Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Google's wifi phone service - what is the bigger picture?

And all our prophecies fall in place!

Google announced it's partnership with Nokia for wi-fi phone service. A threat to cellular service, as we'd predicted last year, will leverage VoIP for making cheap calls using Google Talk (VoIM).

We will have to wait till end of this year for the rollout.

I have some concern about the limitations. An initial service using nokia's tablet costing $360 will be only accessible between users of Google Talk on either end. A user based in SF area needs a wi-fi hotspot and atleast one device in the communication channel.

Secondly, as a connected consumer, I have to use another GSM phone either locally (without hotspots or non-wifi phone end users), or, if trotting outside SF. And, what about the impending WiMax technoglogy or even HSPA that will conquer most of the wifi issues? The mobile operators will likely address ubiquity and device/billing management issues.

Consumers are sick of carrying multiple phones and paying the hefty amounts for phone calls. Although, convergence was sought in UMA phones, nothing much is being said or done about it. There are issues about connectivity and telco's egotistical views. Why would anyone surpass their infrastructure they build painstakinly over years. Though most of them succumbed to MVNO and VoIP deals worldwide(eg. Hutch's deal with skype in Europe was openly chided by other telcos). Having said that, wonder why Nokia didn't use UMA technology for addressing the bigger picture or are they saving it a for another experiment?

Skype which is already tasting success in UK, for example, is also planning a similar service somtime later in the US.

Amidst all these developments, a community wi-fi with astronomical speed of 600kbps was recently unveiled in Austin, Texas. Now, don't we need wi-fi phone service to complement this resource?

Skype, want to give it a try?

Friday, May 12, 2006

wireless this week

"The US National Security Agency was forced to confess that it had been trying to log every telephone call in the United States, creating the biggest database in world history with the assistance of AT&T, Verizon, MCI, Sprint-Nextel and essentially everyone else but without getting a warrant. Whether or not this was actually illegal, as opposed to merely terrifying, remains to be seen.

But those concerned that the spooks are eavesdropping on them do have an option short of retiring to a bunker in the woods with a machine gun and five years' stock of biscuits. They can cancel their current service and take their trade to Qwest Communications or T-Mobile USA, both of whom refused to turn in their customers without a warrant.

T-Mobile's UK division, meanwhile, was trying its best to prevent any outbreak of public sympathy that the affair might have triggered. This week, the carrier announced its HSDPA datacards were going on sale, for £58 plus £40 a month for unlimited data service and access to T-Mobile WLAN hotspots. It sounds a cracking deal, but sadly, no! The carrier is threatening to cut off anyone caught using VoIP, supposedly because it is concerned that the VoIP will not be good enough. "It's not yet of a consistent or high enough level of quality to offer a good customer experience on the T-Mobile network," said a minion.

That's right, it's all for your own good and NOTHING WHATEVER to do with dishing the competition. Funny, then, that competitor 3UK is actively encouraging mobile Skype, and that when T-Mobile itself switched on its OFDM-FLASH whizzynet in Slovakia senior execs promised there would be no port-blocking.

O2 was faced with that prospect this week, as its contract to supply 3 with the GPRS stepdown from their 3G network was not renewed. Under the national roaming contract, when a 3 subscriber stepped out of UMTS coverage, their gadget would move "seamlessly" onto the O2 network. It brought in a reliable £100m a year, but now Orange is to latch onto it after outbidding O2 in an auction (presumably a Dutch auction, but you never know). Orange has 99 per cent population coverage in the UK, compared to some 88 per cent for 3, so it's clear there's money in it.

O2 that was begat of BT is planning to get a fixed-line service. And, forsooth, BT is speaking of mobiles.But whatever O2 does about it, strange to tell, its traffic will be travelling over the same copper wires that once belonged to O2 in the days of BT Cellnet and now belong to BT."

More money of spectrum is in the works.