Sunday, April 30, 2006

User vs. Infrastructure vs. Private ENUM 

I posted on Monday about the newly submitted draft-ietf-enum-infrastructure-00 and Martin Geddes commented:

Richard -- given that the separation of connectivity from service means anyone can be a carrier, doesn't "carrier ENUM" kind of smell of a cartel that will stitch-up the public? Isn't the problem that the issuance of phone numbers to telcos who act as trustees for the users one of misaligned interests, where the users always come off worse? At least public DNS comes closer to a proper ownership model. Does my phone number really need to be managed by a single entity who happens to be providing one of my many services (voice)? Or am I missing something and being paranoid, and not reading the consumer-friendly small print?

Martin made a very good point here, and I promised an answer. The problem is that Martin is raising here a lot of issues at once and I have troubles where to start.

First of all, User ENUM is still there (at least in countries where it is implemented). Any end-user can enter the phone number he has the right to use into User ENUM and point to any service on the Internet he wants to, e.g. to his VoIP service. This is a perfect separation of transport and services (applications). Anybody may provide VoIP services on the Internet, an end-user may even provide his own VoIP services.

This does not imply that anybody can be a "Carrier". The E.164 numbering scheme is the naming and addressing scheme of the PSTN, and assignement of E.164 numbers is happening acoording to defined international and national rules. A "Carrier" or "Carrier-of-Record" is defined in draft-ietf-enum-infrastructure-enum-reqs-02 as:
  • The Service Provider to which the E.164 number was allocated for end user assignment, whether by the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) or the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), for instance a code under "International Networks" (+882) or "Universal Personal Telecommunications (UPT)" (+878) or,
  • if the number is ported, the service provider to which the number was ported, or
  • where numbers are assigned directly to end users, the service provider that the end user number assignee has chosen to provide a Public Switched Telephone Network/Public Land Mobile Network (PSTN/PLMN) point-of-interconnect for the number.
So even if numbers are assigned directly to end-users, they need a "carrier" on the PSTN to get their E.164 number into operation, as the last bullet states.

Side remark: we are talking here about VoIP using E.164 numbers, not about VoIP using SIP URIs in the first place.

Now let's step back a moment and look at "Carriers" providing voice services. These "Carriers" may use any technology within their networks they deem convenient. More and more are migrating fully or partially to IP technology. This causes more and more VoIP islands to come into existence. The only way to interconnect these VoIP islands currently is the PSTN. This has many draw-backs: cost, QoS and most important: loss of features. The PSTN may only carry voice calls.

So the "Carriers" operating VoIP islands are looking for ways to interconnect these islands with IP-technology. There are different possibilities to interconnect (peer) VoIP islands with IP technology (and I will not go down this road here, this is SPEERMINT territory), but if the VoIP islands are using E.164 numbers as their prime identifier, they first need to find out which other VoIP island (destination netwrk) is hosting an E.164 number an end-user has requested to be connected to.

The VoIP island have already a solution to this and some of them have already implemented it or are planning to do so:

Private ENUM.

Mobile Operators in the US are already peering their MMS traffic via ENUM, the US cable operators are planning to peer their voice traffic via ENUM, the Dutch cable operators have already decided to use a private ENUM tree provided by XConnect, the GSM operators are planning to use an extension of the GRX network (IPX) and ENUM to peer their traffic.

The "Carriers" are completely free to do so, minding their own business, and may create such "clubs" on a national and /or international level, without needing to ask anybody, particularly not any national regulatory authority (NRA). It is up to the club to decide where the Private ENUM datebase is implemented, it may be in the public DNS namespace or in a private one.

This will happen and happens already.

This solution has only one "minor" drawback: even if the club is large, it will never contain all E.164 numbers in operation worldwide. Of course a given "Carrier" may participate in more then one of these clubs, but never in all of them. And if he is participating in many clubs, the question comes up in which club a given number is hosted. Querying one club after the other may not be efficient.

So some kind of a "superclub" or umbrella club is required.

This could be the Infrastructure ENUM we are talking about.

"Carriers" now have the choice to opt-in into the public Infrastructure ENUM tree. Any "Carrier" hosting E.164 numbers should have the right to opt-in here. The draw-back of this approach is that again the NRAs are involved, which may not allow all countries to participate immediately. But this is then up to the "carriers" to pester their national NRAs to opt-in.

The entries in Infrastructure ENUM are controlled only by the "Carrier", no opt-in of the end-user is required, and a "Carrier" may enter all of numbers he is hosting.

It is also the decision of the "Carrier" what information is entered (as long as he is not disclosing any privacy information about the end-user), e.g.

Some "Carriers", particularly VoIP providers on the Internet may enter data directly pointing to their proxy server or at least to the ingress element of their network (not to mention the SBC word).

Others may decide to enter a "hint" only to which club(s) they belong, without disclosing their identity, or providing in addition some kind of service provider ID.

So Infrastructure ENUM is used only by "Carriers" and it will co-exist with User ENUM. User ENUM will be user still by end-users to point to their Internet services and we see currently many ideas popping up with recent contributions to the ENUM WG.

Does my phone number really need to be managed by a single entity who happens to be providing one of my many services (voice)?

As long as the PSTN exists, for providing services there, yes. On the Internet is is already your business, in User ENUM.

IMS Reality Check by Martin Geddes 

Martin Geddes has been invited as guest blogger by IMS Insider to give an IMS Reality Check.

Martin is commenting on 7 promises made by IMS (I give here only an abbreviated version of his replies, for the full text please look here)

Promise # 1. New Revenue Opportunities: From silo to a horizontal business model

IMS is partly counter-productive, because tying functionality and value to the network platform via SIP proxies (as opposed to the business platform via web services) preserves the network silo...

Promise # 2. New services: Multimedia rich services that make operator's offerings "stickier"

Media is increasingly based on file transfer, not streaming, so IMS has little (if any) value to add over existing broadband technologies...

Promise 3. Faster time to Market: Standard network elements drastically decrease application development and rollout

A Faustian bargain. By embedding intelligence in the network, you're still not capturing the agility of edge-based innovation ....

IMS isn't exactly going to be the platform of choice for an upcoming generation of developers – too complex, too much effort dealing with carriers and their caprice...

[Richard's note: regarding complexity, see David Meyers piece on Back to the Future. IMS is simply too complex, way off in the long tail.]

Why has Intelligent Network only delivered a handful of features? If you can't do more than caller ID, 3-way calling and call forwarding in 20 years on IN, what is the hope that you'll do better on IP/IMS?

[Richard's note: But IMS is seen by some operators an IN 2.0. statement from a representative from TeliaSonera: We are building with IMS the same environment on IP what is SS7 today! And he meant this seroius.]

Promise 4. Investment Protection: Future service compatibility is assured through established interfaces

Possibly. ....

Promise 5. Lower OPEX: Through infrastructure reuse for new services

In principle, yes. But... you're possibly running a fully-depreciated network with trained staff, and can cannibalise parts and re-negotiate support and maintenance costs with vendors. So there is some degree of IMS alternative. Hey, why not skip a generation and go straight to peer-to-peer or other edge-based intelligent devices! Same outcome, 1/1000th the cost.

[Richard's note: so definitely not, all IMS investments will be stranded cost]

Promise 6. Fixed Mobile Convergence: Similar systems are used for fixed or mobile and can be bridged to offer ubiquitous service

Yes, to the extent mobile continues as a semi-closed ecosystem....

Promise 7. Higher control of the network: Operators become service providers instead of fat pipes.

*Instead* of fat pipes! Weep for their investors... Is IMS really just a desperate attempt to create billable events and scarcity-meter network usage?

[Richard's note: Yes, it is. It is all about billing and charging, as I pointed out in my comment to
"The 3G IP Multimedia Systems (IMS), Second Edition" from Gonzalo Camarillo and Miguel A. Garcia-Martin.

Now here comes the important part:]

The customers are taking control. The only way is down in terms of control. Customers want fat, always-on and open pipes to run the applications of their choice. They also want something that works, is simple to buy, can be supported, and doesn’t require them to perform complex set-up – but that’s not predicated on network control, but rather on brand values, product integration and channel control.

Control of wireline networks is almost totally gone in open, competitive markets in free nations. The feudal overlord model is under attack on wireless too: eroded by new technology (e.g. WiFi, Flarion, IPWireless, WiMax, etc.), new entrants (e.g. recent Intel/Pipex WiMax annoucement yesterday), and competition among existing operators (e.g. the 5 cell networks in the UK). The simplest, cheapest way of differentiating yourself is to become more open (e.g. T-Mobile Web’N’Walk) – a ratchet towards ‘open’.

IMS doesn't achieve this goal unless you have significant market power to force customers through the IMS toll gates. A good model for monopoly markets with licensed carriers, maybe – but that’s hardly the wave of the future. Maybe you can ‘back-fill’ markets like WiFi roaming by offering service-specific access to people who aren’t interested in a full day’s WiFi subscription (e.g. like Skype Zones, where you just get Skype access). Even then, it’s slow and complex.

[Richard's note: the ghost is already out of the bottle]

There is an IMS alternative, but aims to a fundamentally different goal. Deliver super-abundance; where capacity limits exist, innovate in terms of application-agnostic QoS mechanisms, and hunt for better ways of pricing and funding networks that don’t rely on opening up the packets to see what’s written inside.

[Richard from here on

Martin does not even mention three other IMS myths most proponents are counting under the promises (this would have made it 10) : the QoS myth, the reliability myth and the security myth.

There is a follow-up post on IMS Insider by Christophe Gourraud from Swisscom. He is saying:

The fact that IMS is a telco specification does not mean that it defines a new telco world apart from the Internet. It is true that there is an IMS network architecture, and that there exist IMS-specific extensions to SIP. However, this architecture and these extensions do not prevent simple interworking between SIP devices and applications in the IMS domain and SIP devices and applications in the Internet space.

Good point. The real problem I have with IMS is that really nobody could explain to me yet what I can do with IMS what I cannot do with "plain" SIP. Even SIP gets already too complex for my taste.

What I like in the Swisscom reply is:

Likening IMS to IN is a big mistake. IN permits to plug application servers on top of a voice-centric network through a dedicated telco protocol which essentially permits to control calls. On the other hand, the IMS service architecture can be seen in a nutshell as a way to enrich IETF-based SIP routing with (user or service) profile-based mechanisms. Once you understand that SIP is not the typical ISUP or INAP/CAP, and that it can support much more that session control, alone or with sister Internet protocols, you can start to think otherwise about IMS.

Hear, hear, TeliaSonera.

What is IMHO missing in all these statements is the only asset IMS really has, as a takeover from GSM: it is identy = SIM = ISIM.

So if we forget about all these 30-40 functions in IMS and just stick with the S-CSCF, the HSS and the SIM-Card, IMS would be fine with me and bring a benefit to everybody involved, including the end-user.]

Monday, April 24, 2006


At the IETF meeting in Dalles last month it was agreed in the Dallas Treaty on Carrier/Infrastructure ENUM:

1. There will be a long-term solution that does things "right" as well as an interim solution that can be used by individual countries to implement an interoperable carrier ENUM tree ASAP

2. In order to project a unified approach to the "right" long-term solution with other standards bodies and NRAs, there will be explicit statements in the affected I-Ds that make it clear that the interim solution will be deprecated upon achievement of the long-term solution.

3. There will be a new I-D documenting the carrier enum apex. This will be done in such a way that the location of the infrastructure designator shall not vary by country code; it will be the same for the entire domain and in every country code. The apex "" was suggested, but that is tentative only. Everyone felt .arpa was certainly the correct TLD. This process will begin asap.


8. Timing on new apex carrier enum I-D: create -00 asap as a WG item. Jason Livingood volunteers as document editor along with Penn Pfautz and Richard Stastny as co-authors. It should be noted that this I-D does not necessarily describe carrier enum requirements per se; it describes how to implement it in a specific domain apex.

This I-D has now been submitted as draft-ietf--enum-infrastucture-00.txt

9. Penn Pfautz's requirements I-D, already in process, should continue as-is and move to WGLC soon.

This I-D has moved already to WGLC and soon will be released as draft-ietf-enum-infrastructure-enum-reqs-02.txt soon.

2nd Annual ENUM Summit - Boston - Day2 

The second day of the 2nd Annual ENUM Summit was opened even earlier at 8 a.m. by the chair Richard Shockey, presenting an update of current status of the ENUM WG.

Penn Pfautz and Tom McGarry (AT&T) talked about ENUM and Local Number Portability (LNP). ENUM is the also the optimal solution for number portability.

Paul Mockapetris (Nominum) and prime creator of the DNS gave his presentation "Harmonizing the World of IP Communications with ENUM Technologies", explaining also the underlying basics of the DNS.

Gary Richenaker (Telcordia) and also ITU-T SG2 Q.1 Rapporteur (the Qestion responsible for E.164) talked about "Merging Private to Public ENUM". Gary is also involved in ENUM since the beginning and brought up the interesting view point that ENUM is now nearly around an full circle:

It started with User ENUM in IETF and SG2, then Infrastructure ENUM was discussed (e.g. at ETSI), now the first large scale applications are done in Private ENUM (e.g. with cable operators, mobile operators and also enterprises), but there is a common consensus reached (also in IETF) that a global and unique solution it finally required, leading again to Infrastructure ENUM. Since may finally again foster User ENUM, but not for IP Interconnect purposes, but for additional end-user enum services. We see currently some of them popping up at the IETF ENUM WG.

The morning was closed by Sean Kent from Verisign on "Carrier to Enterprise Peering".

After lunch the conference continued with two panels, one about SIP Peering and ENUM with Matt Stafford (Cingular), Doug Hilmes (Syniverse Technologies) and Hunter Newby (The Telix Group), the other on "Practical Issues of VoiP Peering) with Lane Patterson (Equinix), Akio Sugeno (Telehouse) and Aaron Hughes (Terremark).

David Meyer (Cisco and also Co-Chair of the IETF SPEERMINT WG gave an overview on the current status of discussion within ENUM and VoIP Peering. To summarize, the current discussion about terminology and definitions an the Speermint mailing list (as I know from my own experience) ist still in an early and confused state and this was also shown at this meeting. We are still far away from a common consensus.

Doug Ranalli (Netnumber) presented about "Carrier-ENUM" Implementations by Mobile Operators and the meeting was closed accordingly by a panel discussion of ENUM in the Mobile Space with Doug Hilmes (Syniverse), Timothy Jasionowski (Nokia) and Matt Stafford (Cingular).

Short summary of the meeting: private ENUM implementations are a fact, especially with cable and mobile operators, Infrastructure ENUM is the next hot issue of the year and User ENUM is lurking in the background.

This week I will participate at the Joint TISPAN/GSMA meeting on ENUM in London. At this meeting the current status of discussion at ETSI TISPAN on Interconnect and the current status of the ENUM implementation within GSMA and the further plans of GSMA regarding IPX will be discussed. Stay tuned.

2nd Annual ENUM Summit - Boston - Day1 

Last week the 2nd Annual ENUM Summit from IQBC took place in Boston. This was a very outstanding event regarding ENUM and related questions such as VoIP Peering and IP Interconnect, because many of the key players in this arena where present and the rest of the audience was very interested in the topic, as the follow-up discussions showed.

I can give you here only a short overview, the two days where really packed with information, so if you are really interested, you should show up next year at the 3rd ENUM Summit or eventually at the fall event in Europe (tba). The next opportunity will be the Marcus Evans ENUM and VoIP Peering Forum 2006 in London, UK. 19-21 June.

The meeting was chaired professionally as usual by Richard Shockey, Neustar and Co-Chair of the IETF ENUM WG.

Day 1 opened early (8.30 a.m.!) quite U.S centric with a keynote of the U.S. Department of commerce's View on ENUM, presented by John M. R. Kneuer, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), to be followed by Karen Mulberry's presentation on "How the U.S. is moving forward with ENUM". Karen was the former chairman of the CC1 ENUM LLC, until she recently moved from MCI to Neustar.

Although Karen tried to present the U.S. situation positive, my personal impression is that the U.S. is currently "moving" forward in ENUM like hedgehogs are mating: very carefully.

After the morning break I gave my presentation on "The Future in an ENUM Enabled Environment", pointing out that the major problem is currently not ENUM, but VoIP Peering or IP Interconnect. I also covered shortly the recent developments in IETF and other standard bodies concerning these issues, but since most other suspects where available anyway, these topics was dealt with in more detail anyway later during the conference. I was also proven right, because most of the later discussions where about Peering and Interconnect.

I was followed by Tim Denton, and consultant of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) on "Legal Liabilities Regarding the Storage of Personal Data in ENUM Registries und US and Canadian Law".

After lunch Philip. A. Winslow presented the view of Credit Suisse First Boston on "The Effect of ENUM and VoIP on the Telecommunications Industry" .

Next was Jason Livingood from Comcast and also the Co-Chair of the IETF SPEERMINT WG with an "In Depth View of Cable Companies Using ENUM", followed by a panel discussion by Jason, Chris Williams (Time Warner Cable) and Jack Burton (Cablevision) on the Cable Operators View of ENUM and VoIP. Currently the cable operators are the most advanced operators regarding ENUM, both in the US and also in Europe (e.g. NL).

The day was closed by two representatives from manufacturers with Frank Jennings from Lucent on "Enabling VoIP Peering with ENUM" and Jim McEachern from Nortel on "ENUM: The Role of the ENUM Variant". Slowly also the large manufactures seems to get an idea of ENUM.

Friday, April 21, 2006

So long and thanks for the fish 

The Internet seems to be an endangered species already, like the whales and dolphins. This is particulary to be true in some peoples republics, and especially after China's Hu is on consultation tour from West (Bill Gates) to East coast (George Bush) explaining them how to run the Internet in practice. Google already got the message. So there is red alert, Internet-wise. Jeff Pulver launched his Viral Marketing Contest to Save The Internet some days ago.

On Monday a new Coalition will be launched officially, featuring the motto:

Don't Let Congress Ruin The Internet

Key speakers are Craig Aaron and Trevor Fitzgibbon, outstanding individual members are:

Professor Susan Crawford
Professor Lawrence Lessig
Professor Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit)
Professor Timothy Wu

The other members are a weird mix of usual (e.g. Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Free Press, Alliance for Community Media, Association for Community Networking, etc.)

and in this context rather unusual suspects, e.g. Gun Owners of America. !?!

I have no idea how they get into the picture, but I am only a European and do not get the fine details of DC lobbying. Maybe they are planned as kinda last resort.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Infrastructure ENUM in Austria on its way 

ENUM as defined in RFC3761 and to be used in is for end-user opt-in. If VoiP providers and/or carriers want to exchange their VoIP calls via IP Interconnect and route the calls via ENUM technology, they need to use a different DNS domain. IETF ENUM WG has re-chartered to deal also with Infrastructure ENUM issues. See here and here. At the IETF meeting in Dallas it was agreed on one side to pursue a long-term solution to implement Infrastructure ENUM in a parallel tree to and on the other hand to implement a temporary solution by splitting off the tree below the country code in, allowing each country independently to start trials immediately.

Austria is again leading: (the Austrian Registry for and RTR, the Austrian Regulator responsible for the delegation of signed an addition to the contract two days ago that is also responsible for the implementation of Infrastructure ENUM in Austria. The addition to the contract (in German) is available from here.

The I-Ds related to Infrastructure ENUM and mentioned in the Dallas Treaty will come out soon. Stay tuned.

NETLeMMings or How I Learned to Stop Thinking 

FYI: draft-bombadil-netlemmings-00

Ceterum censeo, IMS esse delendam!

Save The Net 

Jeff Pulver finally lost his temper and is launching a Viral Marketing Contest to Save The Internet. I will follow up this activity and comment on it later. Of course the whole issue is currently very US centric and DC centric, but one should be aware of these issues globally, because sooner or later (I think sooner than later) we will have a similar discussion also here in Europe. I fully support Jeff in this regard, so I simply post here his full blog entry:

Ok, I am officially putting my money where my mouth is. I am initiating a Viral Video "Save the Net" Marketing Contest.

I am fed up with the current wave of soundbites, platitudes, ads and marketing flooding the airwaves that profess to speak for the advancement of the Internet and communications. These ads are influencing the U.S. Congress and governments around the World as they write the rules that will shape the future of the Internet and communications.

But, where is the voice and message of the Internet community -- the Internet innovators, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts -- in this world-changing discussion? We are primarily sitting out the battle, or perhaps comfortably blogging and Monday-morning quarterbacking on the sidelines. Sure, we'll be able to point to our blogs and do a big "I-told-you-so" if the rules ultimately prove to undermine the promise of the Internet. But, we will not be justified in our criticism if we don't at least try to affect a positive result.

Rules have to be written to enable us. If we do not participate in the debate, if we do not transform the messaging, the rules will not be written with our best interests at heart. And, frankly, we will have no one to blame but ourselves. We have to take over the messaging, both within the corridors of power and within the public zeitgeist.

We need soundbites of our own, messaging of our own. We are allegedly the revolutionaries of the Internet and communications. Shouldn't we be the ones revolutionizing the way advocacy is done and communicated in the 21st Century? Shouldn't we be the creative forces verifying that the medium is the message? Who better than us to harness the enabling power of the Internet to bring our message to legislators, to policymakers, to the public? Let's throw away the old rulebook and try to think outside the box to send a message to Congress from the global community of Internet innovators and enthusiasts.

We might not have the lobbying muscle, money, resources, or connections of the entrenched players in the communications debate, but we surely have the individual and collective will and creativity to transform the debate.

Here is my pitch:

We need to harness your individual genius and our collective genius (for isn't it the collective power of the Internet that makes it so remarkable?) to save the Internet, and we are willing to pay and give you eternal glory (or at least glory for as long as the Internet lasts).

Send us short, creative ideas -- videos, flash ads, other Internet-based gimmicks -- that you think might effectively communicate to government that they must write rules to enable us the Internet innovators to transform the Internet and communications experience.

I send out this call to arms to all you next-generation Internet-based Scorseses. I even send it out to all you potential Ed Woods of the Internet. (Who knows where genius will strike?)

The prize and glory goes to whoever comes up with the message (viral video ad or other creative marketing tool) that we use to spread the word and save the Internet. In order to be eligible for the prize (and also to ensure maximum impact during the great policy debate, both in DC and around the globe), entries must be submitted by June 6, 2006. Please refer to the Save the Net Contest Rules to enter.

The contest starts today and will run until June 6, 2006.

Let the battle to save the Internet begin!

RANT ON:// Idiotic User Interfaces and Airlines 

As readers of my blog may have noticed, I am currently in Boston at the 2nd ENUM Summit of IQPC. The meeting is going very well and I will report in a separate entry soon. Going to Boston involves airlines and airports and I had some "fun" again.

But first I have to report something else: my mobile phone stopped working, but of course I am not incommunicado, thanks to free broadband access in the Radisson at Boston and Skype. I turned off my mobile phone as law-abiding citizen on entering the plane and put it in my pocket. The phone decided to turn itself on im my pocket and, as GSM mobile phones normally do, asked for the PIN. A 7 hour flight provides enough time to push a button now and then and when I tried to turn my phone on in Boston (of course AFTER immigration, for the avoidance of doubt), I first discovered that it was already on (good grief, how many laws did I break without even knowing?), then I discovered that my phone has run out of PIN tries and wanted to get the PUK. Do you know your PUK? I don't, maybe back home if I am lucky.

The airline rant: Since they lost my luggage several times, I am travelling only with hand luggage since one year. Always the same piece of luggage, no problems to take it into the plane. This time at the check-in in Vienna KLM requested that I have to check-in my luggage because it is too large, and the plane is too small (a Fokker 100 ?!). Of course I resisted, trying to explain that I do not trust the Amsterdam Airport, because they lost my luggage alreay 3 times. While I was still discussing this issue with the lady at the check-in counter, a superviser lady stopped this discussion by simply stating: If I do not shut up immediately, I will not fly anywhere today. That's exactly the best method to attract new customers.

To be fair: they did not loose my luggage in Amsterdam, but I am done with KLM.

Back Online 

Being on Easter vacation for a week, I had to stop blogging. One reason was of course that I really needed a time-out and to get my act together again, the other was that I was only connected via a very reliable narrow band GPRS mobile connection, just broad enough to get some e-mails per day (over the weekends it stopped working completely).

Did I miss anything?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Movies over the Internet or Price Elastics 

Price elasticity of demand is the tendency of demand to change as price changes, says Alex Saunders in his VON Canada presentation The Future is Here.

What about movies over the Internet?

One of the "future" killer applications around since years is Video on Demand, IPTV, TV over the Internet and Triple Play, you name it.

In discussions if telcos should provide VoD, IPTV and Triple Play I always ask the question: Why should anybody buy a movie from a telco, if you could as well buy it directly from the film distributer directly. Same is valid for TV, you could buy it from the TV station direct.

Of course the film industry was reluctant first, basically because they are stupid and paranoic, but a Apple has shown with iTunes that there is a lot of money to make, so finally it happened what was logical, movies will be now available at the same time the DVDs hit the market. and opened their portals. I could not access (the leading movie download service - ha!) from Europe, because it is restricted only to be accessed from IP addresses in the US. Somebody definitely does not want to make too much business. is accessible without problems, announcing a free trial for 7 days. I do not know if subscription is possible from outside the US (I did not try), but the free movies can be watched. I tried one - Vice Academy - for some time and I see why it is free. It must be award-winning for the worst script, the worst actors and the worst director, basically to watch more of it somebody would have to pay ME some money ;-)

Rumors say that the price for a real movie will be somewhere between $20 und $30. What?

Why should I do this? Getting the plain movie without bonus track for more as I pay in the shop for the DVD, eventually not able to make a backup and in addition eventually paying something for download volume.

Back to price elasticity, they obviously do not want that anybody uses this, at least not now. Maybe there servers or broadband connections currently can only support three movies at a time, or something like this.

But believe me, prices will drop, elastically.

In Europe Amazon is planning to get in this business (see and Warner is teaming up with Bertelsmann (Arvato) to distribute in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

What I still do not understand is why somebody should watch a movie e.g. Lord of the Rings on a 4x5 cm screen on a mobile phone. I also do not understand, why video distribution is always mentioned on the IMS killer application wishlist. Why does anybody need IMS for doing this?

Skype, Asterisk (and IMS?) (and P2P SIP) cont. 

So we have Skype, we have Asterisk, we have IMS, and we have PoSIP (plain old client-server SIP) and we have the nascent P2P SIP. What will be the future?

First some lessons from the past:
  • Walled gardens are very successful for some time, but do not last.
  • Proprietary solutions are also successful for some time, but they are either replaced by an open standard, or they evolve to a de-facto standard
  • Open systems (open source) are lasting and getting more and more sucessful.
  • IETF standards are more sucessful then others
  • End-to-end systems (the Internet) with distributed intelligence are replacing centralized Intelligent Networks
  • It is essential that third parties may add functions
  • Simplicity wins, also usability.
  • The ultimate end-to-end system is P2P
I know one cannot compare these different applications and protocols consistently, but let's give it a trt:

Skype is a walled garden, it is proprietory, it is definitely not open source, but it is P2P, it is end-to-end and it has an open API. It is simple to use, eventual complexity is hidden.

Asterisk is open source, it is using a propriatory protocol (IAX2 - input to IETF, but in competition with SIP), it is client-server, not P2P, it is getting more and more complex. Asterisk is a provisioning night-mare.

Client/server SIP (PoSIP) is open standard, it is partially end-to-end, but is getting more and more centralizez and drawn into walled gardens (SBC, IMS). It started simple, but it is getting also more and more complex. It is not easy to use (configure).

IMS is the a showcase of complexity. It is not necessarily in a walled garden, but all use-cases go in that direction. It is an open standard, but the question remains how third parties may implement additional functions. It is in essence a direct replacement (or migration) of circuit switching networks including Intelligent network (IN) functions with IP technology. It is not end-to-end and it is not P2P.

P2P SIP is an (or will be) an open standard, it is definitely designed to be end-to-end, it has by definition none or only rudimentary central intelligence. One design goal is self-configuration, i.e. no provisioning. Is it the last stand of IETF against Skype and IMS, or is it leading somewhere?

Predictions are difficult, especially for the future (even if it is already here, as some say ;-)

I have a dream:

Let's assume, I take Skype with all its benefits (P2P, end-to-end, nailing through most of NATs and firewalls, end-to-end encryption, usability of the client, ease of installation and provisioing, ...) and remove all problematic stuff: proprietary protocol, walled garden, no interworking with the rest of the world, except via a very limited API.

One serious drawback of Skype is that you always need a PC running. I would e.g. like to have a Skype client in a box. As I said, I tried yesterday the EQO add-on to Skype. This would be a real killer, if I would not need to have my PC running. Since my PC is basically my little laptop which is always with me, this nice application is somewhat useless, because I either have my laptop on and could use it for Skype calls anyway, or it is off, and I cannot use EQO. What EQO does is basically setting up a conference call where one leg is on the PC. So EQO it is nice, but useless (for me).

I understand that one reason is the processing power needed for Skype, the other is the closed application which does not allow an open source implemention on Linux devices.

Now if we could replace Skype with P2P SIP applications with all the benefits, but without the drawbacks, and in addition using client/server SIP to interwork between them, we could implement many little interoperable "Skype" islands. All the add-ons for Skype could still be used.

All kinds of real-time communication could be implemented on top of the basic Internet transport end-to-end. Unique identities are still provided on one side from the P2P networks (the user-part of the SIP URI), and the domain-part is provided via the DNS as is.

Add on top of this certified identities (this still has to be somewhat centralized) and keep them completely separated from the underlying communication, the SPAM and SPIT problems would also be solved.

So I see a future in P2P SIP. And I am also sure that there is still a place for Asterisk in this scenario. But I do not see a place for IMS.

Skype, Asterisk (and IMS?) 

Nearly every week or so a new cool application using the Skype API is launched. Alec Saunders is reporting from the Skype API session at VON Canada:
Jon’s got Goren Gershon of WebDialogs, Andrew Hansen of Virtual Communications, Ben Lilienthal from Vapps, and Bill Tam from EQO communications.
I am really a fan from Gorens's Unyte, but did not find anything on the new mentioned application Skylook. I also had immediately to check out EQO and this is really nice. It allows you to see your Skype buddy status on your mobile phone and also to make (and receive) calls to them and to basically any number via your mobile phone. EQO is using here a call-back approach, saving some money on long distance calls - or better transferring the money from the mobile operator to Skype ;-)

Side remark: I also like the fact that the EQO developers even correct some of the stupidy of the device manufacturers. I always went mad if I am asked e.g. doing a driver update or have to load an application on my mobile phone what type of device I am using, and I basically have no clue. Some manufactures consider it funny to name their device with at least a four digit number e.g. Nokia 6630 and they do not give you any indication on the device itself about this number. Same with my Fujitsu/Siemens P-Series Lifebook, which also has a four digit number attached, starting with 7-something.

The EQO guys also have to ask you which brand and type of mobile phone you have to be able to send the correct file to the mobile phone for installation, but they are clever enough to present you also with a PICTURE of you mobile phone. That's nice.

Alec is also announcing in his previous post about making iotum's Relevance Engine available for Asterisk. See also iotum's press release.

But the important point is:
As of January, Mark Spencer estimated that there were 250,000 Asterisk installations worldwide, growing at about 20,000 per month. The VoIP-Info Wiki lists hundreds of Asterisk system builders and Asterisk consultants. And IBM, Linksys, and Intel have all made commitments to the Asterisk platform.
So currently ton's of applications are developed by independent 3rd parties both for Skype and Asterisk.

Alec is saying:
I had no idea how big, actually, until about six weeks ago, when Stephan Monette, the owner of Unlimitel and an iotum business partner, told me that we should think about targeting Asterisk users with iotum.
Six weeks ago?

He is also citing Bill from ECQ:
It’s amazing that EQO was able to deliver their application in just 40 days, which Bill attributes to the quality of the Skype API. He says that he couldn’t have done the same with MSN, or AOL.
40 days?

This raises two questions regarding IMS:
  1. Who will do all these innovative applications for IMS? The telcos and their manufacturers, e.g. the new innovative AlcoLux? And how long will it take? Telco cycles are 2 years minimum.
  2. Where will these Skype and Asterisk applications already be in 3-4 years time, when the first IMS application will finally be launched?
I wonder.

UPDATE: I you want a more explicit explanation of what I mean, see Alec Saunder's speech The Future is Here at the VON Canada (BTW, an excellent replacement for Niklas).

Saturday, April 01, 2006

VoIP Hype #2 Over? 

For the avoidance of doubt, this is an April's Fool joke.

Some of us discussed at the last Spring VON 2006 that the 2nd VoIP Hype seems to be at it's peak or soon will be topping.

There was a common agreement among us that an early indicator will be if Jeff is selling the VON circus a second time.

Today Andy is reporting that O'Reilly is buying both Pulvermedia and TMC and will merge the two companies.

OTOH, this is April 1st. So, who knows?

The VoIP Hype being over does of course not mean that VoIP is gone, it is the other way round:

VoIP will be mainstream, business as usual.

Or quoting Rich Tehrani quoting Christian Stredicke:
This is the year where a purchasing manager has to explain why they are buying TDM equipment.

Prior to this time you had to explain why you were purchasing VoIP equipment.

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