Saturday, December 24, 2005
Thursday, December 22, 2005
After RedHerring already reported 3 weeks ago that BT offers VoIP services cheaper than Skype (BT Begins Skype Backlash), it is reporting now in BT challenges VoIP Providers from a meeting in London, where the carrier detailed a long-range plan whereby BT would embrace the changes taking place in the voice world even if it means transitioning a significant portion of its more profitable, traditional voice subscribers to cheaper services such as VoIP.
Unlike many of its counterparts around the globe, BT Group, the United Kingdom’s largest telecommunications carrier, has embarked on a plan to use its ownership of the country’s largest broadband network to challenge VoIP service providers such as eBay’s Skype division.
I have always considered BT as one of the most advanced incumbents, but I am really astonished about the statements from Gavin Patterson, BT's managing director of consumer and ventures. Maybe he is reading my blog ;-)
"Whether Skype’s business model is sustainable or not is yet to be determined, but this is our wakeup call. Rather than let VoIP be done to us, it is our single-minded intent that we transform our own business behind it and use it as a way of increasing our customer base on other people’s networks too.”Many traditional carriers complain about the fact that VoIP carriers such as Skype are able to build competitive businesses on their networks without compensating them.
“The key to this is getting the cost base right on the new services and aggressively going after market share so that your core business is not eroded,” said Mr. Patterson. “We are actively migrating price-sensitive customers over to VoIP.
“Trying to defend your traditional PSTN [public switched telephone network] business as an incumbent and saying VoIP will never happen is pointless,” he added. “The business model for voice traffic is changing fundamentally, and incumbents such as BT have to be out on the forefront of that.”
Most incumbents have competitive VoIP services, but they take a low-key approach to promoting these products. They want to avoid encouraging large portions of their traditional customer base to switch to the cheaper voice service and significantly reduce their overall voice revenue.
“We did not market our VoIP services as hard as we could have, but we are now committed to a VoIP world and we see that traditional call revenue will inevitably come down,” said Mr. Patterson. “We need to plan for a scenario where that is not our major source of contribution. That leads you to see VoIP as a bridgehead into a whole range of new paid-for products and services.”BT believes there is life in the voice market beyond VoIP, and long term, the real losers would be VoIP service providers such as Skype.
“We are committed to voice as a market, we will continue to make it our core business, but we will be at the forefront of innovation and change, so that we are able to meet our customers’ needs at least as well as anyone else. We already have the Skype-beating prices. We will merge VoIP into some of our other services, which is a natural incumbent’s advantage.”BT embarked on its Skype-beating strategy less than two weeks ago when it announced it was slashing its prices for voice services in half and offering free calls to 30 different countries during the holiday season.
The company already prices its international calls made from PCs to regular telephones via its BT Communicator service cheaper than Skype does with its SkypeOut service. BT also plans to introduce an enhanced VoIP service in the spring that would significantly improve sound quality.
“The overall service experience such as billing, technical support, and repair are important to customers,” said Mr. Patterson. “It’s also important to customers to provide them with a one-stop shop for all of their communications needs. Then we have a trusted brand. Whom do you trust to provide you with these important services?”But brand loyalty seems to be fading as a differentiator in a world where young customers switch service providers fairly frequently, based on small incremental savings.
“The boundary-less world created by the Internet is thrilling but scary for the vast majority of consumers. Sometimes we can get carried away by teenagers and pre-teenagers and use them as a measure for what is happening in the world. A 40-year-old with three kids has different needs from teenagers, and teenagers get older and their needs change.”But can there be a challenge or competition if there is still no real business model for VoIP 2.0?
See Re-format your Skype business model? from Martin Geddes.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
For those wanting to get more into the technical aspects of this, I would strongly recommend an excellent blog voipandenum.blogspot.com.
Ahem, blush, ok. So, if they are reading me, I am oblidged at least to try to give a serious answer to this posting, with my comments inline:
A number of mobile operators have been in contact with us recently asking about addressing and numbering strategy as they move towards an IMS world.I understand that there is a problem or even a vacuum regarding numbering and addressing strategy for IMS, because the relevant (standard) bodies have neglected these issues since years. ETSI TISPAN, 3GPP and also GSMA have ignored Numbering, Naming, Addressing and Routing including ENUM since years. They have been so busy in defining new boxes separating their networks that they completely forgot about the boxes required for connecting these networks and interworking (a Freudian lapsus?).
Whole TISPAN is entirely ignoring numbering and addressing? Well, not entirely... One small village of indomitable Gauls still holds out against - uups - one small workgroup holds out - TISPAN WG4 is trying to convince since years the rest of TISPAN that there is a problem - with not very much success. Only very recently some awareness could be reached.
There is (was?) also a group (GSMNA ENUM AdHoc) within GSMA working on implementing ENUM within the GRX network to allow interworking between mobile networks. The two groups sometimes tried to communicate, but this is officially not possible, because GSMA documents are not public and no liaisons exist.
It is clear that mobile operators for various reasons do not even think to use Public User ENUM as defined by IETF and implemented already in some countries.
What GSMA tried to achieve is private ENUM (ENUM in a closed network), similar to the Private ENUM implementations between the US Cable operators and also e.g. by XConnect et. al. The problem with all these solutions is that one may interoperate only within the federation, but how to interoperate with everybody else?
The real problem is not ENUM, the real problem is IP Interconnect or VoIP Peering based on SIP URIs - the so-called L5 peering in IETF terminology.
IETF now extended the charter of the ENUM WG to deal also with Public Infrastructure ENUM. In addition, a new workgroup is planned to be established, dealing with the IP Interconnect or VoIP Peering issues based on SIP- currently called SPEERMINT (Session PEERing for Multimedia INTerconnect)
Infrastructure ENUM and SPEERMINT is currently getting a lot of attention as possibility for a global solution to solve the VoIP Interconnect problem (VoIP standing here for basically all real-time communications possible with SIP).
The basic idea is very simple:
Infrastructure ENUM within "e164.arpa" will provide a global mapping for any E.164 number to DNS NAPTRs containing a SIP URI(s), keeping the privacy of the end-user intact. The SIP URI for an E.164 Number (e.g. +436644204100) will be a Public User Identity such as sip:+email@example.com, not disclosing any information except the hosting service provider (number assignee). Here ends the scope of IETF ENUM WG.
Within the domain "mobilkom.at" the calling service provider will find all required information whether he is able to establish a call on IP to the destination network and how. He will find the NAPTRs and SRV RRs according to RFC3263 to find the border elements of the destination network and eventually also information about the federations and other requirements the destination network requires for access. These issues will be within the scope of IETF SPEERMINT WG.
ETSI TISPAN WG4 and ECC PT2 - TRIS will hold a combined workshop on NGN Interconnection and Numbering on Wednesday, January 18th, 2006 during their meetings at the ERO premises in Copenhagen this week. For more information see see the ERO webpage.
Since also participants from GSMA and other bodies are expected, hopefully some progress will be made.
Now back to the IMS Insider posting:
In the short term, as operators offer more SIP-based services, how do they help their customers manage the potential complexity of having more (and more complicated) numbers/URIs to remember/use?Why should one have more than one numbers and/or SIP URIs to remember? The basic idea of SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) was that ALL services can be accessed via one SIP URI (Address-of-Record AoR). And ENUM is mapping one E.164 number to this SIP URI. The above mentioned problem simply doas not exist.
Part of the problem is that senior management don't necessary appreciate the problem.My sympathy goes with you and I fully understand the problem ;-)
So, my colleagues at our sister consulting practice, STL (www.stlpartners.com), put together this simple summary of the issue for their Operator clients to use with senior management:Now lets analyse this statement-by-statement:
Transiting to SIP-based services - Address and Numbering Strategy - How to make it seamless for our customers and business partners, and differentiate vs competitors?
SituationOk, agreed. Using IMS architectures is your problem, not mine. But you should not forget that this is not a divine law cast in stone.
- We [the Operator] are moving towards an IP-based core network, using IMS architectures.
- We are trialling basic SIP-based functionality with customers (Push to Talk, Video Sharing, Multimedia Messaging, Voice Enrichment).OK, although you may also consider presence and location based services. I also consider the term "trialling" interesting. Out in the wild west of the Internet these servives are already existing in version 2.0.
- This functionality will be available on our own network only (ie. Won’t allow roaming).Now we are reaching the real problem. Why only in your own network? Won't allow roaming? Or are you not able to provide roaming yet? Consider how many users the largest national GSM operator has and how many additional customers he may get. And now consider how many customers your real competitors already have and how many they can reach. I am talking here about Skype/EBay, Google, Yahoo! et. al.
- In 18-24 months we will be looking to launch more sophisticated converged IP-based services (via multiple bearers and devices) to compete with fixed and internet players.I do not think that IMS will be ready for this in 24 month. Since especially the Internet players have all these services on a global scale already NOW, thinketh where they will be in 24 month. You will never be able to compete with them in your walled garden. Servicewise, all your customers will be save out side already. And you will have no support or help from your device manufacturers. The new dual-mode devices (GSM/WiFi) are already announced and to be on the safe (and customer) side, Nokia has already announced that the E60/61/70 series will feature TWO SIP stacks - the 3GPP stack and the standard IETF stack.
- IP-services require a very different address/numbering system (SIP based) than voice (MSISDN based).Yes, they require SIP URIs, but with ENUM they may keep their old MSISDN, no problem here.
- Some standards bodies exist to help with the address and numbering aspects of this (eg. ENUM)
ComplicationHuh? Confusing maybe for your senior managers not being able to read and write their e-mail without the help of their secretaries. SIP is working exactly like e-mail, and what part of sip:firstname.lastname@example.org you do not understand? Which industry you are talking about?
- SIP-based services make address/numbering much more complex and confusing for the customer. Technically, this issue has not yet been solved by the industry as a whole.
- Unless addressed quickly, customers will be required to have multiple addresses/numbers/identities for multiple IP-based services types.As I already said, this is simply not true. Your customers may keep their MSISDN and may use in addition, if they want so, an SIP URI similar to an e-mail address. There may be one challenge: customers may not want to have sip:email@example.com, they may want to have also sip:firstname.lastname@example.org, because this is also the e-mail address. This is valid especially for enterprises. This may cause a serious problem in the walled garden approach.
- Customers are already demanding single address/number schemes to access multiple services across multiple networks – they will gravitate towards the Operators who can offer this.And are already getting it, from the Internet players, as you call them. And they already can provide access to multiple services across multiple networks NOW, and this is the reason why they will gravite to them. And you will loose (maybe not the customer, because he still will use the UMTS access), but he will not use your services.
- Third parties (content providers, business partners) will gravitate to Operators who have the most efficient way of delivering and charging end users for bundled IP-based services.Yes, and especially business customers are really pissed off with the insane roaming charges, both for calls and data, and will find immediately the most efficient (and cheapest) way to get their services done. Enterprises will provide themselves anyway all services, including voice. Does any business customer use the e-mail service from a mobile operator? No, he is using the e-mail from the company. Why should this be different with voice? Especially if it is combined with presence and Outlook?
- Industry standards on these issues are not in place yet.They are. Maybe not in 3GPP and ETSI TISPAN.
- Some solution vendors are selling proprietary solutions which may prevent us from creating scaleable IP-based service propositions in the longer term.Hm, how true. Think about this. Maybe the whole IMS is such a solution? Maybe you are already taking hostage by some manufacturers wanting to continue to sell you expensive and unnecessary boxes?
QuestionWho are the competitors? Who is we? Are you competing with fixed operators, cable operators, the Internet players? Or are you competing with other mobile operators? Is the competition in future on the access or with services. With enterprises (your best customers,btw, or are this the parents of the kids you rip-off with SMS and ring-tones?) you have to compete with the customer - not a good idea after Clay Shirky's ZapMail. And since your competitors will have these solutions much sooner, you may have a problem here.
How can we differentiate vs competitors by creating an approach to address/numbering which is simple and effective for our customers?
AnswerOk, get going, but consider: you are not the only service provider federation. Customers do not want walled gardens.
Deal with 2 interrelated issues now, to avoid headaches later on:
1.) Plan how to help the customer make an easy transition to a SIP-based address/numbers system (MSISDN/SIP co-existence, roaming, number portability, etc.)
2.) Ensure our internal technology development and interconnect strategy is in line with this.
Create a Future Address and Numbering Strategy.
A consumer friendly Future Address and Numbering Strategy can only be created by ALL service providers, not only be the mobile operators.
So lets work together (or you will be Left Behind)
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Since VoIP is a very new and innovative technology (at least for one (or both?) of these two companies ;-), they start it like hedgehogs are mating (very carefully), basically by doing a beta test with the Windows Live Messenger.
MCI and Microsoft are testing the service as part of a Windows Live Messenger limited beta with subscriptions initially available in the United States, and expect to jointly deliver the PC-to-phone calling capabilities to France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom in the coming weeks. Once subscribed to the service, customers can place calls to and from more than 220 countries with rates starting at $.023 per minute to the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Western Europe during the beta testing period. Upon sign-up, MCI Web Calling customers will receive up to one hour of free calls. Final pricing will be determined when the product officially launches in 2006.2,3 cents/minute for a crippled beta test, when I get half the price by Skype et. al.? Ok, you get a bonus of $2,5 to start with - great, thanx.
Is this now a Microsoft Service using the MCI connections to the world, or a MCI/Verizon service using MS Live Messenger as a client? If it is the latter, why does a company like MCI needs a beta testing of a year to test a simple VoIP client? There are enough perfectly working VoIP clients around.
If it a Microsoft Service using MCIs connection to interface with the PSTN, I am missing any new and innovative services annoinced here. Or will these be launched and beta tested in 2007ff?
I really do not understand what is going on here.
Friday, December 09, 2005
The current world order in the telecom world is under threat, with the carriers under pressure from the online upstarts and vendors in danger of being usurped by more traditional IT firms, attendees at the IMS: Blueprint for an Applications Revolution conference in London heard today.
Telecom operators are being bypassed by the new breed of service providers, such as Google (Nasdaq: GOOG - message board), Skype Technologies SA, Vonage Holdings Corp., and Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO - message board) -- the "Four Horsemen of the IP Apocalypse," noted conference moderator and Heavy Reading senior analyst Graham Finnie.
Four Horsemen of the IP Apocalypse? Apocalypse Now? Graham must have seen one of Rich Shockey's forward looking presentations ;-)But Poisoned Chalice? Chalice? Chalice? This reminds of one of the best and funniest movies I have ever seen (maybe because it was one of the first I saw) - The Court Jester with Danny Kaye:
Here the full sequence from (god bless) Wikipedia:
- Hubert: I've got it! The pellet with the poison's in the vessel with the pestle; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true! Right?
- Griselda: ...but there's been a change: they broke the chalice from the palace...
- Hubert: They broke the chalice from the palace?
- Griselda: ...and replaced it. With a flagon.
- Hubert: A flagon?
- Griselda: With the figure of a dragon.
- Hubert: Flagon with a dragon.
- Griselda: Right.
- Hubert: ...but did you put the pellet with the poison in the vessel with the pestle?
- Griselda: No! The pellet with the poison's in the flagon with the dragon! The vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true!
- Hubert: The pellet with the poison's in the flagon with the dragon the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true.
- Griselda: Just remember that!
Anyway, I am sorry I missed this conference, it seem to be a lot of fun, there is another gem on IMS by the keynote speaker Malcom Wardlaw from BT:
While it's primarily been the familiar names in the frame to land carrier IMS system deals, that could easily change over the coming five years or so, stated keynote speaker Malcolm Wardlaw, vice president of Mobility, Intelligence & Applications at BT Group plc (NYSE: BT - message board; London: BTA).
Wardlaw is one of the U.K. carrier's key executives in the development of its next generation network, the 21CN, and a big IMS fan. "IMS is a fantastic architecture that will allow us to make some major steps and create new services and experiences for our customers," he told the 150 conference delegates. (See BT Calls for IMS Support.)