This is an out and out advert for mobile VoIP services. If you haven’t already noticed I am in Helsinki at the moment.
My phone won’t pick up a mobile service. Bit irritating but not the end of the world. I dropped my wife an email letting her know I missed her already but she was probably not going to hear from me and not to worry.
The WiFi is great here, everywhere in the hotel and in the conference room. I’ve been able to carry on working. Then hey presto I remembered I had my Timico mobile client on my Samsung Galaxy S4.
I called home. The call quality was crystal clear. Had a nice chat with Anne and was reassured that everything was ok.
Not only did the call cost nothing, or worst case a local UK call charge, but the quality was much better than a cellular call would have been.
Only problem now is the two hour time shift & coordinating calls when we are both around and available.
Interesting to see how readership of this blog has changed year on year.
In March 12012 only 12% of visits came from mobile devices. By March 2013 the figure was 35.5%. The number of visitors to the blog has also grown by 88% year on year (March 2012 – March 20131) so the actual real terms increase in readers accessing trefor.net via a mobile device has increased by 458%.
I note that in 2012 the iPad was the most popular device followed by the iPhone and the SGS2. In 2013 this has changed to iPhone/iPad/SGS3 though there are so many variants of Samsung phones in use that if you add them all up the numbers for Android are roughly the same as for iOS.
There were very few visits from the Nokia Lumia series and none from the Blackberry Z10.
1 year on year for the full year numbers to the end of March have grown from 110k to 220k visits fwiw. It is only a small property as blogs go.
I started to look at mobile VoIP clients a good 8 or 9 years ago. At the time the handsets were near enough useless – battery life was rubbish and the processors lacked the oomph to properly run a SIP user agent.
The advent of the modern day smart phone has changed all this, together with years of development effort put in to improve the soft clients themselves.
Now, most of us have a VoIP client on our phone – almost certainly Skype, maybe 3CX, Bria or Eyebeam. I stopped counting the number of low cost VoIP calling services that you might use as the target for the mobile VoIP client.
Many desktop VoIP clients are not supported on mobile. So if you use MSN or Facebook or Google+ or Lync even their mobile clients almost certainly do not support voice but are just used for presence and Instant Messaging.
The dwindling list of vendors of Unified Comms equipment offer their own mobile VoIP clients, which necessarily have better functionality than those I’ve just mentioned from the major platforms. Ask Avaya or Mitel about it and they will proudly show off their solution. These vendor specific solutions usually use a third party soft client tailored to their specific need. Bria from Counterpath is one and MobileMax is another.
I am very proud to announce that Timico has introduced its own mobile VoIP client . There are some clear differentiators from the generic soft phones mentioned earlier and used with hosted solutions.
First of all the user’s account is tied to the employer’s VoIP subscription, so the desktop extension and DDI is the same as the mobile. The user interface is also similar to that of the soft client running on the desktop and is controlled using the same familiar portal. Mobile users can not only speak and do video calls with other users of the network, but are able the see the availability of others
There is more to the technology that goes in to making a successful mobile VoIP client than is at first apparent. A little technology primer might serve a useful purpose here. When you speak into a telephone you are using an analogue broadcast service, i.e. your voice. In order to get to the telephone at the far end this analogue signal is converted into data packets (i.e. digitised) and then transmitted using computer networking technology, in our case Internet Protocol and the layers of networking technologies that come under its umbrella.
The sent packets have to traverse a number of hurdles in the guise of different networks and routers before arriving at their intended destination (next door, Australia – anywhere connected to the internet). Voice is very time sensitive. You really notice the difference if there is a delay between the person at the other end speaking and you hearing it, and vice versa. Slow or poor quality hops in the network can affect the quality of the user experience.
Use of mobile networks for VoIP transmission comes with its own specific issues. 3G is a notoriously latency ridden data service and a number of mobile operators actually block VoIP services (although they are far from transparent in their approach to this). It is too early to assess the practical usability of 4G because there is only one service provider in the market and that network will be only lightly used. The issue of cost of bandwidth over a mobile carrier network has also historically made VoIP impracticable in many cases.
WiFi is the sensible alternative. Although even WiFi comes with its own issues with Ethernet style best efforts transmission. Packets that collide with other packets don’t arrive at their destination. The busier the local WiFi network, the more likely you are to suffer from poor quality voice.
In practical terms this is likely to mean if you are sitting in an office with many hot desks where WiFi is the principal means of connecting to corporate resources, then that network is likely to become congested. This congestion may not be particularly noticeable to laptop users just doing emails or general web use.
A congested WiFi network that is ok for most uses might not be good for VoIP. In an office environment this can be engineered around, by creating more cells/hotspots each with fewer users. At home there is far less likely to be a problem although VoIP packets in this scenario are more likely to be using the open internet for transmission.
A VoIP phone is actually a computer that looks like a phone. Fortunately the lost packet compensation and packet processing techniques used in modern mobile VoIP clients (smart phones/computers) are able to overcome many “noisy” environmental scenarios, or at least go a long way towards mitigating their effects.
Timico’s announcement today comes after some time working with partners (Genband) to develop the soft-client. The app is available on the Apple App Store to existing (and new!) Timico VoIP customers and is a piece of cake to install – use of our Mobile Endpoint Provisioning (MEP) portal means all the user has to do is enter a username and password and they are up and running.
The MEP is worth further mention. With the MEP comes the ability to change mobile client settings on-the-fly which provides the Timico operations team with a critical tool for managing your mobile VoIP solution in near real time. There are over 200+ settings that the MEP controls, including default codec selection, NAT traversal settings and the keep-alive timer value.
There are often deployments where we might initially need to make adjustments to these settings to suit the environment in which you use the service. We can do this transparently and without requiring interaction with the end-users.
Another feature to our service that is designed to provide the optimum user experience is our Client QOS notification. The mobile client analyses the RTCP statistics in real time. Should these stats fall below predefined thresholds then the user will receive a notification informing them of ‘network quality issues’.
I’ve been around polling some of the early users and got the following comments:
“I’ve ditched my deskphone and now just use the iPhone app”
“Connects very quickly”
“I was sat in Starbucks in Canada and used it to call the office”
I’m sure that I will have previously mentioned that last year we won the ITSPA Award for the best Enterprise Unified Comms service. This mobile client adds nicely to that existing feature-rich service set. It’s going to be a terrific tool for people who need to make calls out of the office but don’t want to pay extortionate roaming charges or use their own phones.
Because the VoIP service is tied to their company’s business account then all calls just appear on the standard monthly bill. Calls to other internal VoIP users are of course free.
So there we have it. The mobile VoIP client has finally come into the world of reliable, serious business strength communications. If you want to try the service check it out here . Press release yurr1.
Ofcom has announced the bidders in the 4G spectrum auctions. There are seven in total. Thought about bidding myself but I didn’t really have a firm plan of what to do with it if we managed to secure the spectrum.
The bidders include all the ones you would have expected – EE, O2, Vodafone and 3 in their various official corporate guises. Also PCCW who already offer a limited 4G fixed line replacement service in the UK. Then we have a company called MLL Telecom which has existing mobile spectrum licenses and provides managed networks in the UK.
Finally, and perhaps most interesting, is Niche Spectrum Ventures Limited, otherwise known as BT. This business was only registered in June of this year and has already had two name changes: initially BT Facilities Services Limited (until sept 2012) and then BT Ninety-Two Limited (changed only last month).
I don’t have any inside track here – BT is being very tight lipped regarding their plans – but if I were a betting man I’d say this was another step on the road to BT becoming a fully fledged mobile network operator, again.
At some stage after divesting itself of Cellnet BT realised it needed to be in mobile and so is now an MVNO, partnering with Vodafone. Buying 4G spectrum would be a natural step forward here.
Modern 4G kit is very flexible and can carry multiple operators networks – both in the modem and in VLANs applied to the various backhaul circuits. BT, with its own spectrum would be able to easily launch 4G services piggy backing on someone else’s existing infrastructure and the company has good relationships with both Voda (through the MVNO) and EE from its work in the Cornwall superfast broadband project. Indeed the company won an award earlier this year for demonstrating the solution that could be used in a country wide 4G rollout.
It would be a big move for BT, upping its mobile ante, especially as the incumbent mobile operators are fighting a headwind of revenue erosion, but converged networks are the way forward and for a company of BT’s size it has to have a mobile play.
That’s my bet and I’m sticking with it. We will find out soon enough.
The scam business continues. Just got what I think was another PPI mis-selling call via automated call to my mobile. The originating number was 07588034908. I was expecting a call and was just trying to figure out if this was it at the same time as answering the phone so I missed the first half sentence. I just caught the words “to claim your compensation press 5” so I hit the cancel button.
This is the first time I have had an automated phone call. I stayed with some friends in the USA once and they never used to take a call at home until the person had started to leave a voice mail so they knew who it was. They got so many automated calls it had become a real nuisance.
It started to get like that here to the point that the ICO has begun to address the problem. It may be that the ICO makes headway but I’d like to bet not. The law is complex with many areas where it is not easy to prove guilt. It is also difficult to know whether you have given permission for your number to be called by accidentally not unchecking a box at some stage of an online registration process. The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) certainly doesn’t seem to be effective.
There is more info on this subject on the ICO website here. It covers unwanted marketing calls, texts and faxes and tells you what is and isn’t allowed and what you should do if you get these unwanted communications.
I just registered the above phone number as the source though often these are pre-pay sims where the operator doesn’t know who the owner is. I rang it back but it is obviously just a machine making outbound calls. If we all register incidents as they happen we may at least make some progress.
The PPI mis-selling compensation industry may not be outside the law but the methods used to drum up leads must surely be pretty borderline.
Landline use seems to be in decline. When I got into the office this morning I called home. I’d lost a tie and thought I might have dropped it on our drive.
When I want to call someone my usual way is to go to the logs on my phone and click on the relevant number/name. As often as not the person I want to talk to is high up on the list of recent calls – wife, kids, stockbroker, shrink (etc).
I called my wife’s mobile. She didn’t answer. So I called “Home”. I had to scroll a very long way down the list of logs to find Home. In fact I last called Home at 20.08 on the 1st November. 70 calls or text messages down the list. Anne answered the Home phone and you will be happy to know that she found the tie, a very smart blue bow tie, and has it safe in the house.My point is that we are using our landline less and less. Typically for calls to grandparents. I’ve even taken to answering the home phone by saying “Newport Arch Chinese Restaurant” as quite often its a scammer on the other end of the line.
Everyone in our house has a mobile phone. All the adults are on all you can eat plans and it makes no different whether we use the fixed or mobile phone. Nobody rings me on the Home phone. The kids rarely use their phone for voice calls. They either text their friends or they use it to access the internet for Facebook Messaging. The youngest often goes online on the XBox if he needs to chat to a friend!
I’d like to bet that for a large proportion of the population the landline number is hardly used at all and is effectively only there because you need a landline to get Broadband.
There have occasionally been calls for BT (Openreach) to provide data only lines, known as “naked DSL” without the costs and overhead of the voice service. BT has always pushed back on this, saying there is no demand and that the costs would not be greatly reduced.
It would be interesting to see how many households don’t use their landline at all. My bet is that millions of us would put our hands up and voluntarily relinquish possession of our old fashioned phone. It might be worth having the debate…
It’s been a busy month on the mobile internet usage, what with the Olympics and being on holiday. So far this month, and it is pretty much over, I have consumed just shy of 20GB of internet bandwidth using my Samsung Galaxy S3. That’s 2.40GB of 3G/mobile data and 17.13GB using WiFi.
My hard drive tells me I have taken 9.38GB of photos and videos and I’m sure there are a few sound files on top of that though they won’t contribute much towards the total.
The first screenshot shows the applications that were the heaviest mobile data users.
Note that Gallery is the number one user by far. I like the way that Android pulls down albums from my online Google+ store but clearly there is a price to pay for this with the data usage.
At number two Tweetdeck comes as no surprise and I’m thinking OS Services must mean operating system upgrades and / or general system management though I’m not totally sure about this. I’d normally save any major OS upgrades for WiFi.
During the month I did a lot of speed testing which shows up in the stats as that app came in fourth.
Straight internet access/web browsing was only the 6th most popular activity! In total 56 apps used the mobile data connection to some extent in August!
The next screenshot is of the WiFi usage from the phone.
Obviously it was used a lot more when in range of WiFi.
You can see that the amount of photographs taken is reflected in the usage of Google+.
I also took advantage whenever I had good WiFi, as I did in a number of places around London, to upload videos to YouTube. This way I could easily embed a video in a blog post at a later date whilst on the hoof.
In all 55 apps used the wifi connection in August.
The next screenshot is somewhat revealing and in some respects tells me I need to get a life.
I spent nearly 26 hours in the month using Tweetdeck wtf?! That’s almost an hour a day.
16 and a half hours using chrome. Interesting to note that the times spent on specific applications haven’t resulted in those apps beign the heaviest users of mobile data. Shows how light Twitter traffic in particular is.
Then it was nearly 14 hours using TouchWiz which is the Samsung user interface. All that time spent prodding the phone. I’ don’t know how much time is allocated per prod but this seems to be a lot.
Maps I can understand – that four hours is probably a couple of car journeys.
I’m not sure I know what to do with all this information but it is certainly food for thought.
You can see from the pics that the app I used to gather all this data is My Data Manager. It’s great. Go get it and let me know about your own usage.
The Broadband Stakeholders Group today released an “Open Internet Code of Practice”. This is a voluntary CoP promoting net neutrality.
users should be able to access all legal content
there should be no discrimination against content providers on the basis of commercial rivalry; and
traffic management policies should be clear and transparent
I’m not going to delve into the detail of the BSG announcement which is available here. What I am going to do is name the current signatories who are all in the main consumer service providers:
BE, BT, BskyB, KCOM, O2, Plusnet, TalkTalk, Tesco Mobile, Three
The significance of this list is in who is not on it, particularly the mobile operators. You can work out who they are yourselves. Some of them are already known to block the use of Over The Top VoIP services (eg Timico’s own VoIP, Skype et al) on their mobile networks which of course goes against the principles of the CoP being announced today.
Whatever their reasons for not signing these mobile networks will have to change their positioning as 4G gets rolled out. The bandwidth requirement for VoIP services will be relatively small compared with that required for general use on 4G networks so the “lack of capacity” argument should not work.
4G is a fairly major inflection point for mobile networks. I don’t have any forecasts but during the life of the 4G (LTE) technology we should see the mobile business model transition from being minutes driven to data driven.
I suspect that growth in “data bundle” income may not offset any reduction in voice minutes revenues so the mobile operators are going to have to work out how to find cash from elsewhere. This may come from advertising, financial micro payments, device and personal security and I’m sure many more that I haven’t thought of.
For the moment I’ll leave you to figure out for yourselves why the non-signatories have not stepped up to the plate. I can’t see how they can stay away for too long. It isn’t the actual signature but the principle of how they treat their customers who will end up voting with their feet.
There is frost on the ground but it is a bright morning and I am on the way to London. I’m using the train WiFi which according to the speed tester is giving me 3.1Megs. I don’t know what it’s max speed is but the train is not very full – when it is full it certainly doesn’t feel like 3 Megs & I sometimes oscillate between WiFi and 3G and mostly 2G. Currently 3Megs feels fast enough.
We put up with poor connectivity on a train and accept that when we go in to a tunnel it disappears altogether. We shouldn’t have to.
I’m off to Olympia for UCExpo – it’s a good place to get together with people and I have a few meetings lined up over the two days. In my experience connectivity at Exhibition Halls is poor. I once did a VoIP video conferencing demo over 3G. It was all fine in the dry run but of course once the place filled up with thousands of punters it was a different matter. I could barely get the client registered let alone use it in a demo. The patter had to kick in big time:) I don’t know why we should put up with poor connectivity at these places. There is no reason for it. They know we are coming. Perhaps I’ll be surprised.
Between Kings X station and Olympia connectivity will be pretty variable and of course on the Underground it will be non-existent, mostly, though there is no need for this to be the case.
Most pubs I’ve been to in London recently offer free wifi. 20 minutes and a stop in Newark to pick up some punters later the on-train WiFi speed is down to 1.1Megs.
Is Utopia a country with perfect connectivity1? What is that connectivity speed? It’s not 1 or 2 Megs. It has to be fast enough for us never to notice any delay. Bandwidth on demand. With the massive growth in mobile apps this connectivity has to get a lot better a lot more quickly than it is doing so. It’s all very well being ok when you are sat in your living room and using your home WiFi but that on its own isn’t good enough any more.
I’m up to 8.4Megs at Peterborough station but that may be my SIM kicking in with HSPDA. Outside the station, with more people on board it is down to 0.11Megs. This is more like it. It makes my whinging more valid.
I would say 100Megs per person would be a good number to have but it will be a moving number. It is going to depend on what you are doing at a given point in time. Bandwidth needs when just sending texts are different to when uploading photos for example.
I’m getting nearer to the big smoke. What’s happened to the sun? Thatsenoughfornow.
1 Ok ok add in perfect health service, zero unemployment etc but I’m trying to stay focussed here.
PS Bloke sat behind me is reading out his card details to someone over the phone! Including security number. I could have written it all down. Perhaps someone did. Personal security will be a blog post for another day.
A Ministerial Roundtable on Net Neutrality had been scheduled for 24th January (ie yesterday) with Internet Minister Ed Vaizey and the major fixed and mobile operators due to attend. EV is expecting industry to produce a voluntary code of practice in respect of Net Neutrality. In the run up to the meeting and following individual discussions with some of the intended participants the Minister has apparently been unhappy with progress. The Round Table has been postponed until 28th March to allow time for further industry discussion.
Net Neutrality is a very emotional subject. By and large in my view it is something that has been creating more noise than the issue has perhaps merited but I can understand people’s concerns. The issue of transparency is in particular an important one
I don’t normally jump on a bandwagon although sometimes working for an ISP I get wind of juicy bits of network issues such as an exchange catching fire and might try and get in before the bandwagon has started to roll.
On this occasion the bandwagon is trundling down the hill at pace carrying news that O2 is including people’s mobile phone numbers in header information provided to websites visited by mobile users.
This was discovered by Lewis Peckover who has created a web page that tells you that kind of info is being left by your browser when you visit a site.
I took a look myself and drew a blank as you can see below
Went to the last gig of Paul McCartney’s world tour at the Liverpool Echo Arena last night. Ten thousand fifty somethings with the occasional grandchild thrown in for the experience. Old Macca is going strong though at around 70 years old doesn’t quite hit all the high notes with the same strength as he might once have done.
Not complaining. It happens to us all and the die hard fans in the audience didn’t really care. On a boringly technical note what surprised me was the high quality mobile data reception inside the Arena. My mails and tweets were coming in as normal. The signal varied between HSPDA and 3G according to my Samsung Galaxy S2.
I recently met with one of O2’s tech team to discuss stadium communications technology. This followed on from
Last weekend we went to the Lincoln Christmas Market. We go every year 1 – we live just on the edge of where the market is located and can walk there easily. It’s an institution in Lincoln.
You either love the Christmas Market or you hate it. Those that like it love the atmosphere, the gluhwein, the noises and the smells. They love the variety of stalls where they can pick up Christmas presents. The location is top notch – around Lincoln Cathedral and Castle. Take a break from the walking and stop off for a beer or a coffee or two. It’s great, especially by night when the neon lights add to the effect.
Those that hate it do so for the very simple reason that it is very crowded. The market attracts north of 160,000 visitors in one long weekend. That’s great for local trade but as I said very crowded. This year I noticed something for the first time. I was able to get a mobile phone line every time I tried. No “the network is busy” notifications and frustrated repeat attempts to make contact with lost friends and relatives.
On my way home I think I spotted the reason – a temporary tower with mobile transponders. The networks, at least O2 who I use, must have boosted their capacity just for the weekend. It was great and whilst I realise that all they probably want is for nobody to notice and for people to just carry on using their phones this does warrant a pat on the back – for Lincoln City Council too.
If I can I’ll find out what kind of boost there was to mobile capacity. Everyone at the council who has anything to do with the market is busy right now.
And finally a photo of my favourite stall. You hand over a fiver for a small bucket full of red plastic rings and spend a minute or so throwing them in the vain hope that one will land squarely around the neck of one of the bottles and you win a giant stuffed animal. Almost an impossible feat but it is doable as the stuffed gorilla we have languishing in our attic proves. Just the one word of advice. If you do win give the prize away as quickly as you can. It will make a kid happy for at least as long as its take to parents realise they are going to have to squeeze it in the car and then when they get home find somewhere to put it!
I do have a video of the action at this stall. The picture quality ain’t great but the sound effects are spectacular. Sounds just like the cash rolling into the tills of the guy who owns the stall!!!
The mobile communications market has for years been characterised as a commodity space. Selling mobile services was largely a matter of who offers the best price. The rise of the smart phone and the pursuant growth in mobile data is changing this.
Price is still important but these devices are so expensive that the amount of hard cash people (consumers) are willing to spend on their mobile contract has grown considerably. I know this from first hand experience having a 19 year old student son who spends not an insubstantial amount of his monthly budget on an iPhone4 contract.
This in turn is a source of angst for businesses who have not traditionally provided the bulk of their staff with top of the range handsets. Unless you have been in a media vacuum over the last six months you will know that this has led to a phenomenon known as Consumerisation of IT and the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) revolution.
I have written about this before. As a provider of mobile services
I use a couple of SIMs on a day to day basis – phone and iPad. The phone is always with me whereas the iPad is not. The iPad is also more likely to be used in an area where there is WiFi. Needless to say if WiFi is available this gets used in preference to 3G in any case – longer battery life, faster and cheaper connectivity.
The usage patterns are as follows:
Bandwidth usage (Bytes)
Days out of office
Clearly the phone gets used more than the iPad for accessing data. There doesn’t seem to be much correlation between days out of the office and usage though not that this small sample is particularly scientific. My days out are usually to London and typically I will leave my ancient laptop technology behind in favour of the tablet – lighter and good enough for most uses though not for any serious work.
It looks as if I am using between 1Gig and 1.5Gig of mobile data a month which is hugely more than the average of 200Megs (according to TMobile in January when they slashed usage allowances from 3Gigs to 500Megs). I may not be the average user but this must surely be the way of things to come.
How do you cram a debate on the future of mobile services, data roaming and spectrum into an hour and a half? At last night’s Digital Economy All Party Political Group at Portcullis House in Westminster we made a pretty good job of it with a panel consisting of Hugh Davies, Director of Corporate Affairs for mobile network 3,Brian Williamson of Plum Consulting, Ruy Pinto of Inmarsat and Raj Sivalingham of Intellect.
This debate was hot on the heels of last week’s successful back bench motion by Rory Stewart, MP (Penrith and Cumbria) which called upon Ofcom to specify 98% mobile broadband coverage in the 4G auction in 2012.
3 stated that this is doable with existing base station infrastructure provided they received suitable low frequency spectrum allocation in the auction. O2 and Vodafone have already been reallocated spectrum out of their existing 900 and 1800MHz 3G licenses.
I was chatting to someone earlier who took out a new contract with O2 for a Samsung Galaxy S2. £149.99 for the phone plus £13.50 a month for a 24 month contract with 50 minutes and 250 texts. He also got £150 cashback off quidco.com, the initial referring site.
He promptly sold the Galaxy on eBay for £465 – don’t ask me why people buy these on eBay over the odds when a PAYG SIM free version new is £400. Take a look – there are similar bids ongoing.
This person then bought a brand new iPhone 4G off a pal coming back from the USA on holiday for £300.
The upshot is a new iPhone costing him £8.67 a month compared with the £304.99 plus £18.50 a month he would have to pay for a new iPhone contract (ok he gets fewer minutes and texts in his bundle but he is ok with that).
Not everyone has a friend that can bring them back a phone from the USA but I have to say the mobile world is getting crazier by the day.
Ofcom has set a deadline of April 2011 for mobile network operators to speed up the process for their customers to port their numbers to competitors. Customers will be able to change suppliers within 24 hours. Believe it or not as a Service Provider I like this idea because it is good for our customers. It means that we either do a good job of servicing customers or they leave (subject to contract of course J ).
Companies offering good service will prevail. Grauniad article here.
Tromboning is the method used by some operators providing access to mobile services in the UK. It is cheaper to route the calls via the USA and back into the UK than to do it directly to a mobile. The downside is longer call set up times and sometimes poorer call quality.
I have just invented a new type of tromboning. My friend Terry has an American daughter. She is over on holiday (vacation) and he got her a pay as you go SIM from Orange (Orange). There was as usual a bewildering choice of tariffs. He settled on one that charged 20p per minute for any UK network including landlines and only 6p for calls to the USA.
If she needs picking up from town she calls he mum (mom) in Oklahoma and mum calls dad in Lincoln (England) using Skype (insecure consumer VoIP). Even if she used her landline service it would still be cheaper than a call to a UK network from her UK pay as you go mobile.