered on the public Internet to avoid any potential leakage problem.
The Neustar press release describes the implementation of a root DNS to carry the .gprs domain (for some existing services) and 3gppnetwork.org domain for new services.
To comment on this, I want first refor to Annex D of this document, which was basically the result of the IAB intervention:
There currently exists a private IP network between operators to provide connectivity for user transparent services that utilise protocols that rely on IP. This includes (but is not necessarily limited to) such services as GPRS/PS roaming, WLAN roaming, GPRS/PS inter‑PLMN handover and inter‑MMSC MM delivery. This inter‑PLMN IP backbone network consists of indirect connections using brokers (known as GRXs – GPRS Roaming Exchanges) and direct inter‑PLMN connections (e.g. private wire); it is however not connected to the Internet. More details can be found in GSMA PRD IR.34.
Within this inter‑PLMN IP backbone network, the domain name ".gprs" was originally conceived as the only domain name to be used to enable DNS servers to translate logical names for network nodes to IP addresses (and vice versa). However, after feedback from the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) it was identified that use of this domain name has the following drawbacks:
1. Leakage of DNS requests for the ".gprs" top level domain into the public Internet is inevitable at sometime or other, especially as the number of services (and therefore number of nodes) using the inter‑PLMN IP backbone increases. In the worst case scenario of faulty clients, the performance of the Internet's root DNS servers would be seriously degraded by having to process requests for a top level domain that does not exist.
2. It would be very difficult for network operators to detect if/when DNS requests for the ".gprs" domain were leaked to the public Internet (and therefore the security policies of the inter‑PLMN IP backbone network were breached), because the Internet's root DNS servers would simply return an error message to the sender of the request only.
To address the above, the IETF recommended using a domain name that is routable in the pubic domain but which requests to it are not actually serviced in the public domain. The domain name ".3gppnetwork.org" was chosen as the new top level domain name to be used (as far as possible) within the inter‑PLMN IP backbone network. Only the DNS servers connected to the inter‑PLMN IP backbone network are populated with the correct information needed to service requests for this domain; DNS servers connected to the Internet that are authoritative for this domain simply return the usual DNS error for unknown hosts (thereby reducing the load on the Internet's root DNS servers down to normal service levels).
The GSM Association is in charge of allocating new sub‑domains of the ".3gppnetwork.org" domain name.
So is it only the out-dated .gprs and .3gppnetwork.org we are discussing here? Not quite. First, there is now in addition also .e164enum.net, registered from GSMA for Infrastructure ENUM purposes. And, going back to the above mentioned 3GPP TS 23.003: in section 13 "Numbering, addressing and identification within the IP multimedia core network subsystem" it is stated e.g. the following:
13.2 Home network domain name
The home network domain name shall be in the form of an Internet domain name, e.g. operator.com, as specified in RFC 1035.
If there is no ISIM application, the UE shall derive the home network domain name from the IMSI as described in the following steps:
1. take the first 5 or 6 digits, depending on whether a 2 or 3 digit MNC is used (see 3GPP TS 31.102) and separate them into MCC and MNC; if the MNC is 2 digits then a zero shall be added at the beginning;
2. use the MCC and MNC derived in step 1 to create the "mnc
3. add the label "ims." to the beginning of the domain.
This implies that .3gppnetwork.org is only used for compatibility with existing SIM-Cards. If there is an ISIM application, constructs like o2.co.uk or vodafone.de will be used. Now the point here is that within the data within this domains will not only be seen by cell towers, as Paul Vixie assumes, it will be used at least by the IMS servers to resolve public user identities, and that there will be different data on the public Internet. What we have here is simply a split horizon DNS, the question is only, what part of it will be the "private" and what will be the "public" part. According to James Seng the part in GRX network will be much larger, so is here the tail wagging the dog?
I asked Kim on the list the following question:
If I use a Public User Identity as defined in TS 23.228 (and TS 23.003) in the format of a SIP URI to be used on a business card (as also stated there) - e.g. sip:firstname.lastname@example.org, is the domain part of this SIP URI resolved in the GRX DNS or in the public DNS?
To which Kim replied:
Well said, but the real question will be, how this will be done? The problems this causes is analyzed BTW in GSMA PRD IR.65 IMS Roaming and Interworking Guidelines.
Jeff Pulver exploded on his blog and via all channels with a WARNING: The FCC Extends CALEA's reach to the Internet, commented by Jon Arnold, James Enck, Alec Saunders and Kevin Werbach
Scott Bradner exploded 4 days earlier in his column at Networkworld: Internet Wiretapping . more questions than answers on this issue.
Today Rao Aswath is also commenting and he brings a point forward which is mostly forgotten in all these discussions: that a target MUST NOT be able to discern that he is a target.
... I want to bring to your attention that complying to CALEA requirement will not only be expensive for VoIP providers; it will also destroy the basic architectural advantage. As Randell Jesup observes in his comments to Jeff’s post, the only way a VoIP service provider can comply with CALEA is for them to deploy media relays and route all calls through them. This is because CALEA requires that the targets must not be able to discern that they are targets ...
I fully agree with his conclusion that wiretapping for content can only take place at the access, VoIP providers may only provide signalling information at best. If VoIP are required to intercept content, they would have to route all their calls via a box (nice for video calls) to be able to record them and then every half-educated Internet user would immediately recognise that he is intercepted. Phil Zimmerman will like this boost for his PGPhone.
He is also puzzled (and so am I since years) about the jurisdictional boundaries and implications nobody in the US seems to talk about - or care about. 99.999% of US citizens are talking anyway to US citizens, some think What if an US citizen is routed via a box in Syria (because he is talking to somebody in India and the Indian guy has decided to use a VoIP service in Syria) and now the US citizen is intercepted there? And BTW, does anyone believe (even in the US) that a terrorist with some minimum intelligence will use a US VoIP server?
This is basically what the world likes so much with the US: explaining the whole world how democracy works by creating asymmetric laws. The best example on this was the proposed international court on war crimes: valid for everybody exept US citizens.
I have to congratulate Adrian and Michiel for this organizing this out-standing event and, as Adian said, this may be the first of sieies of events similar to the ENUM Day in Gemany.
Adrian announced that the presentations will be available from ISOC.nl, in the meantime they can be retrieved from ag-projects here. My presentation can also be retrived from here.
Thomas de Haan from the Dutch Ministry of Economic affairs set the signals to green stating that it is up to the interested parties to proceed with ENUM, if the cornerstones set out by the NLEG Working Group in their final report are met.
So theoretically ENUM could be very fast on track in the Netherlands, because, as I pointed out also in my presentation, there is no need to test and trial that ENUM and the DNS works in principle - regarding DNS this is proven every day all over the world, regarding ENUM we haven proven this in Austria within the last year. The only thing required still is to set up the legal framework and the contracts, and run a pre-commercial phase to get the administrative and operational issues worked out. Also here some guidance and transfer of hands-on experience may be given, as Michael Haberler pointed out. Michael also attended, spending the last day of the RIPE meeing in Amsterdam in The Hague.
Thomas de Haan made in his presentation also some interesting statements regarding the plans to change the national (NL) Numbering Scheme to facilitate new developments such as VoIP:
The first issue is interesting regarding the current discussion in Austria on the use of geographic numbers (- I still have to post on this issue, in the meantime you have to live with Thilo's post).
- Liberalise the existing destination of geographic numbers by introducing an “elastic band”
- Nomadic use outside area of area code possible
- But user’s residence should still be within area
- only for POTS replacement in walled gardens
- only with a fixed network termination point
- only if you have a residence there
- as you like
The only reasonable alternative to start not with numbers for a technology, but since VoIP is a personal service with personal numbers has been killed everywhere by idiotic pricing and tarifs for personal numbering "services" on the PSTN. Since this happens all over the place and now also with WiFi hotspot pricing, I come to the conclusion that this is done on purpose by some people in the companies who are agains a certain service from the beginning and have on the other hand the power to influence the pricing in such a way that the service is never accepted by the public, only to be able to prove the point later: "I always said this will not be a business."
Nevertheless also the NL is trying it also:
Introduction of new non-geographic numbers:
- 085- range (10 digits) with modest call tariffs; from zero up to ‘interlocal’ level, e.g. pure VoIP
- 091- range (10 digits); more freedom in tariff structure, e.g. added value services
I understand the first one, but I really do not understand the second: how should this work IP-to-IP?
It will be interesting to watch the usage of this number range.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
CRMToday is citing Forrester Research in declaring: Incumbent Telcos Set to Win Europe's Consumer VoIP War, because only 1% Europeans using VoIP frequently to make calls from home.
Maybe I am not typical, because I neither use PSTN nor VoIP to make calls from home, because I am rarely at home - at least my wife is complaning.
According to industry hype, voice over IP (VoIP) pure plays like Skype and Vonage are on the verge of transforming and taking over the telecom industry. But Forrester Research believes that pure plays have no chance of dethroning proactive European incumbent telcos from their consumer fixed voice market leadership. Forrester thinks that VoIP pure plays will fail to survive as independent companies because they don’t offer a truly disruptive and transformational service – and they lack key advantages that the incumbents have. Telcos like British Telecom and France Télécom can continue to dominate future voice markets as long as they maintain their proactive and innovative VoIP response strategies.
VoIP adoption will certainly help trigger sweeping changes in voice pricing models across the industry. However, that will most likely not lead to the major industry disruptions foreseen by VoIP pure play proponents – at least not on the retail side of the business,” stated Lars Godell , Principal Analyst, Telecom, at Forrester Research, and author of a recent VoIP study. “Forrester sees the consumer VoIP hype as wild exaggerations, reminiscent of the UMTS hype, dot-com, and telecom bubble days
“VoIP isn’t really mature today. It faces a range of problems, including immature SIP technology, unresolved regulatory issues, and a lack of industrial-strength and scalable public network management systems. Consumer apathy and slow broadband uptake will also hold VoIP back.”
Ha, now I got you: slow broadband uptake? Godell seems to live on another planet: broadband uptake is faster then mobile uptake 12 years ago.
In addition, the incumbent telcos are fighting back: Proactive incumbents like Telecom Italia, France Télécom, and Portugal Telecom launched flat-rate PSTN calling even before VoIP pure plays became a threat, reducing VoIP’s threat to their core PSTN business. Since then, a majority of incumbents have introduced various flat-rate pricing plans, further reducing their vulnerability to VoIP pure plays. Smart incumbents are also tearing down technology silos and focusing on user needs, not technology, further undermining VoIP pure plays’ key selling points. And by launching their own VoIP services, ADSL bundles, and enhanced functionality services, incumbents are fighting the pure plays on their own turf.
Ok, now this is something different: as I already posted in my take on the Rome Conference some "proactive" and "smart" incumbents are really taking the challenge. And I also stated very often here that the POTSoIP like Vonage providers will not survive:
Forrester believes that VoIP pure plays will fail in the new telecom world. Falling short of true disruptive potential, lacking all the important advantages of incumbent telcos, and facing more intense VoIP competition from all comers, VoIP pure plays like sipgate, Telio, Gossiptel, and Vonage will not be able to survive for long as profitable free-standing companies. Skype’s investors were lucky to be able to bail out to eBay before the consolidation game kicked in. In Norway, that game has already delivered more than 20 VoIP pure play casualties in less than nine months. The best the pure plays can hope for is to be acquired – or to license their often interesting technology and service concepts.But there is also a caveat:
The incumbents have significant advantages in brand name, scope (bundling), scale, customer base, billing, and financial strength over essentially all other challengers, although they do need to improve their customer satisfaction ratings. And also their rollout and development time for new features
And here I think Forrester is wrong:
And while big global portals like MSN, AOL, Yahoo!, and Google have recently made acquisitions and service launches around VoIP and IM voice chat, they will never be able to claim national consumer VoIP market leadership in any Western European country.”
Is Poland now Western or Eastern?
And what about the mobile operators killing the fixed network already?
Here Forrester Research seems to be completely silent. There is only one communication market in the future, and this will be personal, nomadic and All-IP.
Australia's heavyweight telecommunications companies are largely ignoring a technology that maps telephone numbers to Internet services, with only relative minnows in the Internet arena demonstrating any enthusiasm.
While telecommunications companies might be hesitant, Melbourne-based domain hosting firm Instra is enthusiastic about the technology, which its chief executive Tony Lentino believes will become mainstream over the next five years.
Instra’s Lentino said the telecommunications heavyweights were more likely to try and hold back the technology.
"From a carrier's and Telstra's point of view, they don't want it… Obviously it's going to destroy their revenue, so they're going to stall it as long as possible," he said
Also here Carrier (or Infrastructure) ENUM is seen as an alternative:
The tipping point for ENUM to take off in Australia, according to Lentino, would be when VoIP saturation in the population reaches a certain level -- potentially 30 percent -- which would encourage VoIP service providers to start offering ENUM with their VoIP services.
"When one or two providers start to adopt it, anyone signing up for VoIP, would obviously want to go to a provider who's supplying ENUM versus a provider who's not," he said.
Even without the support of large carriers, the ENUM trial is making important strides. AusRegistry chief technology officer Chris Wright said one of the turning points in the trial's development so far had been the realisation that ENUM could be used for different purposes.
"One is as a personal number service for people to get all of their details together," he said. "The second use is as a VoIP routing protocol that can be used to facilitate termination of VoIP telephone calls across the Internet, or across private networks or across peered networks and so on."
This type of service -- dubbed 'infrastructure ENUM' by Lentino -- would enable VoIP providers like Engin or iiNet to link their networks together and avoid the need for VoIP-to-VoIP calls to (expensively) traverse the public switched telephone network at any point.
Monday, October 10, 2005
To state the positive sides first: the espresso in the small bars is always excellent, the food is also quite good and the old (Christian) and antique (Roman) sites are very impressive. It is also nice to walk around in the old parts of the city. And of course nobody can be blamed for the weather, it was Thursday, Friday and Saturday raining cats and dogs - my son said that we finally got the weather we deserved in August in London.
On Friday we did the Vatican (Castel Sant' Angelo, San Piedro and the museums), on Saturday the Fora, Palatino and Colosseum, and on Sunday some churches, Spanish stairs, Fontana di Trevi, Pantheon, San Giovanni in Laterano and finally Via Appia.
On the negative side is the new Rome and some if it inhabitants. I had to move out of the splendid Cavalieri Hilton, first because it was booked up, second it is situated not very conveniently for sight-seeing (on top of a steep hill) and third it was way too expensive anyway. So I moved in a "normal" hotel (still expensive) near metro-station Lepanto on line A and a 1o minute walk from Castel Sant' Angelo and the Vatican.
My wife was arriving Thursday evening and the instructions I gave here sounded quite simple: take the Leonardo Express from the airport to Roma Termini and from there 5 stations with metro A. The hotel is 100m from the metro exit, but I will pick you up there. Give me a call if the express is leaving the airport. The calculation seemed easy: 30 min train, 15 minutes walk in Termini, because they decided to end the train 1 km BEFORE Termini, and 15 minutes with the metro. She called at 8:30 pm, so I walked up to the metro station at 9:15. expecting to meet her soon. No wife showed up, but to my astonishment and surprise they closed the metro station instead.
I expected my phone to ring and so it did (luckily it was working at this time, which is also not normal with Vodafone.it): "They closed down the metro, but there is a bus instead." I would have taken a taxi, but first she is very housewifely and second there was naturally a very long queue for taxis at Termini. There was also a nice episode she told me later, why she missed the last metro by seconds: she wanted first to see a plan of the metro to know in which direction to go, but could not find one. So she asked in a shop and got the advice: "Metro plans are only on display in newpapers, she should buy one" - nice try. True is that there are nowhere metro plans on display except on the platform.
So while my wife was searching for the bus, I was starting to wonder where the bus will stop. I assumed near the metro station, but in the meantime standing there and got asked not only by hordes of tourists, but also by native Romans, first what's going on with the metro in general and then where the bus stop for direttione Termini is, I got my doubts. One native finally told me that this fun is going on now for 2 years, but nobody puts any signs up and he also does not know where the bus stops.
My wife in the meantime (it was already 10:15) finally found the bus and entered it, but now she had another problem: where to leave the bus? The bus driver does not react to any question regarding Lepanto, the passengers also had problems, because my wife made a very serious mistake: she pronounced the station Lepa'nto, and not Le'panto, as Roman citiziens are used to. So it took some time to figure this out and finally she got off the bus at 10:30 - but definitely NOT at the metro station. We finally found out that the bus is NOT exactly passing the metro stations, only approximately. We still do not know where she got off exactly, but it was at least 4 blocks away - she finally took a taxi to the hotel.
The metro in Rome is basically only two lines and the cars are looking like the New York Metro in 1995 - full of ugly graffiti. A speciality in Rome is ticket gates: both in the Metro and e.g. in museums. They are constructed in such a way that you need in addition one person per gate to explain the passers how to operate it.
This started already on the airport with the Leonardo express: you buy a ticket, then you approach the platform where a guy is sitting in a boy, telling everybody that he has to insert the ticket into a ticket-canceller, but not in the first one, because this one is out-of-order, and after you have tried the second one 4 times, he tells you that you have to insert the ticket very slooowly. My wife had 2 days later the same experience, only that of the four cancellers only one was working.
Same is basically true with the metro gates, here you have 4 options to insert the ticket, only one and the least obvious works, not enhancing throughput. Similar experience in museums.
One last rant: sight-seeing in Rome means hordes of tourists and queueing up. At the Vatican this is organized quite well and if you finally get in, you really get something for the 12 Euro. Not so on the Palatino. You pay 10 Euro (+ Colosseum), but you do not get anything. You have to know everything yourself. No descriptions, no signs, nothing. You do not even have a sign where the exit is. They seem to assume that everybody is well-informed already (like the Germans) and also has a guidebook. Maybe, but if it is raining, it could be you do not want to spoil it and would like to have at least the directions.
Summary: Romans are quite nice, as long as they are not working on their official job.