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

Posts Tagged ‘cable company

This week, Jeff Pulver is in Denver for the CableLabs Summer Conference and will be speaking on a HD Voice panel for the invitation-only event on Tuesday.

Since CableLabs is the non-profit R&D consortium for cable operators, it will be interesting to see what CableLabs and the bigger operators have to say about HD voice.  CableLabs has set standards for HD voice via DECT 6.0 and the cable box, with end-to-end G.722 carrying phone calls.

Cablevision has already weighed in with a hosted business HD voice solution for its corporate customers while other companies — Comcast in particular — are holding their cards very tightly indeed.

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I’ve got a piece up about cable providers in North America looking at HD…

You can find the piece at– http://hdconnectnow.org/?p=58

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?

If you want to know one of the supporting reasons why Verizon continues to lose landlines, it boils down to one word: service.

My Verizon landline died sometime yesterday. I placed a service call last night and was told the latest someone would show up would be July 13 – seven days from the time I placed the call.

Seriously, WTF?

A test from the CO indicated that yes, indeedie, there was a problem, so a truck roll was scheduled. Iif a dispatcher could get someone out there earlier,  Verizon might be able to get someone out there; could I please provide two (2) other phone numbers to reach someone at the household.  So they have a “work” number (which, BTW, is a Cox phone line working fine) and a mobile number.

Other highlights of my call: “Did I check the dial tone access on the box outside?” No.  When did checking dial tone on the box outside become standard operating procedure?   “Work on the inside of the house is covered, you pay for maintenance…” Yes, we do,  but this apparently doesn’t get a truck roll out to me any sooner despite paying the extra $3 and change.

All this gives me flashbacks to when I moved about 3 years ago and tried to get service to my new house. It was almost literally a move across the street — no change in CO, no restart in billing, should have been a piece of cake.

Instead, it was a NIGHTMARE.

One phone number was supposed to be transferred over the weekend, but the house owners left their service on.   I called service, took time out of my day on a Friday, and was PROMISED that would be out that day.  10 AM rolled into noon, and I called Verizon again. “Someone will be out by 3 PM”… 3 PM rolled into 4, called again … “Someone will be out by 6 PM”… 6 PM came and went. “We can’t send someone out today, we’ll send someone out tomorrow.”

Saturday came and went, nobody showed up.

Monday rolls around, the dial tone from the previous owners ends and STILL no truck roll.  I call again, am told that because the previous owners didn’t have service turned off, they have rescheduled the truck roll — because they just CAN’T turn up service without a truck roll once the line is turned off — for two weeks later, thank you very much.

Since I live in a cell phone “dead zone” and have a small child, I am not f***ing pleased. I ask for a supervisor and tell her I had a live phone line in the house until yesterday, could she PLEASE try to do something in the switch?

And… 5 minutes later late on Monday I have one of two phone lines turned on. Lot of apologies about how Verizon was switching to a new dispatch/service system…. and that’s it.  No service credit, no paper…

Line number two came up after a truck roll about two weeks later.

A month or two after that, I called up Cox and moved line number two off Verizon.   The cable company gave me a TWO HOUR window when the tech would be out and it took them less than an hour to:

1) Find the right cable

2) Install the equipment on the side of the house

3) Switch the phone number out of Verizon’s CO over to their CO.

It would have been MUCH LESS than an hour, but the installer was training a new guy, so he was taking his time showing the rookie how to do things right, including nicely cutting the cable guys. In addition,  there was about 5-10 minutes on hold with the service center because it was lunch time.

Now, which would you prefer, a two hour service window, or a seven day service window? Cable may have gotten a bad rap for customer service in the past, but they’re kicking Verizon’s rear in my neighborhood today.

Deja cheap minutes! Comcast has jumped onto the how-low-can-you-go bandwagon, announcing a bundle of 300 anytime international minutes for a flat fee of $15 (well, $14.95 per month.  This fits in with the preaching I did late yesterday about vanilla voice minutes and this morning’s manifesto about the third wave of voice communications being HD.

Comcast says the WorldWide plan for its digital voice service could save consumers 20 to 30 percent when compared to traditional phone service plans, and encompasses–

  • 41 countries in Europe
  • 26 countries in the Caribbean, Central and South America
  • 20 countries in Asia and the Pacific
  • 8 countries in the Middle East
  • 5 countries in Africa

You can find a complete list of all the countries included over at www.comcast.com/internationalcalling

My quickie math works out to a price of 6.7 cents per minute; overages will be billed at “standard international rates,” whatever that translates to.  Six hours of calling around the globe will be attractive to a lot of people, and a headache to some.

One of my buddies from way-back was bemoaning the fact his mother-in-law had discovered VoIP service, so she’d call at 2:30 AM (local Eastern Time), talk for an hour at a time.  Last I heard, he was looking for was to selective degrade his broadband connection when she called to wrap up the conversation faster.

Optimum Lightpath’s HD voice offering is as much about being just another hosted application as it is about better quality voice calls, said company officials.

“One of the great promises of hosted voice is as the feature server is upgraded, [customers] don’t have to pay for an upgrade, said John Macario, Optimum Senior Vice President, Product Strategy and Management. “They’re getting it as a part of an ongoing relationship with us… we believe as new features are available, they should be made available, that is really what this is about.”

Last week, Optimum announced the first business HD voice service in North America.  The service is being delivered using BroadSoft’s (formerly GENBAND) M6 Communications Application Server and is designed to be an end-to-end, turn-key solution with a flat rate fee for bandwidth, minutes,  support, and customer phones and service.   Customers will get Cisco’s 7945 and 7965 IP phones and everything is designed for the G.722 codec from end-to-end.  For a typical-sized medium to large-sized business,  an all-inclusive service including phone and CPE, bandwidth, 24×7 monitoring and maintenance can work out to be $35 per seat per month.

Macario doesn’t expect HD voice to be for everyone. “Voice is not one size fits all, different companies have different needs,” he said. “We want to be able to offer them whatever solution is most appropriate.”  Optimum provides everything from TDM to SIP trunks and Cisco Call Manager in addition to hosted VoIP and a premise-based solution.

However, potential customers for Optimum’s HD voice are expected to mirror the company’s core market of medium to large businesses, including hospitals, educational institutions, municipal and county governments and financial service clients. “HD voice is applicable where there needs to be crisp, clear, well understood communications, a doctor talking to a nurse in the middle of a noisy conference room, two guys on talks to each other on the trading floor,” said Macario. “It’s not our view that HD voice is a killer app, but it is of benefit in those situations where crisp, clear, well understood communication is necessary.”

By taking an intra-company approach to the offering at this time, Optimum doesn’t have to worry about a critical mass of end-points, codecs, or other interoperability issues. That’s not to say that the company isn’t thinking about HD Communications calls between its own customers and ultimately the rest of the world. “We’ve thought about it, and we still have a little run time,” said Macario.  “We will wait and see where the demand is [for interconnecting and interoperability].”

Optimum Lightpath, Cablevision’s business arm, has announced what it terms the “first” high-definition voice service for mid-sized to large businesses, with service available in June 2009 in the New York metropolitan area.

The release touts using Optimum’s hosted VoIP service, shiny new Cisco IP phones, and the company’s fiber-optic network to deliver the best quality voice calls to and from anyone “within its business facilities.”  The service uses Cisco’s 7945 and 7965 IP phones and since those phones support the G.722 wideband codec, we have HD Communications.

Optimum is offering a turn-key end-to-end solution, probably the best way to roll out the service so it can assure QoS.  How many customers will bite on HD-quality for intra-facility calling will be interesting given Optimum’s footprint in the New York region.

From a historic perspective, Optimum/Cablevision has always been “pushing the envelope” when it has come to bringing in new technologies; the company was the first to roll out high speed 50 and 100 Mbps broadband service for businesses before DOCSIS 3.0 was formally locked down.

Interesting questions that come to mind are: 1) Will Optimum promote INTER-business HD calling among the customers who sign up for it? 2) Will this offering speed up the wheels at Verizon Business for a HD voice offering? (OK, probably not) 3) How will Optimum work on expanding/exchanging HD voice calling beyond its own footprint?

Given NYC’s business and international focus, if Optimum isn’t talking to France Telecom and BT about HD/G.722 interoperability now, it likely will be in the weeks to come. Optimum would be in the unique position to build the first HD “bridge” across the Atlantic between its HD island and those in operation/under construction in Europe.