Friday, November 30, 2007

The Mobile Phone As The Next Internet Platform - The HOWs and WHYs

Mobile phones are the next frontier on the internet. So far, mobile telephony has grown into a select club of players with enviable margins. This situation has attracted the interest of a couple of reputable contenders (Apple & Google), with little stake in the status quo as defined by OEMs, application developers, and operators.

Some sample facts and trends are:

1) Google "Android" platform -- a Linux based mobile-phone software stack;
2) iPhone SDK (after its traditionally closed system was hacked into);
3) Google mash-ups;
4) Facebook success with software developers;

Why would we see this trend toward mobile phones as the next internet platform?

Because not everyone can afford/need a PC or a laptop. But everyone usually finds a need or case for a cell phone. Be it for staying in touch or conducting business. This means that cell phones have a greater potential reach/penetration as opposed to PCs.

How would this trend toward mobile phones as the next internet platform occur?

If you look at the hardware and software of current cell phones, they can match (to an extent) those of PCs. At least in terms of accessing the Internet and services like e-mail. Even the networks are capable enough to offer a decent browsing experience. Having said that, obviously in some countries carriers control what sites a subscriber can access and what they can't. To see true mobile Internet, this has to change. Also, with more online applications for mobiles, we should see more carriers coming up with all-you-can-consume Internet plans.

Is the mobile industry following the PC?

Some trends might suggest so. We are already witnessing an OS war, just like we did during the initial PC days. Here we have Microsoft, Symbian and now, Android, with their OS. None of these three (if you excuse Symbian, which now belongs to Nokia) make any hardware but have several OEMs making devices on their behalf.

The browser wars are also beginning to come out in the open. Surprisingly, Microsoft seems to be losing this one, after it discarded the Deepfish project. Other players like Opera, Mozilla and others are becoming very aggressive on this front.

Like initial e-commerce on PC, we are witnessing m-commerce on the mobile platform. The GSMA is working towards mobile banking and mobile transactions are already popular in Japan. And yeah, eBay is a partner in the OHA.

And how can we forget Nokia's Ovi?

Eventually, just like the PC biz, we may see the focus become more on the OS and applications than the hardware. At the moment, we go by megapixel cameras and touchscreens. Whereas in the coming years, our first preference may likely be the OS and then the functionalities.

One thing that we are yet to see is a cheap Internet browsing phone without frills like megapixel cameras. Many diehards dream of seeing a sub-$100 unlocked phone with a big screen (not a touchscreen), QWERTY keypad and a good OS. Perhaps that dream may be a relity in the not too distant future. We can only hope.

Now consider the potential cell phone landscape with these changes:

1) Service neutral handsets;
2) Royalty free/reduced cost software platform (e.g. Android);
3) Proliferation of the Software as a Service (SaaS) and other internet based on-demand applications (e.g. facebook, salesforce.com, ...);
4) Broadband internet services unbundled from cell phone service;
5) Wireless VoIP.

Wireless Service Providers would be faced with this scenario:

a.) The dilemma. Offer unbundled WAN wireless internet (3G) to the hand set, and cannibalize your voice customer base as they adopt S/W wireless VoIP (Skype) or hold out and see your customer's switch to provider who sells unbundled high speed WAN internet service.
b.) Loss of cell service revenue to software based WAN Wireless (3G) VoIP.
c.) Loss of a la carte service revenue (e.g. IM, Txtmsg,etc) to 3rd party Internet/On-Demand services.
d.) Increase revenue to firms with healthy Wireless WAN infrastructure and first movers to unbundled internet service to the hand set.
e.) New revenue due increased internet service as a substitute for home wired internet.

Handset OEMS would be looking at this environment:

a.) New entrants, such as IP wireless phones providers (Netgear, Linksys)
b.) Decreased product lines proliferation, handsets are less locked into service provider.
c.) More capable handsets (e.g. memory, speed, screen, camera density,..)
d.) Lower cost handsets due to higher competition and adoption of low/no royalty platform (android), and OS (Linux).
e.) Direct to consumer sales model, versus through cell phone service provider.

Software Providers would have this platform:

a.) Explosion in providers and software based feature sets, based on platform (android).
b.) Increase in VoIP and other IP based services or on-demand (SaaS) applications.

Auxiliary Service Providers would have this potential:

a.) Increase of software based VoIP service providers (e.g beyond Skype), as well as growth in Skype.
b.) A La carte service offering large and low cost due to higher amount of providers and direct to consumer channel through internet versus through cell service provider.

To get a bit deeper into how this will happen consider these events likely unfolding:

1) Low/no royalty platforms, such as Andoid and its open model will cause a ground swell of software based applications.
2) On-Demand mobile offerings will proliferate, making the wireless handset a real business tool.
3) Handset OEMs who already have Wi Fi based wireless terminals will provide a mobile computing platform that will run Andoid, to tap into the expanding software customer base. Wi Fi based software based VoIP will initially provide a limited substitute for cell service.
4) The customer base gets to critical mass, and a cell service provider will sell unbundled internet, to gain more customers, but lose some revenue to VoIP.

Now....again to go deeper. The "Why" is much easier than you'd think.

Advertisers want access to users. Already there are way more phones being sold than PC's. It stands to reason advertisers want access to their potential audience through any means possible.

Furthermore, the "big lug" PC's are on their way out as everyone's weapon of choice for general internet access. For most people, the phone can do it all. Email, Agenda, even simplified word processing, Instant messaging...are just a few applications now fairly common. The phone (probably better termed 'handheld' in this scenario) is completely taking over for the general populous.

You should know that you, I and the internet geeks that roam online services today have a slanted image of what it means to be online and of the services you generally need. Most people are not power users. The PC will be marginalized.

For an example: check out the iTunes store application included on the iPhone. Imagine this for ebay, facebook and for any of the most used applications out there.

So advertisers will follow where the people are.

What's the real "How" in this picture?

There will always remain essentially three basic models of advertising:

1. The unavoidable ad from businesses who don't care about being annoying. The "there's no bad PR as long as they spell your name right" crowd. They just want major exposure and are willing to fill your screen for seconds while you try to find ways to click them away. This will be even more annoying on smaller screens. The ads will be more interactive, perhaps, but they'll certainly be very present.

2. The immersive ads. These are usually paid content like games, movies that have little or nothing to do with the service that's being offered. "Brought to you by" Businesses are hoping that by getting their name out there in this way you'll remember them and feel more attached to their brand. This is no different from much of today's advertising but the immersiveness of "casual gaming" (remember your phone is always with you) may have greater appeal than on your PC.

3. The personalized ad. Advertisers generate ads based on your profile and the content of the site you're looking at. Inclusion of GPS on your phone adds another ingredient to this personalizing. The small size of the screen and the "always with you" aspect of the phone will give way to completely new models of advertising. What many may like to call "ads you want". Companies will work towards getting real "fans" who install special applications on their phone a la facebook applications, including the viral aspect.

You could say that the open social play of Google is as much of a mobile move as Android is. As far as many can see, they're in a great position to become a big player for mobile. Facebook could be too if they move NOW. Microsoft could be the netscape....they're pretty big with windows mobile but it's too developer centric right now. Can't wait for Mobile 7, then we'll know if they "Get it".

All in all everything is in place and indeed moving in the direction of the "Mobile Phone As The Next Internet Platform". The "why and "how" may change some during the journey ..... but it appears the destination will still be the same.

To search what is available today .... and compare phones, providers, and calling plans .... I suggest using this free online resource: Cell Phone Comparison

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Equipment And Services Search Tool From VARNetwork.com And Telarus Inc. .... IP PBX Systems, Computer Network Hardware, Cisco, 3COM, Lucent, And More

You can easily find IP PBX and computer network equipment and services to meet your needs from most any vendor ..... or register and sell your own equipment / services ..... all via VARNetwork.com from Telarus Inc. This handy free online resource enables you to search by location to see who and what is nearest you .... and also includes a "customer rating" so you can gauge business reputation too. This is the perfect resource to find what you need from a reputable local source .... or become listed as one of those sources yourself.

Try it out here ..... VARNetwork

If you are looking for ..... or provide any of the following ..... the VARNetwork.com tool will make your life much easier:

·Voice/Data Cabling
·Network Equipment
·Network Installation
·Network Management
·ASP Software Applications
·Data Management and Recovery
·Interconnection Services
·Business Telephones
·PBX Hardware/Software
·Key Telephone Systems
·Point-Of-Sale
·Network Security
·Predictive Dialers
·Video Devices
·Security Software
·VoIP Equipment

VARNetwork.com includes ........

IP PBX PHONE SYSTEMS -

From Avaya, Cisco, Nortel, Mitel, ShoreTel, NEC, Polycom, 3Com, Inter-Tel, TalkSwitch, Toshiba, Lucent, Artisoft, Vodavi, Vertical, Switchvox, Allworx, and more.

NETWORK HARDWARE -

Such as Cisco Routers, 3Com Hubs and Switches, Extreme Networks, Foundry Networks, Juniper Networks, Nortel Networks and more.

CONSULTANT SEARCH -

For example Network Engineers, Managed IT Services, Phone System Installers, Broadband Consultants, Telecom Consultants, VoIP Consultants, IP PBX Dealers, Network Hardware Dealers, and more.

REFURBISHED TELECOMMUNICATION EQUIPMENT FOR SALE -

You'll find Used Network Equipment, Surplus Phone Systems, Used VoIP Equipment .... plus you can register and sell your equipment too.

To recap .............

* You Can Get FREE Network Equipment Quotes from Multiple Dealers

- For single and multi-office computer networks
- Describe your needs and compare offers of multiple dealers
- National & local computer network professionals provide custom proposals for you
- You save money by comparing only proposals that meet your needs

* You Can Get FREE PBX Phone System Quotes from Multiple Dealers

- For single and multi-office installations
- Describe your needs and compare offers of multiple dealers
- National & local business PBX phone system dealers provide custom proposals for you
- It's easy and quick! That's it! There's no obligation and no fees for this service.

If You Don't Know What You Need ....

Telarus Inc. offers free consulting for ANYTHING relating to your business communications needs. Select from the topics below to contact an unbiased telecommunications consultant.

- Network Equipment (Routers, Switches, Design, etc. .... see VARNetwork.com )

- Broadband Internet Service (T1, DS3, OC3, ethernet, MPLS, etc. ..... You can receive an instant quote from Bandwidth Solution )

- Phone System Hardware (PBX, Channel Bank, etc. ..... see VARNetwork.com )

- Telephone Service (Voice T1, PRI, Local & Long Distance, etc. You can receive an instant quote from Business Phone Solution )

- VoIP Equipment (Hardware, System Design, etc. ..... see VARNetwork.com )

- VoIP Service (Backhaul, etc. ..... You can receive an instant quote from Business VoIP Solution )

* If you are a certified dealer of computer networking hardware, telecommunications equipment ..... or you are a systems integrator who can offer installation service ..... I recommend you consider joining the Telarus VAR Program.

- 100% Free to Join
- Receive Free Leads from Telarus Partner Sites
- Grow Your Client Base

You can register at ..... Telarus VAR Partner Program

================================

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Monday, November 26, 2007

A La Carte Cable TV .... The Debate Is On

This may be a rather heated topic for a lot of people....and by the looks of the banter on the internet it certainly is.

For those who aren't aware .... recently our intrepid FCC Chairman Kevin Martin initiated a concerted effort to force cable companies to switch to an “a la carte” model of offering cable channels. However, this is being vehemently opposed by a crowd including Republican members of Congress (interestingly Martin is a member of the same party). An article by Joe Nocera in the New York Times 24 November breaks down the reasons why “a la carte” cable is a bad idea for consumers. Joe basically labels it a ‘be careful what you wish for’ situation, and warns that a number of channels would end up going out of business. His premonition is that this would result in offering consumers less programming options. Additionally, Joe shows how prices on the majority of consumers cable bills would actually rise rather than decrease.

I tend to see both sides .... with neither a perfect fit.

For example.....people think you can take your typical monthly bill's total, divide it by the number of channels you get, and argue they should be able to get channels for "x" dollars per channel. That will never happen. A channel accepts "y" dollars per subscriber. When they're on "Tier A", they're guaranteed a certain amount of money per month regardless if people watch or not. If things moved to 'a la carte', the "channel" (sic content provider) no longer will get that same guaranteed amount each month. Therefore they won't accept "y" anymore, they'll want substantially more. Think of really specialized channels that have a small core number of viewers. They will NOT be on a lot of people's 'a la carte' list.

On the other hand....they should only get substantially more if people are willing to pay substantially more.

The market, not the cable companies (or content providers for that matter), would get to decide what these channels are worth.

At least that's the premise.......

Well, if the market sets the price, then there would be no reason for NBC to not charge a fortune to people who absolutely have to watch the wrestling that USA carries. What would stop a channel that has a huge program from charging more money because they know people will have no other choice? Not only that, but would A La Carte kill syndication? Why would NBC allow a hit SciFi channel show to syndicate an older season on some broadcast network?

The current system works. Money is saved when you buy in bulk. You might not watch all the channels that are being carried, too bad. If you don't watch more than one or two channels, then get rid of your cable all together and buy the DVD box sets as they come out. This way you'd have 100% choice of what you watch and don't watch.

Then again, do we really need specialized channels like "BabyFirstTV", "Golf Channel", "SOAPnet", "Jewelry TV", "The Good Samaritan Network", etc?

I think most people probably wouldn't actually buy al a carte packages because they enjoy the programming diversity.

TV is one thing I am NOT in favor of a majority vote on though. And that is exactly what we would end up in if we went to a la carte. The channels the majority of people want would stay affordable, while the channels that actually carry decent programming couldn't afford to stay on the air.

Therein lies an issue that appears to rankle many.

My opinion?

So what. If these small channels go under who cares? Hardly anyone watches them anyways. Since when should I support small channels with my bill? That sounds like communism.

Would ala carte be more expensive per channel than it is now? Sure, but people who do not watch 80% of the channels anyways would in fact pay less. There's no way your cable company would charge you $60 a month for the 12-15 channels you currently watch in an ala carte system. No one would subscribe to that. So even if your bill would be say $30 a month .... yes that's more per channel. But since you're paying for many fewer channels you're still lowering your bill.

Once again people see this as an either/or situation instead of incorporating BOTH. I have yet to see ANY ala carte proposal where it is FORCED on subscribers and the old system is done away with.

If you watch 50 channels and those 50 would cost you the same as the 75 channels without ala carte then common sense would tell you people would stay under the current system. People who don't like ala carte get their way .... people that want it get their way. Everyone is happy. I really don't see an issue with that.

Besides we already have partial ala carte. Most cable companies offer sports tiers etc. Also things like HBO are separate. I'm sure something like HBO would come out to $3 a month or less if offered to everyone. I'm also sure the majority who don't want HBO wouldn't be happy paying the extra $3 a month so HBO lovers can save $9 a month. But that's the kind of system anti-ala carte people support.

But that's the current problem with "a la carte." It's not really up to the cable providers, unless they want to lose money.

If a cable provider decides they're going to go ahead with "a la carte" and let whoever wants ESPN to buy it, and not charge their other customers for it, then they STILL have to pay Disney for ESPN for every subscriber on the basic extended tier. As well as pay for ESPN2, ESPN classic, and whatever else Disney forces them to pay for to just offer ESPN.

Until the content providers want to offer "a la carte," it's not going to happen. Why would they give up all that money for people that don't even watch their channels?

And sure, everyone is going to say, "But the cable companies can refuse to carry the channels that do that." Sure, they could do that. And as soon as that happens, DirecTV and Dish can say, "We've still got the channels, switch to us!". Just as they are doing right now with NFL Network and TWC.

It's kind of hard to deal with the content providers when they are going to get their money anyway. DirecTV and Dish pay per subscriber as well for content. Unless every cable and satellite provider is willing to really play hardball with content providers, "a la carte" has no future.

IMHO the FCC should not be coming down on cable providers over "a la carte". They should be coming down on who controls the pay content.

Now here's another thought......

Whenever a competitor comes to town, or a muni deployment starts, the cable industry and/or telcos sue to stop it or gets laws passed prohibiting competition. True distribution competition will never happen in the quantity required to affect pricing. It would require an IPTV model for something like that.

But we do see that those types of "channel monopolies" crumble with consumer choice and distributors who stand up for customers. Look at iTunes. The music industry is fighting iTunes tooth and nail ..... but constantly lose because Steve Jobs refuses to raise prices and rather lets record labels walk. Cable rarely if ever let a channel or group of channels walk ..... and customers pay the price for it with titanic price increases every year. Can you imagine if iTunes worked like the cable industry? You wouldn't be able to buy DRM free songs a la carte for $1. You would have to buy entire albums just to get 1 good song. So instead of albums dropping in price to the typical $9.99 they would now be $25-$30. What a joke the cable and DBS model is.

Here's a novel idea .... if the NCTA membership joined together they would have the same power over video services as Apple does in music. Or a better example Wal*Mart. Anyone who doesn't think a unified cable industry wouldn't be as powerful in determining video price as Wal*Mart is in retail is a fool. The NCTA membership would be in such a powerful position that they could easily DICTATE prices to the programmers like ABC who are notorious for channel extortion. ABC would fold in 10 seconds when they lose 100 million viewers overnight. Advertisers would instantly flee and demand refunds on unaired ads. ABC's Board of Directors would have to explain that revenue loss to share holders. Which would be a much harder sell than cable explaining to their customers .... in an endless stream of commercials on their systems .... that ESPN wanted $3.50 more per subscriber for the channel. And that this was after similar increases over the last several years AND would continue forever if not stopped. "Call ABC and tell them you want fair prices for their channels.".

The fact is that the ABC needs cable more than cable needs ABC.

What would ultimately happen is MLB and the NFL wouldn't get the insanely high prices they're getting from ABC. But currently customers are just an endless supply of revenue (thru constant price increases) so of course the money is flowing upstream at an ever increasing clip.

Cable fixing this problem on their own requires cable really being interested in controlling these prices. Which they aren't as evidenced by their total lack of will in dealing with them. So .... maybe it will take government intervention to get it done.

Looking deeper ..... content providers (ABC, Disney, etc.) traditionally make most of their income from advertisement sales. If they raise the prices of their individual channels (if forced to sell them on a per subscriber basis as the FCC is suggesting) then they will lose subscribers and be unable to command the same advertising premium. You do realize the the MAJOR NETWORKS are FREE over the air in almost every local market, and most in HD. So charging thru cable companies is just like hidden taxation.

Personally I believe that all channels that have advertising should be FORCED to be offered on the cable networks for free. In fact they should be paying the cable networks to carry them. So all the channels like CBS, ABC, NBC, TBS .... and any others with ad breaks ..... would be offered to you free of charge.

Channels like HBO, SHOWTIME, and any others that are broadcast without commercials would have a cost associated with them. Those that can generate a large enough audience would survive, those that can't will die.

This would spawn a huge amount of competition for viewers and would hopefully spawn better programming.

We should NEVER have to pay to see ABC, CBS, and NBC, unless they stop all the commercials...


Yeah I know ....wishful thinking huh?

Anyway, it should be obvious to anyone with a lick of common sense that an a la carte system will cost most people more money. The only ones who benefit would be those few millions in the US that almost never watch any TV except for a few channels. The Hollywood content providers will just up the prices for the channels that don't fall by the wayside. The rest of us will pay the same or more for fewer overall channels.

However, if the "everything will go thru the internet soon" crowd is right, it doesn't really matter. All content will be paid for "show by show" and there will be no such thing as broadcast channels anymore. Of course, that business model, is probably at least a decade away. So, just leaving this to normal business change processes will take care of it eventually.

In the meantime, the FCC & the Congress should leave well enough alone. The Congress seems to agree - because last year they shot down an a la carte law decisively. It is only Martin at the FCC who disagrees - and that is because he is using the a la carte push as a negotiating tactic with cable companies to try and remove impure/violent content from cable systems in order to get ready for his run for political office in a few years.

In all honesty ..... I wonder if something in the middle might make more sense. For example, what if you hate sports. How come the channels you really want .... like all the cool History and Discovery and Science channels .... are all spread out over different packages that all include sports channels? If you want all your favorite programming, it means you have to get all the crap programming you don't want. It just doesn't make sense .... for the consumer at least.

Now what if the bundles were more logical? For example, lump all the sports together. Lump all the History & Discovery channels together. Lump the music & fashion together. Food & lifestyle. And so on. I wouldn't mind paying for a few related but uninteresting channels to get the stuff I want. But I HATE paying for stuff like I've no interest in at all.

When it comes down to it ..... I think the best option probably lies somewhere in the middle between huge bundles of unrelated shlock and a-la-carte.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Explanation Of An OC3 Broadband Connection

While a majority of internet users worldwide know the distinction between such common phrases like dial-up, broadband, Cable, or DSL, there are few internet users who are familiar with OC service. While there are many different types of internet services including T1 lines and T3 connections, the most common OC (which stands for Optical Carrier) speeds are OC3, OC12, OC48, and OC192. While only the most pressing technological needs would call for a network system running on OC48 or OC192 connections, there are many small to midsize businesses, especially those with remote program servers and graphics engines or those who provide hosting or database services, who have already converted to, or would benefit greatly from converting to, an OC3 Broadband network.

So first off, what exactly is an OC3 connection? How does it differ from more traditional networking solutions? Primarily, it is a fiber optic cable network that conforms to the SONET standard, a type of administrator system developed for this type of network. The OC3 has many benefits, including ultra-fast connectivity for critical internet needs, and burstable bandwidth from 50 megabytes per second to 155 megabytes per second available from a variety of the most common providers such as AT&T, Qwest, Sprint, MCI/Verizon, and Level3.

OC3 connections are, much like T3 lines, available in Burstable configuration. The benefits that an OC3 Burstable connection provides make sense for business owners. A Burstable connection not only improves efficiency by making use of the highest speed connection of our time, but also increases flexibility: with OC3 you can choose the level of bandwidth that fits the needs of your business, and you can order extra bandwidth at any point you deem it necessary. OC3 service also maximizes every particle of bandwidth available and significantly quells inefficiencies in the data transfer process using Packet Over SONET technology, an incredibly exclusive packet software that transfers large files with amazing ease and speed.

A fixed monthly cost that is primarily based on port speed, not usage, and can help your business to manage its billing more smoothly, as well as often times saving you money since it's lowest cost per megabit. With an OC3 line, there is increased accessibility for your employees and customers because the necessary amount of bandwidth is provided, rather than a lower level than should be taken into consideration. Besides this, the sales of your business or company can be increased by wildly improving the quality of access between your organization and the customers who visit you online.

For a speed and data transfer rate this is undeniably the fastest in the industry, consider an OC3 connection, which is over 100 times faster than T1 and 20 times faster than T3. If you are looking for more information on which bandwidth providers provide OC3 connections and setup in your local area, visit OC3 Bandwidth , a free comprehensive service to assist you in finding the right solution at the best pricing.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Vonnage STILL Sucks .... The Future Is NOT Bright

Vonage recently released their third quarter earnings, which indicate that the company saw a third-quarter net loss of $162 million ..... thanks in large part to the $133 million spent last quarter on legal expenses. They added 78,000 subscribers last quarter ..... at least one of whom didn't even have a computer!! Wow...that's a particularly impressive feat. [...snicker...]

The company's churn rate, or rate of customer defections, rose to 3% from 2.5%. "The result of the existing care problems and negative press associated with the litigation caused churn to rise to 3 percent," Jeff Citron tells Reuters. No S*&T Shirlock. Your customer services sucks!! We all know that but you're just now finding that out??

"The first thing the company needs to do is fix the customer service issue," Citron insists. Of course, you all knew that. You've known it for a long time. Ahhh .... haven't you?? ;)

Vonage also says they've settled their patent dispute with AT&T to the tune of $39 million over five years. Meanwhile, Time Warner Cable jumped past Vonage this week to become the second largest VoIP provider in the United States with 2.6 million VoIP customers. Comcast is dominating the sector with 3.8 million VoIP customers.

You have to admit that Vonage has fought hard to stay alive. The company’s legal battles finally seem to be coming to an end which has helped its stock gain a little bit of ground. Considering how low they were in the first place that's not really saying much though. Now they’re turning an eye towards trying to improve their customer service in the hopes that they can actually hold on to customers once they get them. But there is a dark cloud hanging over the future of Vonage. In December of next year, the company’s debt of over $250 million is going to mature. Vonage hopes to restructure that debt and make it possible to remain in business. However, they say that plans to do so are too “premature” at this time to discuss.

And they want to talk about integrity??

You have got the be kidding! This company's IPO was $17 a share and has never seen $3 let alone $10 since. It is run by Jeffrey Citron who paid $22.5 million to get out of trouble with the SEC.

This company also has no problems getting loads of BBB complaints and even sending Vonage to people with dialup or no Internet. It even takes longer to cancel Vonage that it does AOL. It has never made a profit.

Vonage has to be the crookedest IPO to come along since the Internet bust revealed a bunch of the most lame-brained ones.

By the way, Vonage only has $150 million in cash and that's good for one more round of infomercials and one more quarter of dodging cancellations. IMHO 2008 will probably see its bankruptcy filing.

Anyway, Vonage had a good idea (emphasis on HAD)..... and when they're gone others will be sure to fill in the gap. Besides the obvious patent research lesson, the big one to learn is of customer service. If you've remembered anything about user ramblings on any Vonage news post .... it's that of poor customer service. Most people leapfrog other providers because of just that. And many of you know first hand with your providers what it feels like to go from one sucky system to another.

My sugestion is to stay well away from Vonage and look to other alternatives. Sooner rather than later. Maybe a cable provider such as Comcast, Time Warner, or Cox. I would also take Packet8 seriously too. Packet8 is very stable, has a great reputation in the small business world, and has a pretty good residential service too. You can find out more about Packet8 here:

Residential and Business VoIP Provider

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Monday, November 19, 2007

How To Find High Speed Internet For Home Or Business

If you are looking for high speed internet access for a home or business .... here's a few resources that will help you find EXACTLY what you need.

* To find the best options on high speed internet for a home (residential) location .... use this handy tool: High Speed Internet. You'll be able to search and compare the available providers of DSL, cable, and satellite internet access in your immediate area. {note: this tool is for residential only .... not business applications.]

* If you're a small business needing internet access for data and/or voice applications using a T1 or DS3 line .... than take advantage of this free resource: DS3 Line. You'll get a comparison of available T1 and DS3 providers covering fractional, full, bonded, point to point, and so on.

* If you're a medium size or larger business and are interested in DS3, OC3, MPLS, or ethernet solutions for your data and/or voice network needs than use this tool: OC3 Line. You'll receive no cost help to find the best fit bandwidth solution for your particular business applications.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

When Is A DS-3 / T-3 Necessary For Optimum Bandwidth?

T3 (also known as DS3) is the equivalent of 28 T1s (DS1), multiplexed together. The total T3 signaling rate is 44.736 Mbps. In a channelized application, T3 supports 672 channels, each at 64 Kbps (DS0). T3s are often used by clients that require the ability to symmetrically transfer extremely large amounts of voice and/or data on a regular basis, without signal degradation, even over vast distances. Some examples of this type of client might be: call centers, universities/colleges, governmental institutions, large corporations, and internet service providers (ISP). Small businesses might even use a T3, or fractional T3, for connecting multiple locations across the country. The transmission medium for T3/DS3 is usually coax cable or fiber, so proper wiring is necessary to setup T3 access. However recent new developments have concluded that T3 can now be delivered over copper.

DS-3 which stands for Digital Signal Level 3, equates to 28 T-1 lines or 44.736 million bits per second (roughly 43-45 Mbps upstream/downstream speeds). DS-3s have enough bandwidth to allow very large database transferring over busy wide area networks and the capability of handling 672 simultaneous voice conversations. DS-3s typically run long haul over fiber optics and coax in the last mile, however there are many exceptions to this. Also, because fiber is only available in limited parts of the US (vs. copper), expensive build-outs are sometimes required for full DS-3 access.

In North America, DS-3 translates into T-3, which is the equivalent of 28 T-1 channels, each operating at a total signaling rate of 1.544 Mbps. The 28 T-1s are multiplexed through an M13 (‘Multiplex 1-to-3’ multiplexer), and 188 additional signaling and control bits are added to each T-3 frame. As each frame is transmitted 8,000 times a second, the total T-3 signaling rate is 44.736 Mbps. In a channelized application, T-3 supports 672 channels, each of 64 Kbps. In the European hierarchy, a DS-3 is in the form of a E-3, which runs at a total signaling rate of 34.368 Mbps, supports 480 channels, and is the equivalent of 16 E-1s.

If you’re moving a DS-3 (or any other DS signal) across continents, the standards of the target country rule. Channels get muxed and demuxed, with signaling conventions translated as well. For example: On the US side T-1s are in multiples of 24 x 64 Kbps circuits (total 1.5 Mbps) and in the UK, it’s 30 x 64 Kbps (total 2 Mbps). If you were to interconnect to the US at a DS-3 level, you would not receive 28 T-1s with 6 spare channels- You would get multiples of 30 E/T-1s. As they arrived in the UK, they would be muxed and demuxed, along with translated signaling conventions.

Who uses DS-3s? Companies who host high traffic web sites, support web hosting, and need high capacity bandwidth on an as-needed basis. Also universities/colleges, government offices, and high volume call centers. Plus businesses with large multi-media and/or teleconference/video conference activity. A full DS3 can accommodate many simultaneous users depending on the requirements of the business. Generally a DS3 line is installed as a major networking channel for large corporations or universities with high volume network traffic. This is an always-on, high-speed connection that provides a dedicated, stable and reliable link to the Internet, and can support up to 500 or more computer users.

If a full 45 Mbps DS-3 isn't quite necessary, then 'tiered' and 'burstable' speeds are also an option. Tiered is more suitable for clients who expect their bandwidth requirements to increase steadily and/or continually in the near future. Clients with other access such as T1 lines can rapidly and easily switch their bandwidth to a single Fractional-DS3. Burstable is a dedicated point-to-point circuit from a customer's premises to the telecommunication carrier's network operation center (NOC). This service is priced in billing tiers of 3mbps increments from 3mbps to 45mbps. As a burstable DS3 user, you always have the full bandwidth available over an unshared, non-fractional 45mbps digital leased line.

Although anyone can purchase a burstable DS-3, this type of connection can be expensive, sometimes costing as much as a full 45 Mbps connection. Burstable lines can often be found at their lowest price within a collocation facility. At a collocation facility (or simply referred to as a "colo") many users share a large OC-3 or OC-12 pipe. As a customer, you will not have to pay for the fixed cost of such a large pipe, but will have the benefit of being able to burst up to very high bandwidths if necessary. If you need the reliability of a large pipe fur bursty traffic but don't have the capital, consider a colo. If you have a steady volume and are consistent, you may consider keeping services in house and going with a T-3/DS-3 connection.

No matter what application you're considering a T3 or DS3 for..... I recomend taking advantage of the no cost consultation available to you via DS3 Bandwidth. They'll provide you expert advice on selecting the best fit for your specific application ..... and help guide you through the many providers and plans available.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What To Look For When Choosing A Local VoIP Or Hosted VoIP Provider For Your Business

As you may know, the location of the VoIP provider doesn't greatly impact service cost or availability as the service is provided over a standard internet connection anyway. If you didn't know that ..... now you do. Makes a difference and helps you keep from limiting your options when selecting a business VoIP provider.

So you don't need to limit your search only to VoIP providers who may be "down the street" from you. It's just not necessary. With that in mind expand your options to those quality providers with a "presence" in your area...even if it's not a physical local office.

One of the larger providers out there you should consider is Packet8, which has standard pricing packages and a rich set of features that the telco's generally pay for. Packet8 has both hosted VoIP PBX as well as standard VoIP.

As a user of business VoIP you'll experience the following benefits.........

* Lower local and long distance costs (reduction by 60% or more are common)

* Rapid provisioning of new extensions - You can add a new extension in a few minutes. You can keep phones stocked and provision them only when needed.

* Lower Skill Level - It doesn't require a high cost PBX operator to provision a line. It is doable by non IT personnel with a little amount of training.

* Large Feature Set – The VoIP provider doesn’t charge for call features a la carte, as the standard telco’s do. Call forwarding, 3 way calling, Outlook Integration, Caller ID, and so forth are part of the standar package from VoIP providers.…

* Variable Cost – As the fixed cost of a PBX is avoided, some services allow you to establish extensions one line at a time, and there's no significant early termination clauses, you can move telephone service into a variable cost.

* Localized Phone Numbers – You can establish extensions in any area code you choose.

* On Line / Simple Billing – As the feature set is not a la cart, there is unlimited local and nationwide calling, it is possible to actually comprehend your phone business phone bill.

* Conference Calling – With the purchase of a few extensions, one can get a conference line.

A few of the things to consider, if you look to hosted VoIP PBX, are.........

* Shared Internet Connection – If you are going to share your internet connectivity between your VoIP solution and your normal office internet traffic, you can see call quality degrade during times of internet congestion. You can address this by partitioning your connection, installing a Quality Of Service (QoS) based router to give your voice traffic higher priority, or dedicate a T-1 to the service. I suggest dedicating a T1 to ensure the required level of performance.

* Call Efficiency – When you look into your options, take into consideration the average bandwidth taken per call. Some providers do better than others. Too high a bandwidth and you’ll need to add your next T-1 earlier. Too low a bandwidth and your voice quality may suffer.

* FAX Service – Not all service providers will guarantee the Quality of Service sufficient to support FAX service (Note: Packet8 does).

With all of the above considered .... my recommendation is to first look into what Packet8 offers here:

Hosted VoIP

For larger businesses you might consider an enterprise VoIP solution here

Business VoIP

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Monday, November 12, 2007

When Is Ethernet A Good Choice For A Business Network Infrastructure?

Many businesses today are showing more and more interest in choosing ethernet applications as part of their overall network infrastructure. However, too often they do so without arming themselves with enough information to make a smart business decision. Word of warning .... get smart first.

Ethernet is a multiple access technology where the entire bandwith is available to each user on a contention basis. T1/DS3 on the other hand is a (time-division) multiplexing technology. Where in fractionilized form it will allow users continual access to the their own individual 56K/64K timeslot.

Now, while we can discuss grouping timeslots or making the entire bandwidth available, there is one aspect missing in the T1/DS3 argument and that is contention - simply how do we allocate the bandwidth to multiple users. Ethernet employs this by design. But I would expect that T1/DS3 needs an additional resource to implement this .... especially for a voice application aspect. Now, I guess that there is an argument for utilizing a real TDMA technology. But then we come down to cost. Business Ethernet is pretty damned cheap and can offer flexibility of design/installation. Where traditional TDMA technology relies on pretty precise timing across multiple hosts within the network and therefore becomes increasingly expensive.

Today businesses are moving to Ethernet based Internet networks because of:

- Speeds Available: For example Time Warner Telecom offers 2 Mbps – GigE.

- Scalability: very easy to upgrade speeds and can be deployed via copper or fiber optics: T1, DS3 or OC3 – OC192.

- Hardware Costs: less expensive and easier to maintain. A 10/100 Ethernet Card in any Layer2 device (i.e. Firewall) or Layer3 device (i.e. Router) is all you need to terminate your service.

- Network Simplicity: instead of having a router and firewall, you only need one piece of hardware and companies are using Firewalls that have routing capabilities (which eliminates the purchase and maintenance of a router). This helps out your IT budget, equipment maintenance (your LAN is already Ethernet) and you have less points of failure on your network (the more hardware devices you have, the more points of failure in your network).

- Fiber Optics: ISP’s would rather deploy their fiber optics than lease DS3 local loops from RBOC’s or ILEC’s. Carriers are expanding their fiber optic footprints and more ISP’s are offering fiber optics to deploy faster and better quality Internet for businesses. Thus the ethernet connection.

Overall Ethernet is great for businesses on three counts:

1) Price Point - the cost of Ethernet devices and interfaces is significantly less than the cost for the others you mentioned because, among other things, market penetration of Ethernet means economies of scale come into play, driving the cost down. In addition, Ethernet is usually a non-tariffed service, so market competition allows for the price to come down as well (as compared to tariffed services supplied by the telcos).

2) More engineers understand it - it's a lot easier to troubleshoot and maintain because a significantly higher number of engineers/admins understand and are comfortable with Ethernet. Having an optical engineer or telco engineer on staff will cost you much more than an Ethernet "engineer".

3) Ubiquity - it looks like the big players are driving the market (or are being pulled by the market) towards Ethernet. That means that most technological innovation is directed towards Ethernet, not T-1's, DS-3's etc.

With that said, I don't think Ethernet is going to supplant optical offerings, particularly DWDM, in the long-haul market. Timing and error correction are too critical to long-haul transport and Ethernet doesn't really have either. So, I see Ethernet as an optimal last-mile technology that is carried over optical services.

One caveat, if your business model needs to support legacy telco applications (non VOIP) along with outside bandwidth, then channelized T services may be more appropriate. That is, if you want 15 channels of a T-1 for voice and 9 channels for Data that may make more sense than having two separate connections, one for voice and one for data.

I doubt that anyone would disagree with Ethernet being the absolute best protocol for a businesses internal LAN. But I have been seeing more and more ISP's trying to deliver their data already Ethernet encapsulated. Rather than provide standard conditioning over a DSL, T1, DS3 ..... they want to transport the data already Ethernet encapsulated. This is usually done to allow them to offer additional services such as a firewall at their NOC, rather than your site. But you give up a lot by letting them convert your data to Ethernet packets at their NOC.

First you give up bandwidth. They still have to transport your data over their pipes to your location using whatever form of encapsulation needed by that transport (DSL, T1, DS3, etc.). But there are the additional layers needed for Ethernet which is now added to the layers for the transport. In other words, the data from your files will have more overhead or layers for the same amount of data. A given file size will take longer because of the additional data required for the capsules.

You also lose trouble shooting ability. If a business is connected using standard transport, an ISP can ping right to the router in their facilities. If they are forced into a PPPoE delivery, the ISP cannot check their connection between the NOC and their location. Often it is a last mile (wires to the building) problem and there is no way to check that.

I could go further, but the answer is that for a business LAN, Ethernet is the way. But it is NOT for your internet connectivity to your ISP.

Now here's a few other tidbits often overlooked by a business when considering Ethernet as the backbone of their network infrastructure......

Ethernet is not cheaper than any other layer 2 protocol, also not in WAN bandwidth. Order a 100 Mbps from your friendly neighborhood provider and ask them specifically that you want a Sustainable Information Rate of 100%. You will be shocked to learn that it is nearly as expensive as an OC3 bandwidth. It becomes cheap because Ethernet is commonly overbooked without providers telling you that.

Yes Ethernet has it's advantages. But definitely not the advantage that you no longer need Customer Premises Equipment. On native Ethernet you can use layer 2 (VPLS). In which case you will have to maintain the switches on the WAN side. Or you can have layer 3 VLAN services. In which case your provider most likely will manage the routers.

Be aware that it is the VLAN's that are interesting. They are somewhat comparable to MPLS Classes of Service. Which means you can have a managed VLAN for different applications, with different service parameters. A provider that sets up his Ethernet backbone infrastructure correctly, would be able to provide high quality IP telephony over a TLAN with decent Quality of Service parameters (especially low jitter).

Note that if you were to purchase a fully managed MPLS VPN from most any company anywhere in the world, Ethernet would not bring you much more flexibility. But if you are going to need a lot more bandwidth with bursty character, you should target an Ethernet layer 3 managed network. No matter when a 100 Mbps Ethernet link is overbooked, most often you will still get more bandwidth and less congestion than on the SDH/SONET bandwidth parameter costing the same.

A key point is that at present native Ethernet coverage is still a myth in most parts of the world. Most often some electrical 155Mbps is simply squeezed down to 100 Mbps, because there simply isn't fiber at a location yet. 1Gbps or 10 Gbps is in that case not available or unbelievably expensive.

On Layer 3 this squeezing of SONET bandwidth does not pose a disadvantage. Because Layer 2 becomes near to trivial anyway, and a hybrid network is fine. You can easily hook up Classes of Service of MPLS with VLAN's. On Layer 2, there are not many providers that can provide a VPLS over any hybrid infrastructure network.

Now here's the bottom line (pun intended).......

In terms of quality and price-performance ratio, the supplier and your specific applications are much more important than the technology. However, currently for Internet applications ..... and purely because of the overbooked price difference of large bandwidths ..... Ethernet is preferable for most businesses.

To help navigate the complexity of making the right decision on whether ethernet is the best option for your business ..... take advantage of the no cost consultative service at DS3 Bandwidth .

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Friday, November 09, 2007

How To Find Deals On Cell Phone Accessories

You have a really cool cell phone you're absolutely in love with.

But you want more. You want the latest and greatest cell phone accessories so you're driving a Lamborghini .... not just a BMW. Plus you don't want to take out a second mortgage to get exactly what you want.

You're in luck.

Here's a neat little online tool that'll help you find just the right "Gee Wiz" add on to really dress up your cell phone for a night on the town. You'll see tons of cost conscious choices for chargers and batteries, cases and holsters, Bluetooth, memory and data, faceplates and covers, headsets, wireless signal boosters, even value bundles and clearance specials.

Cell Phone Accessories

Plus ..... if you're in need of a new phone ..... you can find all the latest cell phone models and provider plans listed and compared for your specific location here:

Cell Phone Deals

There's so many choices to pick from you may need to pace yourself. It could be overwhelming.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

BizPac .... Voice And DSL Package For Small Business Growth

For those small businesses looking for the right combination of voice and data products to meet their immediate needs .... as well as allow for future growth ..... NuVox has just made available a complete package called BizPac. BizPac, a voice and DSL package uniquely suited for growing businesses, joined the NuVox suite of products following its recent merger with FDN Communications.

NuVox Communications provides voice, data, and security services to business customers in North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Tennessee. These services are provided through advanced Lucent, Nortel, Sonus, and Cisco technology. NuVox's voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) services are delivered via technology from Cisco, Sonus, Sylantro, IP Unity, and Acme Packet.

Today, more than ever before, growing businesses require quality communications services that give them a true advantage,” said Chris Benyo, EVP of Sales and Marketing for NuVox. “At NuVox we believe advanced and cost-effective communications are key to enabling small business growth.”

BizPac offers a variety of features to address the individual needs of any growing business. Businesses can select from a range of Internet options, voice lines, and email addresses to fit their professional needs. Key features of BizPac include:

* 2 – 7 Voice Lines with the Most Popular Calling Features Included
* High-speed DSL
* Local and Long Distance
* Wide Area Calling
* Web Hosting
* On-demand Conferencing
* Up to 30 Separate Email Addresses
* Up to 5 Static IP Addresses

BizPac is available today in Georgia and Florida. In the near future BizPac will be available in more locations where Nuvox provides services ..... so stay tuned.

For more information ..... and to request a quote for a BizPac package for YOUR business ..... visit BizPac

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Telarus VAR Program .... Huge Income Potential For Value Added Resellers Of Telecom Equipment And Services

All right folks. This is simply too good to pass up.

You know I've been trying to open your eyes to the huge potential you have as a VAR for telecom equipment and/or telecom services ..... by aligning yourself with the Telarus VAR Program.

The Telarus finely-tuned engine continues to set records on the telecom race course. The VAR (Value Added Reseller) program is continuing to move forward with more VARs being added every week. The Telarus VAR program represents a virtual "no brainer" for telecom equipment and services providers .... who are currently spending a small fortune for luke-warm leads and ineffective PPC campaigns.

One very key point is that all you do as a Telarus VAR .... is generate a customer lead (for bandwidth). Telarus "closers" than make the sale for you .... and provide lifetime support for that customer too. The heavy lifting is done by the closers (highly trained technical sales and customer support staff). You market the bandwidth products ..... Telarus does everything else. Or ..... you can simply swap bandwidth leads for telecom equipment and services leads. So, you can see that a little effort on your part can mean a good amount of free customer leads for telecom equipment and services .... and/or increased bandwidth sales if you choose ..... and some very big paychecks.

For example, the new Ethernet tool is generating some great sales. [ See Ethernet ] The tool allows the closers to see where the customer is located in relation to a carrier's lit building and do some "suggestive selling". There was a recent customer who was looking for a bonded T1 line, but the closer noted that the customer was very close to a lit building and was able to get a contract signed for an Ethernet circuit. The benefit to the customer was much more bandwidth than he originally requested (which was dictated by his budget), and the benefit to the lead agent who brought the lead in is about $200 more in revenue and therefore also in commissions ... every month ... for the next 36 months!

Telarus is closing some very large bandwidth sales, and not just with Ethernet either. Comparing some of those sales to a T1 is like comparing a 2008 Lexus to a 62 VW. And in terms of commissions, it is like comparing a plastic piggy bank to a lock box in Fort Knox.

If you have not yet gotten in tune with how you can be a part of this revenue stream which continues to grow every month, you are encouraged to see what Telarus can do for you. Get involved and understand how to take advantage of the swap of hot leads .... or direct support for marketing and closing bandwidth sales. Telarus will help you get your share of this booming market!

For more info on the Telarus VAR program check here:

Telarus VAR Network

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Pre-Paid Cellular Deal ..... Lucky Wireless HALF OFF Special For November

For anyone looking for a pay as you go (pre-paid) cell phone plan. You're in luck (pun intended).

Following is the just released notice of a November special for Cognigen's Lucky Wireless (just in time for Christmas too). With Lucky Wireless you get all of the features and pricing of any monthly billed plan in a "pay as you go" platform. No contract, no credit check, no deposit, no worries!

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Lucky Wireless Is Offering Half Off your first month of wireless service on select plans!

Select Lucky Wireless Plans will be available for 50% off during the month of November. Never has there been a better time to buy a Lucky Wireless phone with 7PM nights and weekends FREE.

The first month of service on the $39.99, $49.99, and $59.99 Plans will be discounted by 50% for customers of all Cognigen agents. The price will be reflected at the point of sale. Check out the great new plans and phones available .... including the Motorola RAZR. More Minutes .... Less Money .... Get Lucky!

To get your own Lucky Wireless calling plan .... and a cool cell phone to boot .... all at a special price .... here's the link.

Lucky Wireless

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If you're looking for even more choices on cell phones and plans .... then I recommend checking this out:

Cognigen Cellular

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