Friday, September 30, 2005

Vonnage Seeking A Buyout???

Hmmmm....could there be a little chink in the armor showing with the self proclaimed high and mighty Vonnage? After a trial balloon for a possible IPO by the VoIP provider is panned by Wall Street, Vonage may instead be looking for a Skype-style sellout instead. That's what their financial advisors are telling them to do anyway. You really should read more about this in the FinancialTimes.com article. The future could be very interesting depending on what finally happens.

VoIP Viruses??

Industry experts warn that VoIP hardware and software could be vulnerable to attacks from viruses and help them to spread to mobile phones. This is particularly alarming for "PC to" type VoIP services like Skype. You really should learn more about this by reading the article at WebProNews....and be prepared to protect yourself.

Norvergence Bankruptcy Files

Remember the disaster called Norvergence?? So many small businesses were cheated by that rather elaborate Telecom scam. I won't get into the dirt and blood here or reopen old wounds. Especially since that scab is just starting to heal for most.

But for those who have a need for information.....thedigest.com has a pretty comprehensive collection of background documents and more in their bankruptcy files.

Broadband Over Natural Gas Lines??

Believe it or not, this may actually be a viable "last mile" technology for delivery broadband to consumers. Some estimates say that 70% of the county could be covered by this new technology, which is termed BIG, or Broadband In Gas. Existing pipelines into homes could allegedly provide mega-bandwidth, operating in much the same way current fiberoptic lines do.

My friend William Van Hefner of thedigest.com said "I guess that if you ever start a BIG company, you could always use the slogan, "The Broadband Company That Gives You Gas". I just couldn't resist that one." Good one William. LOL

On a more serious note....this technology idea isn't some recent shot in the dark quack suggestion from a bunch of drugged graduate student geeks. It's actually had some serious discussion by some serious people. But there are pros and cons...and a good share of challenges. You really should read more about it at West Research.

Pre-Paid Wireless In Peril

Companies that currently offer pre-paid wireless services may have to completely re-think how they do business. It seems that a small company named Freedom Wireless actually holds a patent on most of what compromises pre-paid wireless technology. It successfully sued Boston Communications Group, Cingular Wireless and Western Wireless for patent violations recently, and was awarded a whopping $128 million. Anyone wanting to get into selling pre-paid wireless may soon have to pay-up as well.

This has a definite impact on pre-paid wireless companies for sure...but likely consumers too. Less choices perhaps? Higher costs? It's more than a little shakey right now. I suggest reading the Yankee Group article on the situation to get a better perspective.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Circuit Congestion Is Rarely The Problem With Business IT Performance

My friend Ken Hilving of Hilving & Associates tackles the potentially complex question of broadband performance and congestion with simple story like explanation. Very inventive and certainly informative. Every business should understand this explanation before tackling any perceived issues they may face from what they think is congetsion of their broadband circuits.

....Circuit Congestion Is Rarely The Problem With Business IT Performance....

Not everyone is technical, so let me discuss performance and congestion with a story.

Company A has a product to output. There are 3 workers required to create the product, workers 1, 2, and 3 (W1, W2, and W3). The product is produced in a multistory building. W1 works on the first floor. W2 works on the fourth floor. W3 works on the fifth floor. The process flow is as follows.

W1 initiates production. After a set number of steps, he must travel to W2 to request more stuff to work with. This means he leaves his work station, walks to the stairs, takes the stairs up to the fourth floor, and then over to W2's workstation where he makes his request. W2 takes the request and converts it to a stuff list. He then leaves his work station, walks over to the stairs, takes the stairs to the fifth floor and then to W3's workstation. W3 pulls the stuff from his shelves, and gives them to W2. W2 carries the stuff to the stairs and then down to his work station on the fourth floor. There, he hands the stuff to W1, who carries his stuff down the stairs to the first floor. This process is repeated several times during the production process to output one product.

Business is good, and W1 is unable to keep up with demand. Output is stuck at 2 products per day. A meeting is held with key managers - department heads over the 3 workers. After much discussion, it is determined that all that walking on the stairs is the problem. The building owner is contacted, and a pair of elevators is installed, production doubles to 4 products, and all managers are well rewarded for their keen ability.

Business grows, and additional staff is added to do the same job as W1. Eventually the staff grows 10 fold, but production does not seem to rise above 40 products per day. Another meeting is held, this time with the building owner in attendance. One of the managers comments about how he sees the W1 types sometimes waiting for the elevator. Its another "A-HA" moment, and everyone decides more elevator capacity is the solution. The building manager lays out choices. Company A can add additional elevators at the same cost as the original. However, Company A can choose to add 28 elevators for the same cost as adding 8 elevators. The cost is included as an increase in the monthly rent. The managers choose to go with the 28 elevator solution, and anticipate the huge production output that will result.

Following installation, production jumps to - 4 products per worker per day. No change. Worse, the rent just went up to cover the cost of the 28 elevators.

W1, W2, and W3 are nodes in a network. The building represents the WAN. The production is a distributed application, be it simple file sharing or a database query setup. The stairs represent the original circuits, perhaps dialup, and the initial elevator a T1. The building owner is the telecom provider. The 28 elevator solution is a DS3 upgrade. Moving on and off the elevator is the router or switch function. Leaving and returning to the workstation is the local node communications processing, and the actual work is the application processing.

Congestion, which is represented by elevator wait time, was never the key delay. The work flow and the location of resources is where the delay occurred. If companies were to examine their processing, they would uncover similar situations with their applications. Measured against the total time to complete tasks, the communications piece is typically under 20% of the total and often under 10%. Any improvement in communications performance only improves that small piece of the total time.

---------------------

This might be clearer with a simple time formula:

Production Time = W1+ W2 + W3 + travel time

As long as travel time exceeds work time, reducing it may add enough time to increase the units produced each day. However, once the total travel time plus travel time for one unit is less than the work time, further reduction in travel will not increase units produced.

In our story, we hit this at 4 units per W1 type per day. I know congestion was not the problem because adding workers did not cause a drop in production for any existing worker. They each continued doing 4 units per day. If an elevator queue was the issue, one or more would have dropped to 3 units per day as workers were added.

For Company A, the biggest time element is now somewhere within W1, W2, and/or W3 work elements. This is where any performance gains will have to come from.

Process & Procedure...Just How Critical Is This When Deciding On Your Broadband Needs?

My very good friend Ken Hilving of Hilving & Associates and Frogcreek Communications sure has a way of getting right to the point. Ken lays out a very well written discussion on what businesses really need to think about when deciding on their bandwdith needs in his white paper "Process & Procedure...Just How Critical Is This When Deciding On Your Broadband Needs?" .

If your business is researching new or expanded bandwidth networks...you need to read this white paper first. Might just help you make a better decision.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

AOL TotalTalk.....IM to VoIP Continues

OK......another one bites the dust. Errr....jumps on the bandwagon. Ahhhhh...whatever. This is getting just Sooooo confusing. Somebody give me a program.

Here's the latest....AOL recently announced it will soon launch its new TotalTalk VoIP service.

The service debuts October 4 and will be embedded within AOL's new AIM Triton software, which was just recently posted for download.

TotalTalk will have both a PC-to-PC softphone component, as well as a PC to phone service with rates that should be comparable to similar softphone-to-PSTN services such as SkypeOut.

To me, this is just another example of how IM offerings are expanding into full-fledged desktop VoIP. Skype, GoogleTalk, Microsoft (with Teleo) are others.

You know where we're headed don't ya....a VoIP war between the IM's turned VoIPs and router-modem VoIP services such as Vonage, CallVantage, Packet8, etc. Who wins this street fight will depend on 3 keys.....branding, pricing, QoS and convenience.

Now look down the road.

Within 2-3 years it's expected that handset-delivered VoIP will combine with Wi-Fi and Wi-Max networks to become "THE" choice. The softphone providers will need alliances with these OEMs to remain competitive with the standard VoIP services. While maturing as VoIP within IM, these services need to think ahead to the next battleground....the handset.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Who's The Best Broadband Service Provider?

According to the latest JD Power & Associates Customer Satisfaction Survey, Cox ranks the highest among all broadband service providers, with Verizon, BellSouth and Brighthouse following behind. The study also found that SBC Yahoo! led the way among dial-up providers. Of course these guys are using some slick marketing by selling their customers on dial-up acceleration as sort of a gateway drug to the real deal.

You can use this Search Tool to see what is available for service in your location (includes DSL, Cable, and Satellite).

Is the Future of Voice Free....ala Skype?

I doubt it.....I REALLY doubt it.

Industry analysts tend to stand around debating which VoIP provider, telco or cable company will best cash in on VoIP. While this goes on, the Economist points out that it's very possible that the final chapter to this story ends with all voice communications being completely free.

Of course two reasons it isn't yet is the slow evolution of VoIP over 3G, and general call quality. If you want an example of just how unreliable that "free" service is you don't need to look any further than recently when Skype CEO Niklas Zennstrom couldn't get his own technology to work properly during a media event.

Get Your Groove On....Talk Wireless

Found a neat little community I suggest you visit....maybe pull up a stool and sit a spell.

MoNET Network is the "Premier Community for Wireless and Mobile Enthusiasts and Industry Professionals"..... covering topics on Wi-Fi and cellular technologies, applications and business models.

Join in the discussions on all things wireless and mobile. MoNET provides a roundtable environment where voices across the value chain, even consumers, can participate and be heard.

So drop in....listen up....and voice your own opinions, ideas, and tips. Pretty cool.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Packet8 - Now Offering Unlimited International Dialing With VoIP

Packet8 broadband Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and videophone communications service provider, recently announced the availability of a new, lower-priced unlimited international calling plan for Packet8 residential subscribers.

No other VoIP provider offers a service such as this right now. I'd expect the competition to heat up though....and for the others to try and jump in with a similar offer. Lot's of luck Bubba.

The Freedom Unlimited Global plan offers unlimited residential calling to the United States and Canada as well as unlimited non-mobile and non-premium calling to the following countries and cities: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Caracas, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guadalajara, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico City, Monterey, Moscow-Central, Moscow-Suburb, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Sao Paulo, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, St. Petersburg, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.

Replacing Freedom Unlimited Plus Asia, Freedom Unlimited Plus Europe and Freedom Unlimited Plus EuroAsia, Freedom Unlimited Global incorporates all of the countries covered under the Freedom Unlimited Plus EuroAsia plan as well as seven additional Latin American countries and cities.

Freedom Unlimited Global offers international subscribers in the United States and Canada Packet 8's most extensive selection of calling destinations for a monthly service fee of $49.90, $30 less than the EuroAsia plan which had previously been offered at $79.90 per month. Existing Packet8 international subscribers may switch over to the Freedom Unlimited Global plan by calling 1-888-898-8733. In addition to unlimited monthly calling privileges, Freedom Unlimited Global includes standard Packet8 features such as Personalized Voicemail, Unlimited In-Network Calling, Caller ID, Caller ID Blocking, Call Waiting, Call Waiting ID, Call Forwarding, 3-way Conferencing, Call Return *69, Online Management & Billing, *70 Call Waiting Disable, *78/*79 Do Not Disturb, *77/*87 Anonymous Call Blocking. E911, and Distinctive Ringing for Virtual Numbers.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Packet8 VideoPhone Featured On SciFi Channel "StarGate" Series

Has anyone noticed that the Packet8 VideoPhone is being featured on this season's episodes of the SciFi Channel's "Stargate SG-1" and "Stargate Atlantis"?

In technology marketing, product placements on the right television shows and in movies are a key strategy.

That's because there is a demonstrated overlap between shows that appeal to techies, and the appeal to those same techies that some technology products have.

With their technological bent, there's long been an overlap between fans of visual science-fiction and early technology adopters.

8x8, Inc.'s vice president of marketing and sales Huw Rees confirms this.

"The 'Stargate' placement is perfect for the Packet8 VideoPhone from both an application and audience demographic standpoint," Rees told the paper. "We think that when Stargate fans see how great the Packet8 VideoPhone works on their favorite show, they will be motivated to purchase one of their own to feel more connected with the program as well as with their family and friends."

Easy Access To Reviews Of Broadband Services

What a headache. You're interested in getting service for DSL, Cable internet, Wireless, Satellite, VoIP phones, or Web Hosting. But the hassle of searching for just the right provider for you can be scary and overwhelming. How do you know who is the best choice? What should you look for? What do you REALLY need to know?

Well...here's an easy tool to help you navigate the mindfield of hype and information overload. It's a well organized listing and comparison built on reviews from actual users...made available by Broadband.com.

Trek on over and give it a try. It'll help you sleep at night.

Microsoft to Buy Part of AOL?

Looks like the Big Gates Gorilla is at it again. Both CNN/Money and Bloomberg report that Time Warner is set to sell a good chunk of AOL to Microsoft who then plan to integrate it with their internet unit MSN.

Supposedly Time Warner also negotiated with Yahoo and Google ... but the Microsoft Monster won out. This move should help MSN compete with Yahoo and Google for coveted ineternet traffic....and the resultant advertising revenue. Scary....but a nice move by ol' Bill.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Revenge Against Telemarketers

I just ran across this neat little gadget...and although it's a bit of a stretch from the usual fare on this blog....it was just too cool not to share with the faithful.

What is it?

Just call it "The 'Telecrapper 2000".

Engadget has a heads up article on this latest innovation in the war against telemarketers.....well worth reading. The Telecrapper 2000 is an automated system that detects incoming telemarketer calls, and then wastes the caller's time by playing recorded affirmations when the pitchman/woman stops speaking. The goal is to waste so much time, it makes such calling techniques unprofitable.

Cool idea....and must be hilarious to watch (er listen to) in action.

Beware Of AdCalls Free VoIP Service

An article at Engadget does a bit of investigative reporting and uncovers some unsettling information about the AdCalls service, which purports to let you place free VoIP telephone calls from your PC in exchange for watching advertisements scroll up your screen.

The news? The AdCalls end-user license agreement forces you to give permission for them to market their service to everybody you call. Not cool.

This isn't going to score you any points with your friends Vern.

Expect to see this venture take a nose dive once the public learns the truth behind that "free" offering.

It’s Official: eBay Owns Skype

All I can say is, told ya!

$2.6 billion purchase price in stock and cash. Dang...somebody just made a killing!

Now, there's still lots of questions and speculation as to just what eBay will do with Skype. Ted Wallingford of the The VoIPWebLog has some interesting ideas about this. Complete with "gee whiz's" and "uh oh's". Check out what Ted has to say.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Why VoIP, Why Now?

If you've been imprisoned in a sensory deprivation environment for the last year or two.... than you have an excuse for not knowing what VoIP is. The rest of you.....you're either deaf, dumb, blind, or stubborn. Whatever the excuse for your ignorance you now no longer have one.

In an article on the O’Reilly Network, Ted Wallingford explains why Voice over IP is such a big deal right now. What are its selling points and killer features? How is it used in desktop chat applications all the way up to corporate call centers? What does the future hold?

I strongly suggest you read Ted's contribution to humanity.

Then you can take off the dunce cap (just joking......ahhhh sort of).

Packet8 Adds User Chat And Blogging

In what could be considered a first, Packet8 has introduced a free add-on service for its VoIP phone subscribers that includes subscriber message boards and, oddly enough, blogging. It seems like a general vanilla support site with some extra community interaction features. Here’s a snippet from the letter they sent out.....

~~~~~~~~~~~

You are cordially invited to become a citizen of the new Packet8 Online Community,
a place on the Internet where you can:

* Learn more about Internet phone service and the technology behind VoIP

* Chat with other Packet8 subscribers

* Read 8x8 CEO Bryan Martin’s blog

* Create your own blogs

* Discover how to troubleshoot minor Packet8 issues

* Share your expertise with others

* Learn about the latest Packet8 promotions

* Post your own advertisements, thoughts, opinions, feedback, photos and feelings in forums and special interest groups

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Interesting....VERY interesting.

I'm already partial to Packet8 over other broadband phone providers. With this development maybe more folks will discover them and stop being swayed by the Vonage mass marketing media campaign. 'Bout damn time.

Rumor: eBay Buying Skype??

This might NOT be a rumor. Then again eBay would join a host of others interested....or previously interested...including Google, Apple, and maybe even Microsoft.

I suggest you check out the articles at MarketWatch and BusinessWeek to get the whole story.

Culturally the two companies would seem to fit rather well. Both understand viral marketing and how important that user community is to determining value.

This could get REAL interesting.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Look out Skype AND Google- Here Comes Microsoft

Uh oh.....time to hide the women and children and run for the hills. If you're Skype and Google that is.

Well.....that may be a bit dramatic. But with recent activity it sure looks like Microsoft is planning a major move into VoIP-like services.

John Bortland reports in ZDNet that Microsoft will do this through purchase of an Internet calling start-up named Teleo, and subsequent integration of Teleo's PC to PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) capability into a new build of MSN Messenger expected by the end of this year.

Yet unlike Google, who is planning an eventual PC-to-PSTN capability for Google Talk through under-the-hood technology enablements with Sipphone's Gizmo Project and EarthLink's Vling, Microsoft is getting on the fast track by buying a company with such a solution.

Yeah....look out Skype AND Google. Can you say "are you nervous"?

Vonage Hits 1 Million VoIP Lines

Vonage announced announced this mrning that they've activated their one millionth VoIP line, a first for a North American provider. But.....at the rate outfits like Time Warner Cable and Cablevision are adding subscribers, it's not likely to be an elite club for very long.

Warp Speed Web Hosting

Every sized business needs reliable, capable, cost effective web hosting. But for small and medium size businesses that's usually just wishful thinking.

Until now.

I just ran across a service the Big Guys use that works great for small and medium size businesses too. Finally you don't have to compromise reliability, capability, or cost. How's that burger commercial go? "Have it your way!"

Warp Speed Hosting is a high-performance web hosting service located at Exodus Communications. Yahoo.com, Ebay.com, Lycos.com, Hotmail, Onsale.com, and Geocities.com are just a few of the Internet's largest sites which pay hundreds of thousands of dollars each month to have their machines at Exodus Communications due to the incredible diverse connectivity that Exodus has over any other place on the planet. Until recently, lower end web hosting of this caliber was out of financial reach for small to medium sized businesses... until now! Exodus Communications currently carries about 30% of all Internet traffic due to the immense traffic that the largest sites at Exodus receive.

Friday, September 02, 2005

How YOU Can Support the Relief Effort For Hurricane Katrina

I know this has nothing to do with the theme of this blog. But in the true spirit of bloggers...and humanity in general....I'm posting this plea here. PLEASE post it in your blogs if you are a blogger. PLEASE share this information in any other venue you have access to.

The more help is received from as many sources as possible....the better we can respond to this tragedy. So....I'm appealing to all my readers.

If you would like to donate to a worthwhile organization in support of the relief effort, here are some links:

Salvation Army
American Red Cross
AGRM
Mercy Corps
Operation Blessing


PLEASE consider donating time and/or money to one of the worthy organizations above in order to help the people in the south out of the aftermath of the storm. If you know of other worthy organizations by all means add them to this list as a comment/reply.

Thank you all!

God Bless,
Michael Lemm
FreedomFire Communications