Doug on IP Comm – An independent voice on VoIP, telecom, and IP Communication

Posts Tagged ‘AT&T

You’ll find three (3) pieces about HD voice from AstriCon over at the HD Connect Now website (www.hdconnectnow.org)–

Bottom line: You have to look REALLY hard to find a VoIP handset that doesn’t have support for the G.722 wideband codec these days.  Even Cisco’s $130 cheap-end VoIP phone has G.722 built in… and yes, I’m sure people are going to start nit-picking about mic quality, speaker quality, does the gear really sample at 16 KHz, etc… we’ll see.

Also very interesting that AT&T is quietly trialing HD voice in its back yard. No details yet on exactly what is going on; I’m hoping the company will be as forthcoming as Verizon Business, but then again, AT&T never rolled out Casabi after playing with it nearly a decade ago..

AT&T, trying to avoid a FCC dope-slapping, announced that yes, it would allow Skype to make lower cost phone calls on the iPhone.  Interestingly, this comes on the heels of Vonage’s iPhone client last week.  Regardless of the outcome, don’t expect AT&T to rollover and play dead when it comes to net neutrality.

Allowing Skype and other mobile VoIP apps on iPhone to dial up phone calls on its 3G data network was in some respects inevitable.   Pressure from both the FCC and Congress and a Democratic administration (Note to the Republican Party:  You know where to get funding for 2010 and 2012, right?), meant either having a long, drag-out, dog-ugly PR fight with enough media floggings on how poor the AT&T’s 3G network already delivered — not exactly a winner when Verizon is looking to spin up LTE ASAP and the exclusives on the iPhone may be going away.  Best to simply bite the bullet and keep the focus on more important battles.

Ironically, all those media complaints about poor iPhone/3G service will serve AT&T well when it has to go into FCC and Capital Hill hearings. “We need to have the ability to manage our network,” will cry AT&T executives, “Look at the problems we have now.”  Will it quiet angry Congressmen? No. But expect Verizon to smile smugly on the panel.

Net neutrality had been relatively dormant under the previous administration, but an all-Democratic Congress and Administration has put the issue front-and-center.   FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski drew a line in the sand this week to carriers and they’re reacting with their usual party lines.

In a Monday speech at the Brookings Institute, Genachowski indicated the FCC would formalize net neutrality rules and tossed in two additions to the “Powell Principles” while he was at it.  The first four are: consumers must be able to access the lawful Internet content, applications, and services of their choice, and attach non-harmful devices to the network.

Added to the list are : 5) To prevent Internet access providers from discriminating against particular Internet content or applications, while allowing for reasonable network management and 6) Ensure that Internet access providers are transparent about the network management practices they implement.

In October, the FCC will start a formalized process with a NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking), asking for comment from the community — yes, that sound you hear is the spin up of corporate lobbyists and their “paidroot” shills — and then maybe sometime next year, there will be actual rules that emerge for a vote.

Among the biggest complainers so far are the wireless network providers who already have been under fire for exclusive deals on phones.  The mobile guys say that they need to be able to manage their networks due to bandwidth constraints — which kind of begs the question as to why AT&T offered the iPhone in the first place and the move to a data-intensive LTE world.  Verizon’s stock response to any suggestion of government regulation boils down to “Everything is OK, we don’t need more government rules, these are not the droids you are looking for, please move on…”

Look for the real fireworks to cut loose this fall once the NPRM is issued and the PR machines of AT&T and Verizon start cranking.

Can we just cut to the chase and allow VoIP apps on the iPhone already, regardless of who does them and what network they use?

AT&T has apparently ‘ fessed up that, why yes, the iPhone deal does block VoIP apps from using its cellular network, but VoIP over Wi-Fi is somehow OK.

And Apple is still “reviewing” the Google Voice app because it mucks with its look-and-feel, changing the “experience.”  Doesn’t this smack of buying an IBM PC and being told you have to use IBM’s software — rather than someone else’s? Don’t we have case law floating around on this particular point already?  C’mon public policy lawyers, get your textbooks out and challenge this already!

After all the years of bitching and whining about “Think Different” and “1984,” Apple has demonstrated it is just as petty and can pull the same sort of crap as any other company intent on holding onto market share by Any Means Necessary.  Being a snob is one thing, being a bully is another.

It has a good collusion buddy in AT&T, who doesn’t seem to think that its own actions won’t move the FCC to do something real soon. Maybe AT&T is right, but it should start worrying about the Next Big Thing rather than trying to pretend we’re in pre-monopoly land all over again.

Apple decides to pull the plug off of Google Voice-related apps, supposedly at the request (or a wink and a nod) from AT&T, because the App allows free text messaging and two cent per minute international calls.  The Federal Communications Commission decides this Isn’t Right and has launched an investigation of sorts.

So the latest showdown on Net Neutrality begins, and it couldn’t come at a worse time for AT&T.  Some members of Congress are already up in arms over the absurd profitability on text messaging along with the grumbling about extensive exclusivity on the iPhone.  Verizon, being no dummy, decides to sit up straight and open up its “exclusive” arrangements to smaller carriers within six months and announces it will have a crack at the Palm Pre shortly, thereby further highlighting the oh-so-monopolistic-esque practices of AT&T.

Apple? It could care less. Apple does what Apple does and the rest of the world takes it or leaves it.

Google Voice is rolling out a web site for access to GV services, so now the whole app thing is about ready reach a new level of absurdity.  Would AT&T go so far as to block access to the Google Voice website? Well, if it did, the torches and pitchforks would be out in full force from all sides, so I don’t think it’s going to happen. If it did, AT&T would have another public relations fiasco on its hands and Verizon would probably do another posturing stunt to show A) How nice it really is and B) Why the government really doesn’t need to regulate the free market…

So where’s Skype?  One would have thought that Skype would have been at the top of the highest soapbox bellowing out the virtues of Net Neutrality, but the company has been strangely quiet as the Apple/AT&T-Google Voice cat fight has evolved.  Perhaps this is because for all of Skype’s public rhetoric about Net Neutrality, the company has preferred appeasement to confrontation with a neutered version of Skype for the AT&T iPhone.

Or perhaps with Google Voice getting most of the spotlight and potentially stealing away long-distance minutes from Skype, Net Neutrality is a good idea for Skype so long as it doesn’t promote competitive alternatives…

Comcast has announced a free mobile app for the iPhone to allow its customers access to all of the company’s “favorite” services, including  a unified email inbox, visual voice mail, address book sync, TV listings, and trailers.   One could almost image a Comcast product manager opening up his window and yelling “Can you hear me now, Verizon?”

More seriously, Comcast has bypassed normal politics by working with the iPhone/iPod touch — an AT&T-exclusive device — to provide a unified user interface, so a triple play customer can check email and even listen to voice mail in one combined in-box, manage voice mail and call logs,  and get calls forwarded from a Comcast home phone to an iPhone and manage all those home phone details.

Universal address sync is cool, but you’d expect that sort of functionality from anyone who bought Plaxo. 🙂

For video junkies, the “what’s on TV” feature and the movie trailers are a nice little touch, and will keep someone who has 2 minutes of idle time on their hands entertained.

Perhaps the more interesting question is if/when Comcast rolls out other versions of this client to other platforms. An Android port shouldn’t be too touch, but are there enough ‘droid users to justify the work and support?

Best Buy is offering Sprint bundle deal offering a netbook for 99 cents (yes, under a dollar) with a two year contract commitment. Dan Hesse, are you crazy, or crazy like a fox?

I was a little shocked when I first saw the Best Buy Sunday ad flier — I thought that there had been a mistake on the price, especially since AT&T and Verizon wanted a couple hundred dollars AND a two year commitment for the same machine — a Compaq Mini 110c-1040DX netbook with embedded 3G connectivity and listing for $389 without a contract.

The actual netbook ain’t all that great actually; given  it has a 10.1 inch screen and only a 3 cell battery, it is a little pricey for what you get with the exception of the built-in connectivity.

So how does Sprint manage to eat $200 relative to AT&T and Verizon? Subsidy deals are no big deal in the cellular industry, and the 99 cent notebook seems to be Sprint’s latest gambit to grab market share.

Compare $390 list for the netbook to the list price of the spankin’ new Palm Pre – $850.  The price drops to $200 after you buy at Best Buy and sign a two year contract with Sprint so the delta is $650 or so if everyone is paying list price. The Samsung Instinct, listed at $600, goes down to $100 after a two year contract, so there’s $500 of magic math difference.

Some phones are already effectively “free,” so seeing a netbook at “free” in exchange for a two year commitment isn’t surprising.

Be interesting to see if AT&T or Verizon have to respond.  Will they go 99 cents, $99 dollars, or $149.99?