Monday, September 29, 2008

What's In The Future For Nokia Smart Phones??

What can you except from Nokia smart phones in the future? For that matter, who are smart alternatives to Nokia given what you can expect from them?

Nokia is allegedly known for releasing OSes for new models that are not too great. For smart phones I've learned to wait for the first patch before I purchase a new model. Still, they're continuously bringing out boutique phones like the 8800 and the infamous fashion 7300 range.

In terms of business, Blackberry lead for an all in one office/out on the road tool and Nokia have dabbled their feet with the E7 range. On the lower end phones, Nokia have consistency and are the phone of choice for PAYG. Their low end phones are reliable and does what it says on the tin. For media, Sony rules no doubt. Their walkman mp3 player models are by far the best with sound quality and recording.

Where they lack is in the rich media and where mp3 meets phone area. With Apple's iphone in the mix this year and with a Apple moving into converging music, telephony and OS - if they bring down the cost of the phone models and work across networks herein lies their greatest threat.

There's plenty of development for applications for the i-phone as well as viral marketing. Nokia had sealed up their phones and it's a bit of a bugger installing anything on them. They lack customisation. The most viral thing that went around to my knowledge was the crazy frog video before it went super commercial!

Sony's OS is customisable but you run the risk of turning it into a brick if you loose connection during the firm-ware changes.

Bottom line, Apple's move and it's promise to add some mobile functionality to it's mp3 range proves the biggest threat to Nokia .... along with gimmick phones from Motorola's Razr. Apple's favour with having a sole network to market causes fear amongst the network providers as it does the manufacturers.

To find just the right cell phone for you .... personal or business .... I suggest you look over the consumer info available at Cell Phone Deals and Comparisons . You'll find cost effective smart phone solutions from Nokia and many others.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Packet8 Virtual Office Special Promotion

For a limited time, new Packet8 customers can enroll for the company's popular Virtual Office Unlimited program and receive a whopping 50% discount! New customers simply need to enroll for service and use the promo code "UEIP25" when going through the checkout process.

Customers will receive a special introductory rate of only $24.99 per month (half off the regular $49.99 subscription rate) for a full 12 months on a one-year contract. This offer is only good for new Packet 8 customers who order Virtual Office Unlimited VoIP service with a new IP phone (models 53i, 55i or 57i) from now until December 31, 2008.

Remember, you MUST enter the above promo code in order to get this special discount! Just use the link below to get started.

Packet8 Virtual Office

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Does MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) Meet The Data Security Needs Of Business Organizations?

MPLS as a Bandwidth Solution, by itself, merely offers a "label switching" architecture, and does not address security in any way. It enables the efficient routing of datagrams/packets over a path, in a manner not unlike driving a car on highways - when you're on the highway, all you care about is the exit, not the final destination. Similarly, when you're "labeled" routers hop you through the cloud till the end of your label switched path.

Security is achieved by the tunneled layer II or layer III protocol. In the case of most VPNs, that would be IPSec, which - through its components, AH and ESP, offer the security services required, including confidentiality, and protection from man in the middle forms. IPSec encryption and authentication is generally regarded as highly secure (it can work with the latest FIPS approved standards, e.g. AES (Rijndael)). The only minor caveat is in key establishment, but that, too, can be easily solved.

It is important to keep in mind that not all MPLS networks are created equal. Some telecommunications providers route Internet traffic across the same backbone that also caries MPLS traffic while some have built dedicated private network MPLS only backbones.

Some vendors allow customer controlled routers to inject MPLS labels into the network and therefore they could be subject to spoofing attacks while other vendors edge routers will have ingress and egress policies that will reject and shutdown any customer edge interface that has has MPLS packets on them.

Some vendors require check sums and authentication of peering routers with static addresses assigned and controlled others do not care. And some vendors allow full encryption of traffic prior to MPLS encapsulation but others will warn you that you will lose classes of service etc. if you do that.

Key to the question is "which organization"? The answer is also linked to the use case for the technology. Three combinations immediately spring to mind - and more will probably crop up if anyone cares to offer comments in reply.

* Use Case 1 - Shared Public Network - SP Perspective

If you are looking at the ISP/SP that is providing shared access across common equipment then MPLS-VPN is a solid technology that provides good segmentation of traffic. In that respect it is an excellent technical approach that provides benefits. As pointed out above implementation is the key!

* Use Case 2 - Shared Public Network - Consumer Perspective

From the perspective of the consumer of the service that is provided the MPLS VPN is transparent. The term VPN is potentially misleading in that there is no tunnel from end-point to end-point. It is more of a Virtual Circuit on the packet-based network. There is no security provided by the MPLS technology because access to the routers = access to the data and control of that is with a third party.

* Use Case 3 - Private Network over SP Infrastructure

The third use case is on the backbone of the network inside a large organisation where the MPLS infrastructure is managed across an infrastructure provided by a third-party SP/ISP cloud. In this scenario the MPLS services can provide separation of traffic, control and QoS in a "VLAN on Steroids" approach. Again implementation is key.

* Approach to Regulation and Encryption

If an organisation is regulated for privacy - healthcare, financial services etc., then it is going to want to layer a full VPN implementation over the MPLS to provide the tunnel security that is usually the interpretation of the legislation. In current implementations, that VPN could be SSL/TLS based or IPSEC, but will generally use strong encryption from end-to-end and incorporate good key-management processes.

I hope this summary prompts more discussion (sic comments in reply) - as there is a lot of confusion about the security implications of these technologies. But it's a good question to ask.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

TV Over The Internet .... How Does TVoIP Work And Where Can You Get It?

TV over the internet technology ..... or TVoIP for short .... allows for something far richer than just channels; instead, service providers can store pre-recorded content purchased from studios and use their existing bandwidth to create a variety of new revenue-generating bandwidth and pricing bundles that satisfy a wide variety of viewing needs. As TVoIP technology becomes more widespread, more types of providers will emerge offering new types of content.

Today's TVoIP models employ four main components--an encoder, a server farm, a set-top box and middleware--that all exist today.

• The encoder works as a media gateway, preparing video content for distribution throughout the IP network. It encodes analog signals into digital format (e.g., MPEG, Windows Media) and demodulates, demultiplexes and transcodes digital formats such as Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB).

• The server farm hosts pre-recorded television content and feature films. A network personal video recorder (PVR) function lets viewers rewind, fast-forward and replay television programming stored on the server farm.

• The subscriber's set-top box receives the media stream, typically via a customer premise equipment (CPE) device such as an asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) modem, and decodes it for display on a television set. The box's user interface lets customers interact with video servers.

• Middleware software integrates the elements of TVoIP into a complete system. It handles media asset management, channel management and scheduling, billing, security and conditional access, system management and other management functions.

Cons:

Listening to your family complain that it just doesn't work like Cable TV.

Pros:

Lot's more content. Plenty of independent stuff like Anaboom and Wallstrip that CATV won't carry. Since the FCC doesn't regulate TVoIP, there is also Adult content (if you are into that).

TVoIP tends to be more video on demand and less broadcast. It takes a change of mindset to get used to.

Services and Programs

Here is a list to give you an idea (and get you started if you're interested) .....

* Joost: The favorite of many so far. You download the Joost viewer and browse through the channels or use the search function. Lots of content, full episodes. New stuff added daily.

* Hulu: Not very impressive. Mostly just clips, not full episodes. Even the shows that say they have full episodes will have maybe one or two full shows and then a bunch of clips.

* Veoh: They do restream hulu content, as well as some others. Looks like there may be content overlap with Joost.

* JLC's internet TV: Many like this one too. But it can be frustrating. The channel listing has many bad links. But once you find the good ones... This is one of the few that tunes in streams, not VOD. Lots of independent content, all the religious channels seem to be present.

* TVUnetworks: Don't know much on this one .... but some seem to like it.

* Amazon Unbox (yes, that Amazon): Lots of great content, at $1.99 per episode.

* In2Streams.com: Looks interesting. It's a subscriptions based service, $10.99 a month I think. From what I understand, you download a playlist into your Media Player. It works with VLC and Winamp. One of the few that should work with Linux, and Macs.

* JohnQ.com, Dishnetpc.com, PremiumTVforPC.com, WatchTVonPC.com, SatelliteTVonPC.com, and a host of others with simular names: They sell you a software viewer that is supposed to recieve over 9,000 channels (if you believe the hype). I have heard that most of these are not worth it. If you want to give it a try you can go to Undernation.com and find a cracked version of DishnetPC to try out.

* Miro: It's kind of like JLC's Internet TV on steroids. It will tune in streams like JLC. But it also claims it will scrape video links off web pages, so if you type in the URL of a web page, it will give you a list of the streams. It will also manage your RSS video feeds as well. Warning, it likes to download video to your hard drive. Make sure you have plenty of room.

* Video.discovery.com: A download of a viewer to watch shows from the Discovery network (Discovery channel, History channel, etc.). Sounds intriguing.

* Vuze: Don't know much about this one.

* For sports there are live streaming sites such as:

- ESPN
- MLB (major league baseball)
- NFL Anytime (National Football League)

There you go. Everything you need to know about TV over the internet. What it is, how it works, and where you can get it if you'd like to see for yourself (pun intended).

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Bandwidth Calculator Resources

One of the frequent needs of IT staff and network integrators is to determine various parameters of bandwidth needs. Having just the right tool to accomplish this is not always easy. Knowing where to find a bandwidth calculator that will do the job is harder than it looks.

But ..... it doesn't have to be.

To help ... here's links to a few bandwidth calculator resources you can choose from. Simply input some parameters ..... and see how much bandwidth you need, or what can you do with what you've got.

* Numion

The tools available via Numion enable capabilities including the following:

- Download time calculator Bytes --> Time

How long does it take to download a big fat image, or mp3, or zip? This calculator will show the time for lots of different modems.

- Download bytes calculator Time --> Bytes

How much data can you download per day? This calculator will show the gigabytes for lots of different modems.

- Speed reduction by distance Connection speed and Distance --> Throughput

Further away is slower, but by how much? This calculator shows how much your speed is reduced by the distance to the server.

- Server requirement calculator Visitors per day --> Bandwidth needed

How much bandwidth does your server need? Input the number of visitors per day and find out. You will be surprised at how little bandwidth you actually need.

- Server capability calculator Bandwidth available --> Visitors per day

You have a server connected at a certain bandwidth. How much visitors can you handle before you have to get more bandwidth?

- Server capability calculator 2 Slowest page --> Visitors per day

How much visitors can your server handle, given the slowest page?

- PageSize calculator Download time --> filesize

You are building a new website and want to know how large your pages can be. Enter the waiting time that you find acceptable and the average speed of your visitors, and the calculator will show how large your pages may be.

- Unit converter

Convert between bits, bytes, kilo, mega, and giga.

* iCalc

The iCalc File Size Bandwidth Calculator will help you determine how long it will take to transfer a file at each connection speed. Simply enter the file size (in KB, MB, GB) .... and the type of connection in bits per second (already entered in the table for the calculator) will yield a calculation for each in hours, minutes, and seconds.

The type of connection range is 14.4 kbps through OC48 ..... and the bits per second range is from 14,4000 bps through 2488 Mbps. So you have a wide spectrum you can evaluate for.

* VoIP Bandwidth Calculator

This calculator can be used to estimate the bandwidth required to transport a given number of voice paths through an IP based network. Reverse calculations are also possible. These estimate the number of voice paths that can be transmitted though an IP network if the available bandwidth is known.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Small Business Resources Cafe .... Help For Small Business Information Technology Needs

If you're a small business you need technology solutions to stay ahead of the competition ... and run your business effectively and efficiently. Flying by the seat of your pants is not an option.

For help, resources, tools, tips, and insights .... specific for Small Business applications .... I recommend you visit:

Small Business Resources Cafe

You'll find articles and links to resources for .... setting up a virtual office, website hosting, computer support, email marketing, custom business websites, business cell phones & accessories, video surveillance & security, high speed business internet, "follow me" toll free 800 service, conferencing (audio, video, and web), free training for online marketing, PCs, Laptops, PDAs, Peripherals, & More.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Just What Is Wireless Convergence?

Wireless convergence, from a customer point of view, means that:

"I have a device (handheld, portable,.. mobile) with no wires. This device is able to connect to the best wireless network available (WiFi, Wimax, GPRS, 3G, HSDPA). I can consumpt any product (music, video, messaging) that I've purchased, but the service is delivered adapted to the performance of my device (CPU, memory, storage) and the performance of the network: so it's seamless".

So that implies:

- Advanced devices. The question then becomes: Which player in the market is the natural provider for this device? Is it a mobile handset vendor, or a consumer electronic vendor or a computer/PDA vendor? Apple, HTC, Nokia, Samsung, Philips, everybody has a different point of view.

The goal of Wireless Convergence is to enable a single wireless device to interact seamlessly over multiple wireless networks. Clearly, this means that it is able to send the same bits over multiple kinds of wireless networks.

This is a fairly utopian dream if the complete wireless communication spectrum is considered as well as all kinds of wireless networks. There are so many technical issues that this can probably never be done.

Interestingly, there are many multi-radio devices available today commercially. However, they do not fall under this category, since the radios are used for different goals. Thus, the better way to look at it is to consider the similar but competing technologies and look for a method of convergence.

In reality there is no such thing as Wireless convergence.

Transmission media define the material that is used to enable the connectivity of the service .... and this can be wired or wireless.

There are services and applications that are portable across the devices that operate on these wired and wireless network .... which when employed with device adaptation can claim to offer a NGN but really all that we provide is terminal / device adaptation.

And there is the convergence of the industry specific applications offering terminal / device adaptation.

When people talk about wireless convergence they often mean the things mentioned above. They also often mean some form of multi-mode RF device that switches between the RF layers of the device in some intelligent sense, but this is not wireless convergence.

No, wireless convergence does not exist. It was dreamt up as a term in many boardrooms to describe many distinct phenomena, but usually it is better to describe each phenomena (and its distinct manifestation) rather than to encapsulate them under a convergence theme.

To really understand wireless convergence, it makes sense to look at what has happened to wireline services.

Early wireline was strictly voice, with some service enhancements (caller ID, voicemail, etc.) The internet changed that and soon we began looking to our wireline connections to do more. Early wireline providers such as AOL and Compuserve, provided full application and content to the users. Users were charged per minute usage rates for these services. As wireline services evolved, the ISP changed from content and application providers to simply internet connection providers. The model of running an application on the machine to access the internet (e.g. AOL's software) fell away and just about everything on the device (pc) began to use the connection. The old wireline services such as phone use is now falling away for VoIP services completing the transition to wireline becoming just a connection point and nothing more.

Wireless evolution is following this parallel, no longer are wireless providers a service provider, but instead they are network providers. Wireless used to be a per minute service, but many offer monthly unlimited plans now. The service platform is falling away as devices trend towards the smart-phone style platforms. No longer do we need MMode, HomeDecks, and other launching platforms that mimic AOL of the 90's.

In my opinion, the convergence will be complete when you purchase a wireless device only for the connection, and you are allowed to chose your own voice (and other service) providers ala cart. While cross technology devices (gsm/wifi/wimax) are a part of the evolution, I don't think they're required for convergence. And contrary to what some may say, UMA (unlicensed mobile access) is an excellent example of the handoff between network topologies that exists today.

Also in my opinion, the biggest roadblock to convergence is not the technology, it's the corporations involved. It's too difficult to let go of the service model as it's usually where the margins are the highest for the provider. But that is the price of combining technology evolution with making money. Someone has to pay for all of our new toys.

Convergence is, at the end of the day, a user accessing any content on any device on any network at any location. With next gen service delivery platforms that sit at the intersection of networks, applications, OSS/BSS systems, and subscribers, we are getting closer. There is extensive work being done, outside of IMS (another long stroy) that is working to standardize the services environment for platform/network interoperability. Of course, this assumes that subscriber data is transparent across networks and platforms, and is accessible by 3rd party app providers who are in partnership with the service providers. OTT/UGC is another issue altogether, not tied into convergence but tied into the business model.

Convergence will get here, just not in the time, shape, form, or way that is 100% of how we think it will get here.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

SDSL vs T1 ... Which Is The Best Bandwidth Solution For YOUR Business?

SDSL or T1 bandwidth .... which would you choose as the bandwidth solution backbone for your business? Good question ... often asked ... and the answer is NOT as complicated as many make it out to be.

There are many differences:

1. DSL is distance sensitive to the CO (Carrier Office). T-1 lines are not.

2. DSL is a shared connection. A T-1 is a dedicated connection.

3. DSL is typically oversubscribed by your phone company. The best way I can think to describe it is that there are more users than there is available bandwidth. The phone company counts on the fact that everyone won't be using the bandwidth at the same time. You may notice slowdowns during peak times.

4. T-1s typically have lower latency.

5. T-1s typically have better SLAs (Service Level Agreements).

6. If your T-1 line goes down, it will typically be guaranteed to be repaired much faster than your DSL line.

7. Many DSL providers have bandwidth caps. Your T-1 bandwidth is yours.

Those are just a few that come to mind ... there are others but I wanted to focus you on the basics.

I think the key difference between SDSL and T1 is the circuit between your location and the carrier office.

A T1 circuit will be a specially engineered data circuit specially conditioned for digital data and it has to be designed by the LEC (Local Exchange Carrier) from POP (Point Of Presence) to premise.

SDSL uses a voice grade equivalent analog circuit, which is why it's less expensive and quicker to install -- no special engineering required. This leads to some consequences especially when there is a problem: an analog circuit is not a priority for restoration efforts, whereas a T1 is a top priority for restoration. Don't take my word for it. Just ask your carrier about the difference for mean time to repair for both SDSL and T1.

If you're putting this into your home so your geeky kid can play WoW then the repair time won't be such a big deal .... compared to if you are running a business and you're employees and customers don't expect any downtime.

Bottom line is if you believe your business functions are critical .... than a T1 is a must.

For help in finding the right T1 based business bandwidth solution for you .... I suggest using the no cost support available here: T1 Bandwidth

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Friday, September 05, 2008

OC3 Bandwidth VS Business Ethernet For Your Network Infrastructure

Choices, choices .... do you pick OC3 Bandwidth or business ethernet to power your business network infrastructure?

I am actually quite surprised to see how widespread SONET networks still are after 20 years. SONET networks have the following advantages over all packet networks ....

1) Protection: Restoration of services after the detection of a fault is done within 60 mS. All packet networks can do this as well, if an RPR architecture is implemented. Restoration capability in SONET networks comes at a cost; 50% of your bandwidth is sitting idle. RPR reuses the spare bandwidth resulting in 100% network utilization.

2) Network Management: SONET systems have much evolved and hence powerful feature sets in their vendor provided NMS's.

3) Performance Monitoring is also more evolved in SONET systems and facilitates troubleshooting greatly.

4) Synchronization: Back haul applications like cell tower requiring accurate synchronization currently have less issues deriving clock from SONET networks than they do from Ethernet based networks. Timing solutions like IEEE 1588 exist for Ethernet networks and are evolving to address outstanding issues.

Despite the fact that OC3 equipment is very cheap, I would implement any new infrastructure using all packet technology. The scalability can be done on the fly in fine (1 Mb/s) and coarse increments (10, 100 Mb/s). Unlike TDM or SONET networks where you are stuck with T1, DS3, OC3 and OC12 increments, etc. Ethernet technology is ubiquitous and is the way of the future.

However, while Ethernet is a great alternative for many of today's networks, there is still a strong marketplace for OC-3 services, particularly when you look at the price of an OC-3 compared to 2, 5 or even 10 years ago. Also, unless there is a dramatic requirement for migrating to all Ethernet based services, existing OC-3s retain money already spent on infrastructure hardware and it is still relatively easy to troubleshoot. For newer networks, let your applications and services drive your requirements for Ethernet based services, at which point it comes down to cost versus functionality.....

For no cost assistance in evaluating whether OC3 bandwidth is right for you .... use the services of: OC3 Bandwidth Solution

For help determining if business ethernet is available AND a good choice for your bandwidth solution .... use the free tool and support provided here: Business Ethernet Solution

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

What Do Telecom Agents Really Want?

What do Telecom Agents aka “channel partners” really want from an agent program, from the carrier and/or from the agent manager?

There are plenty of Carriers out there looking to sign you up as an agent, and these guys are persistent. Generally there is no cost to signing up as an agent though be mindful of the contract terms and overhead involved to manage relationships with multiple carriers.

For me most important is the selection of services and providers which the carrier represents. Why work with 10 Providers individually when you can work with one Carrier who can represent all 10.

Also, financial viability of the Carrier is important, you want to make sure they can serve the long term needs of your customer and that they can continue to pay your residual. Make sure the carrier has a good support track record, poor support will lead to frustrated clients. Even though you are just a sales agent your clients will call you to escalate issues if the Carrier is not responsive.

In terms of compensation, look for fair up front and monthly residuals. Not all Carriers will offer up front on all services so make sure you are comfortable with the monthly residual. Some Carriers offer a minimum up front spiff and no residual, these are your last resort guys, sometimes they can offer service where others can't or can offer more competitive pricing.

The bottom line is that if you will be out selling these services make sure you are comfortable with the compensation. If not tell them what you would look for, most are open to some negotiation.

Further, the answer is to beg the question, which Agent niche in Telecom? Network? Hardware? Software? Each niche has their special set of unique requirements. Each niche gets more complex in a solution thus requiring a specialty in training and experience. Some of those who have answered the question have touched on the big sore spots for Agents in each niche.

The one glaring answer that is still missing is; Partnership. Agents wants a Vendor, whatever the niche, that will truly Partner with them. All to many Vendors have jettisoned their entire Agent Channel with a new regime or reorg flavor of the quarter. But more to the point, Agents really need a Vendor who will come along them, invest in their training, share leads with them and assist in closing them. Now both parties have skin in the game and that’s the glue that is needed in any relationship.

Sure, fair comp is good. But let’s face facts, the Agent will leave that vendor in heartbeat if the next Vendor will up the payment. Just like many customer will run down the street to save a fist full of dollars. So what the glue? “Skin in the game”. Some Vendors do need to step up their comp plan to Agents especially given their cost of sale acquisition. But where almost all Vendors need to step up is their investment in the Agent. Arm the Agent and he’ll battle, loyally, all day long for you the Vendor.

I would say there are many things that the carriers can do to build the relationship.

* Get orders completed and installed asap, if something is wrong with order, let the agents know asap, that way they can get it resolved.

* Money - you must have an aggressive compensation plan. I would suggest "checking" around to see what other carriers are offering. Some agents prefer the bigger upfront payment, some prefer high residual percentages. Or often just a mixture of both.

* Support - You must have dedicated people to support your agents. Let them know a few people they can call that will help them out if you're not available.

* Product Porfolio - Its great when you have the ability to provide your customer with everything from POTs lines to T1s, MPLS, SIP, etc. If you can offer products for each size business customer, an agency can have many different marketing strategies.

* Leads - If you have some way of providing leads to your agents, that helps alot.

* All of those things will build your relationship with the agencies. Always be there for your agents and go the extra mile. This will pay off in the long run, and your companies services will be sold more than others.

With all of the above considered ... I can hands down recommend affiliating with Telarus as an agent. Telarus is an award winning Master Agency with recognition from numerous major Telcos for their performance, support, training, and more. Everything addressed above is top notch ... for more info go to:

VAR Network

VAR Partner

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Monday, September 01, 2008

Why Is VoIP Telephony Not Replacing "Traditional" Home Phones?

Lets get something straight first. VoIP in the business environment is very viable and has made great strides in that market niche. For businesses looking for VoIP telephony (broadband phone) alternatives I suggest perusing these 2 resources:

Small Business Broadband

Business VoIP

But in the home market .... it's a different story. Why?

Whichever country you're in, I suspect the main answer to this is that incumbent telcos see consumer VoIP as a very big threat to their business (with good reason)

However, another good reason is due to the inherent potential for poor call quality, problems with echo and it's intolerance towards any significant delay in transmission. The fact that it's still an emerging technology means that people who depend on their telephone services working 100% reliably 99.999% of the time are going to be very quick to rule out VoIP, especially in a non-mobile environment. It's worth remembering that most mobile services nowadays are *very* closely related to VoIP - and just about everyone has had a laugh at someone doing the "mobile dance" as their signal breaks up and try to get themselves into a better location for reception.

I've been playing with VoIP for a couple of years now and while the technology is looking good, there are a lot of things that *must* be taken into consideration - again, look at the problems encountered on a mobile phone network which is a *very* controlled voice over data network. VoIP will certainly play a big part of the telecommunications market in years to come, but it will be a slow and gradual move.

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