Have mobile network operators lost their voice ..

I have been having some fascinating conversations with @disruptivedean, @stuarthenshall and others at @forumoxford. (which by the way, is free to join)
Here is the conversation in its full context so far .. lots of interesting insights

Future of Voice and Personal Communications by Dean Bubley – Monday, 23 May 2011, 05:03 PM

We spend quite a lot of time on ForOx discussing handset OS’s, mobile payments, SMS and other related topics.

However, I’d quite like to stimulate some more discussion on how the use of phones is going to change in terms of voice and telephony. It’s an area I’ve been following for a long time (I first wrote about Mobile VoIP in 2004) and one that’s increasingly important with the transitions to both LTE and massmarket smartphones.

I recently wrote a guest post on the Visionmobile blog which discussed the role of “non-telephony voice applications”, such as embedded speech inside games, conferencing, corporate applications and so forth. It also looked a bit at whether our experience of the “phone call” is basically the result of 100-year old technology constraints which no longer apply.

My hypothesis is that while it’s definitely good to be able to speak to anyone, anywhere, with a fair degree of reliability, there are various trends occurring in both user behaviour and technical capability, which could lead to a reinvention and fragmentation of telephony. Both the Internet and app developers enable “voice” to go well beyond the model of “person A calls person B for X minutes”.

Some of the trends include:

- Communication escalation, where either an SMS or IM message (eg Skype) drives permission-based phone calls (“OK for a call now?”)
- Teenagers and others avoiding voice calls altogether (“I don’t pick up voicemails, send me an SMS instead”)
- Microsoft acquiring Skype, which has impact on the home (eg Skype+Kinect in TVs), business (WebEx replacement?) and mobile voice/telephony
- Viral adoption of new mobile VoIP apps like Viber
- Attempts to change the way that SIMs and roaming work (eg Apple, Truphone etc) to enable easier MVNOs or similar models
- Steady growth in the use of video in some instances (FaceTime, Skype etc) although likely to remain niche
- Increasingly desperate attempts by operators to retain relevance and value in voice and also cope with the transition to LTE (VoLTE, IMS etc)
- Some operators looking at OTT-style services of their own (eg Orange ON Voicefeed, Telefonica Jajah, T-Mobile Bobsled)

In essence, there’s a lot of commonality with messaging, where we have seen huge fragmentation of both usage and value in recent years, with different messaging formats used for specific purposes and groups of people: email, SMS, MMS, various types of IM, Facebook messaging, BlackBerry BBM, WhatsApp and so on.

I’m interested in ForOx’s views on mobile voice and telephony, and what is likely to occur in coming years with the adoption of smartphones, LTE and the ability to use full mobile VoIP, as well as cloud/mashup voice capabilities.

Lastly – for those really interested in debating all this in person, I’m running some Masterclasses along with Martin Geddes on the Future of Voice, over the next few months. More details here on my blog

Dean Bubley
Disruptive Analysis
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Re: Future of Voice and Personal Communications by Tariq El-Haj Omar – Monday, 23 May 2011, 10:48 PM

Thought-provoking post on vision mobile and same can be said about this thread.

In my mind, the notion of a ‘phonebook’ is in itself is outdated, and it is only once we get past the notion of the ‘phone number’ that we can see a revolution in voice. I should not have to know your phone number in order to speak to you. It’s absurd. If I meet someone randomly in the street or elsewhere, do I ask them for a 8-digit code before I begin to speak to them?

But taking a practical approach, and seeing as we all have phone numbers, could we not just have the MSISDN as the ‘primary key’ upon which I can attach and control other non-traditional voice services?

For example – I want to link my MSISDN to Facebook, LinkedIn, PSN account (maybe not these days), WordPress, Match.com account, Gmail and MBA university login to …

a) Allow FB friends to call/VM/etc me, without knowledge of my MSISDN, thru FB with certain permission groups
b) Allow business contacts on LinkedIn to leave me a VM or call directly if given permission (say, if they were on the same organisational network or 1st degree contacts)
c) PSN friends to contact me in a push-to-talk manner during a multiplayer game
d) WordPress readers to leave voice comments on my blog that are directed to my phone
e) A trusted match.com date to be able to video call me or drop me a flirty video message that is delivered to my phone (a ‘rich’ flirtomatic)
f) Gmail to call me when certain emails are pre-flagged as important and perform a IVR text-to-speech call
g) my MBA lecturer to broadcast a last minute voice-sms type message to notify a change in course schedule

… and the list goes on…. eBay (call the seller), online tutoring, etc etc

and finally, for everyone else, they can simply call me on my mobile number to which of all of the above are linked. Eventually this direct dialing will fade away.

The reality is, I care about FB, LinkedIn and all the other channels I mentioned above. I don’t care about my operator. In an ideal world, the operator would be there to link all of the above with a voice/messaging/data channel to me. Let the MSISDN be the gel between all these services. For a business contact to call me they should be able to click ‘call’ next to my name on LinkedIn – via the desktop or mobile web or app etc. They shouldnt care about country codes or work/business numbers – they are by definition calling me on my business line because its via LinkedIn.

Voice should be a feature bolted on to different services that are meaningful to me – and I should be able to control who can call me and how. Managing presence and availability would be the major service the operator would provide me in this case. I can imagine an interface with all of the linked services and a red/amber/green indicator – green means full voice contactability, amber means voice mail / sms / voice sms / other asynchronous modes and red means do not disturb.

And for those worried about the ease of being so contactable – well, social etiquette goes a long way and for whats left, a ‘dislike’ / ‘block’ mechanism can be used to block out unwanted voice.

The concept of a phone number, when you really think about it, and as Dean correctly points out, is very unnatural. Embedding, or really, ‘extending’ voice onto everyday activities / services would be more natural. If I ‘like’ Pizza Hut on FB, why can’t there be a button for me to ‘call’ my nearest branch? It would identify my location and connect me through. If I’m browsing FB photos on my iPad and decide to call an old friend I see in a picture, why can’t FB be the originator of that call? Why do I have to go look up their phone number in some yellow pages? The room for innovation on voice is endless – it’s just that the ‘phone number’ concept has been so ingrained that it’s difficult to move past it.

All this would of course require a re-thinking of the role of the operator.

To this extent, I can imagine an operator being the custodian of the ‘primary key’ linking all these services and a manager of presence and privacy. The concept of ‘minutes’ would disappear and they would indeed become a platform upon which innovative and more natural voice services can be delivered. Services that aren’t bound by the CDR confines of A-party / B-party for X duration.

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Have Operators lost their voice .. by Ajit Jaokar – Tuesday, 24 May 2011, 06:50 AM

Hi Dean, Tariq

Great insights and I liked your presentation at LTE WS (which I attended and tweeted about as best as I could!)

While you have some excellent insights .. I think there is a very fundamental question which needs to be addressed here from the perspective of the Operator(which is what I was asking before and at the event as well)

1) The Operator’s key asset is their network
2) For a network to have value it should be interoperable
3) Today, that means globally
4) Globally interoperable IP voice networks take time and money
5) No solution is on the horizon(for the operator) – correct me if I am wrong – to facilitate global interoperability for IP voice
6) further, because building the network costs money, the operator expects to recoup that money
7) contrast with web players – like Skype – who have a global interconnect for IP but do not have the QOS
8) For Operators to be even in the game .. they have to consider a globally interconnected voice IP system
9) failing that, the customer will choose the existing global IP system(ex skype) for cheap or for free
10) So, its like two people building competing houses. One(web) builds it faster but with some uncomfort. However, the ‘web’ house is safe. By that I mean the customer entering the building has some discomfort(steep stairs) but can still put up with the pain
11) the competing house(telco house) .. takes a LOONG time to get off the ground but they watch that the neighbouring house is coming up fast, customers are going there, they suffer because of the steep steps but still are OK with it. The house is definately not ‘falling down’. It is growing.
12) So, what does the telco house do?
13) The temptation for telco is: slow down the other house(block skype etc) or try to build their own house by ‘skipping’ the ground floor!
14) That does not work! and by that I mean that the ground floor is interoperable standards and interconnect
15) If there is no network level global interconnect, then the operators are at the same position as the OTT players!

This is what I mean by ‘losing their voice’ ie voice is a commodity(and like I said with some discussion before some elements of voice will become ‘standalone’ – ex voicemail) in their own right ..

But Operators may well have ‘lost’ the voice battle
hope that clarifies
kind rgds
Ajit

two sided business models and telco market caps .. by Ajit Jaokar – Tuesday, 24 May 2011, 09:03 AM

Hi Dean

Thanks for the presentation (download)
One more feedback ..

I have often seen(and also in your slide) that the two sided business model is a potential solution ..

But this has some questions:
1) the current telco model(and more imp market caps) are based on mass markets

2) two sided business models are not ‘mass market’ – they are (and will be) niches. They are profitable – but not necessarily scaleable.

3) finally .. there is no reason why ONLY telcos can adopt two sided business models. any large network can(including say skype)

so .. qs is: is the two sided business model compatible with telcos? esp their current valuations and nor are they easy to explain to the market

kind rgds
Ajit
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Re: two sided business models and telco market caps .. by Dean Bubley – Tuesday, 24 May 2011, 10:43 AM

Hi Ajit

I’ve been following two-sided models (2SBM) for a few years, mostly through my association with Telco 2.0

Bottom line is that they are interesting, potentially valuable – but often difficult to build for operators. There’s a lot of complexity about the IT systems involved, brittle silo’d organisational structure, and continued tensions on slow collaboration (eg OneAPI) vs. going it alone more quickly.

Operator value is not solely based on mass-market stuff – many make a sizeable % of their revenue from corporate deals & systems integration / outsourcing for example.

However, it is definitely a challenge for investors to work out how to value things that don’t fit with neat #subs / ARPU spreadsheets, yes. So with IT & outsourcing stuff, most equity teams have their own metrics & models, but they’re not there yet with 2SBM stuff.

Ideally, the operators will build automated platforms for 2SBM – perhaps similar to Google’s AdWords for example. (Google is a good example of a 2-sided marketplace of searchers + advertisers, although it only monetises one side)

There are numerous industries with “platform” 2SBM plays, some of which monetise both sides, some only one.

It’s worth noting that Freephone is a good example of telco 2SBM, also maybe things like identity management in future. The tricky stuff is around monetising broadband via guaranteed QoS etc

Dean
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Re: two sided business models and telco market caps .. by Ajit Jaokar – Tuesday, 24 May 2011, 02:27 PM

thanks Dean

yes glad you kind of agree with the challenges ..
I always thought that the 2SBM was an effort to follow the web and just because it works for the web does not mean it will work for telco
there is also the psychological barrier(valuations etc)

thus the telco assets(Identity, commerce, customer services etc) are all nice to see on paper but hard to implement(on scale)

Perhaps this is the solution – ie the move from a mass market services to niche market services(which is not the same as long tail services)

kind rgds
Ajit
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Re: Have Operators lost their voice .. by Dean Bubley – Tuesday, 24 May 2011, 10:29 AM

Hi Ajit

Some quick feedback:

1) The Operator’s key asset is their network – YES, which is why outsourcing may be counter-productive
2) For a network to have value it should be interoperable Not necessarily. Plenty of examples of valuable standalone networks & services (eg Sprint-Nextel Push to Talk)
3) Today, that means globally Definitely not true (eg DoCoMo, various Chinese services). Desirable for some use cases but not others
4) Globally interoperable IP voice networks take time and money YES
5) No solution is on the horizon(for the operator) – correct me if I am wrong – to facilitate global interoperability for IP voice Not really – the GSMA has its IPX for IMS-based VoIP, various exchanges like xConnect for general SIP interconnection, plus it can potentially be done in the cloud / via Web anyway
6) further, because building the network costs money, the operator expects to recoup that money YES, but doesn’t have to be with “vanilla telephony” – eg see wholesale-only or data-only operators like Yota
7) contrast with web players – like Skype – who have a global interconnect for IP but do not have the QOS Doesn’t really have global interconnect, except where it breaks out to the PSTN/mobile circuit. Which is something you can buy wholesale from a ton of international VoIP transit players
8) For Operators to be even in the game .. they have to consider a globally interconnected voice IP system Consider it, yes. Rely on it, not necessarily
9) failing that, the customer will choose the existing global IP system(ex skype) for cheap or for free For certain use cases, not for others, at least for a while. Problematic to give good-enough mobile data to emerging India to compete with new/cheap/perfect GSM.
10) So, its like two people building competing houses. One(web) builds it faster but with some uncomfort. However, the ‘web’ house is safe. By that I mean the customer entering the building has some discomfort(steep stairs) but can still put up with the pain
11) the competing house(telco house) .. takes a LOONG time to get off the ground but they watch that the neighbouring house is coming up fast, customers are going there, they suffer because of the steep steps but still are OK with it. The house is definately not ‘falling down’. It is growing.
12) So, what does the telco house do?
13) The temptation for telco is: slow down the other house(block skype etc) or try to build their own house by ‘skipping’ the ground floor!
14) That does not work! and by that I mean that the ground floor is interoperable standards and interconnect Not really no. Skype is non-standard, but can interconnect when/if/where it wants, but that’s a very one-sided decision. In my view Skype benefits from *ignoring* standards except where it can derive value
15) If there is no network level global interconnect, then the operators are at the same position as the OTT players! Well, if the operators *do* manage to launch VoLTE (and of course there’s already SIP NGN VoIP in the fixed world) then they can easily interoperate.

My whole point is that the operators spend far TOO MUCH time focused on interop, and NOT ENOUGH time on user experience. They focus on “hard” QoS issues in the network & not on the “soft” bits of UI and service engagement

Dean
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Re: Have Operators lost their voice .. by Ajit Jaokar – Tuesday, 24 May 2011, 01:59 PM

Hi Dean

1) Re
My whole point is that the operators spend far TOO MUCH time focused on interop, and NOT ENOUGH time on user experience. They focus on “hard” QoS issues in the network & not on the “soft” bits of UI and service engagement

that I totally agree ..

I said once before that in any case, end to end qos, is hard to gurantee and you need only to walk in a non-reception zone to lose it

2) Re IPX for IMS-based VoIP
I smile
The issue is not IP connect … IPX and IMS want to BILL for IP connect. which is a fundamentally losing proposition. thats the issue. In that case,. what I said is valid – plenty of solutions exist – but telco tries to create a solution to charge per packet.. and that does not fly ..

3) PTT etc
PTT was an anomaly at a point in time. today PTT would need support from devices. none is forthcoming as far as I know. same applies to any such restricted service. when you see it end to end it does not work. Geographies(Japan, Chine and Korea) have always behaved differently but that does not scale beyond the specific linguistic domain

4) wholesale only or data only (yota, lightsquared) – I like that model – but are you suggesting that they have a role to play in the voice debate?

kind rgds
Ajit
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Re: Have Operators lost their voice .. by Stuart henshall – Tuesday, 24 May 2011, 01:36 PM

This is an area that really interests me. I’ve worked on more than one startup that sought to address elements. Ajit… you stimulated me to comment… I’m just using your framework below to ask some “other” questions in a crude attempt to be provocative.

Hi Dean, Tariq

Great insights and I liked your presentation at LTE WS (which I attended and tweeted about as best as I could!)

While you have some excellent insights .. I think there is a very fundamental question which needs to be addressed here from the perspective of the Operator(which is what I was asking before and at the event as well)

1) The Operator’s key asset is their network
Operators increasingly have nothing… they bill me for access and I pay to shift and receive bits. I want higher speeds. They know my Mac address (and more) but I care very little about their “number” which I am now misappropriating for my own purposes… like facetime, viber, tango, etc. I haven’t cared about their directory for years – my yellow page searches went to google long ago – and who’s listed in the white pages anymore…. Not Mobile numbers. And the landline home phone is going fast. My mobile number will be next. I have other addresses that have more value to me and I can use for voice when I want to at my behest.

2) For a network to have value it should be interoperable
They are many ways I can get on the Net. For the carrier to have value… it must reach me where ever I am and provide a decent speed at a cost I can afford. As a “consumer” or basic user I don’t even know what interoperable means. I do like downloading mp3 to my mobile… and getting my email. I’ve got off SMS with what’sapp and ebuddy. Skype once and awhile – it just kills my battery. I always use my mobile for international calls – all are free! I don’t care about minutes and many of those minutes are video.

3) Today, that means globally
I have globally already covered. I sometimes / very occasionally pay something extra to connect to legacy endpoints. In a few years I won’t pay to get to a company with a legacy endpoint….. I already tweet my abuse directly to companies…. when they fail me. Or they pay that interconnect already 1-800. I wish they could actually provide more transparent net based interconnect services. Eg off their websites… with real people that I can identify with. I might actually get a callerID that means something.

4) Globally interoperable IP voice networks take time and money
Huh? I have Skype, I have Viber – I have SIP —- MSN, Yahoo etc. Time for you to adopt my channels….. Don’t dictate your channel to me. Mr Operator… You want to talk to me.. then skype me… or Tweet me…. Maybe I will even Facebook with you to a limited degree. I will share more riches when you are willing to be more transparent with me. Apply same to a company. I – the consumer am tired of being addressed as a number… I am a name… and I expect to know who or what is on the other end of the line. I want nothing less than a complete change of manners… Frankly I should be in control… I should not always feel like I am on the receiving end.

5) No solution is on the horizon(for the operator) – correct me if I am wrong – to facilitate global interoperability for IP voice
The operator can’t sell me this even if they wanted to. What I want is clear calls…. easy to escalate scenarios from text to speech to video etc. I have no need to centralize services like recording etc… I can manage that on my own thanks!

6) further, because building the network costs money, the operator expects to recoup that money

There is nothing to build… the tools — no sorry the software is already there. In fact MR OPERATOR… the one thing you have that is valuable is CURRENTLY STUPID. You have a “NOTIFICATION SERVER” that is a dumb pipe. It is time you made it smart.

Similarly you should turn my number into a name! And empower me to link it wherever I want at no cost to me. Why? Because simply you cannot build out my network faster than me and as I learn faster than you… you must make my ability to adapt more responsive and quicker. I’d also like more security over my conversation and exchanges although I won’t pay for it… Skype provides it for free…. So should you… oh I forgot – you are in business by will of the government.

Where you really fail… is your complete lack of open API’s so I can really create value off your network. That means.. you don’t let me manage my gateway and access!

7) contrast with web players – like Skype – who have a global interconnect for IP but do not have the QOS
From my perspective… Skype is the better service.. it is clearer, it is cheaper and more flexible. Skype is also an IP dinosaur at this point. I wont’ even bother to write down what it could have been.

8) For Operators to be even in the game .. they have to consider a globally interconnected voice IP system
This seems like traditional crack smoking. The value in the mobile is not in VOICE today. The value is in entertainment or creating social connection or frankly doing business more effectively. Perhaps even a little backing up. Voice is a small part of the value equation that is now in your pocket. I’d be willing to make a bet that most people would give up the “voice/number” aspect for a cheaper bill. What do you want… 60 bucks a month and an iphone or 30 bucks and an iPod touch 3G (i wish) fitted out with Pinger/Textfree and GoogleVoice? I am certain some bright spark will one day create the android ipod equivalent without the phone.

Where is innovation still lacking in voice? Eg spacial – as in conference calls. Makes it easier to keep track of. Who’s who at the table…. How to layer things like music and voice concurrently…

9) failing that, the customer will choose the existing global IP system(ex skype) for cheap or for free
Well – I love it when I see Indian operators touting 3G video calling as the next best thing and then hoping to charge by sec for it. It’s too expensive in that format. Similarly… lets charge for TV. So what happens – customers use Skype instead. What have we learned.. The customer has learned that the operator wants to charge them multiple times… when we only want to be charged once. Voice is data… End of story.

10) So, its like two people building competing houses. One(web) builds it faster but with some uncomfort. However, the ‘web’ house is safe. By that I mean the customer entering the building has some discomfort(steep stairs) but can still put up with the pain

The fundamental difference between today and five years ago… is the mobile computer in your pocket. When VoIP was tied to the PC it worked sort of. In your pocket….. it only matter about coverage now. Have coverage it works. The problem is… telco’s have thought about the mobile phone like a landline… PC manufacturers like it was PC (with two exceptions)…. The mobile is defining the PC today and it is defining telephony based on a mobile internet rather than a home internet/business internet. The device simply has more utility – so it continues to suck up more and more …. and soon it will start broadcasting / signaling what we really want… It’s a vacuum sucking in value for the user… right now. As a device it would be foolish to forget how empowering it is.
11) the competing house(telco house) .. takes a LOONG time to get off the ground but they watch that the neighbouring house is coming up fast, customers are going there, they suffer because of the steep steps but still are OK with it. The house is definately not ‘falling down’. It is growing.
Oh dear… What.. they dropped their landlines! What they dropped their mobile phone number? What… they redirected it to personal gateway? —— Yes of course they will….. Isn’t Apple’s notification server my “Gateway”?

12) So, what does the telco house do?
Better USE SMS and make it smart…. Make more aspects of the web available to a broader group of people at a lower cost. Every business in the world wants to put real info in my hand… SO make them pay…. Make it possible so even those that don’t have a data plan… get one soon…. Who’s going to help you with the transition? How will you accelerate it?
13) The temptation for telco is: slow down the other house(block skype etc) or try to build their own house by ‘skipping’ the ground floor!
Yes… we know how miserable the service is. However, there’s no trust left. We “users” know it is a regulated monopoly or close enough. The waste of costs is obvious – from marketing of handsets.. to paying bribes to consumers, to sticking them with unconscionable fees. Don’t worry… Skype may have broken the landline / international call monopoly… just wait until handset radios start self-organizing in major cities… it may be slower.. and disruptive to begin.. but how much “slow bandwidth” can we offload… and traverse for free? Teleco’s. rather than thinking about the house that is already built… think about a world where your service is really empowering… building my identity… adding to my wealth, assisting me with creativity…. opening up new doors. You did it once… we could speak over long distances… Frankly since then you have little of real merit.

14) That does not work! and by that I mean that the ground floor is interoperable standards and interconnect
See we agree the emperor has no clothes….

15) If there is no network level global interconnect, then the operators are at the same position as the OTT players!
Be a good idea perhaps to sell off the “utilities” and separate from the marketing…. Wouldn’t take too long to get some lower costs.

This is what I mean by ‘losing their voice’ ie voice is a commodity(and like I said with some discussion before some elements of voice will become ‘standalone’ – ex voicemail) in their own right ..

Can’t help adding that VOICE MAIL was always a failure case. It means the message didn’t get to the recipient on a timely manner and there is no confirmation that they ever got it or did anything with it. A voice message is a different case and like a video message certainly has some value. Yet I still can’t turn off my AT&T voice mail box.

But Operators may well have ‘lost’ the voice battle
hope that clarifies
kind rgds
Ajit

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Re: Have Operators lost their voice ..
by Ajit Jaokar – Tuesday, 24 May 2011, 01:48 PM

proving to be a very interesting conversation hope all useful for mr bubley. this audience is far more tougher than he would get anywhere else!
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personal gateways and APIs
by Ajit Jaokar – Tuesday, 24 May 2011, 02:09 PM

thanks for your very robust comments Stuart

two questions
a) can you elaborate personal gateways? there may be some merit here

b) APIs .. I used to long talk of APIs but are they a red herring. Opertaor APIs have existed for some time. I am not sure what the real usage ie. ie APIS seem to be a strategy to imitate the web. But the web has scale. most operator APIs(voice or data) have limited audiences – hence the qs if they are a red herring and what value they would add

kind rgds
Ajit
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Re: personal gateways and APIs
by Stuart henshall – Tuesday, 24 May 2011, 05:07 PM

two questions
a) can you elaborate personal gateways? there may be some merit here

Simple illustration… I forward all current calls to a gateway…. That gateway requires certain information from you… before I will accept an escalation to a call. We demoed this in Phweet where a Tweet was a call request. Neither party had to share their number or what channel they were connected on. The gateway was the bridge. The “accept” was simply a response to a text based call request which launched a personal and unique exchange for that communication. The model was an exchange for every call… Build and destroy or keep. A kept exchange was potentially an open channel….

Still one has to manage their mother who remains on the PSTN. She gets a free pass – while others perhaps have to establish some other credentials.

Now that’s not much different from GoogleVoice which will ring x concurrent extensions… However I want control. I also want a more sophisticated “contract” established. “each exchange can have it own contract… So this gateway can perhaps manage sharing, privacy, usage, expiry, etc for other parties I may want to communicate with. Who can be added. (example google calendar control who may be added to the event based on levels of authority. Their cloud to my cloud – so to speak. A part of this is already managed by LinkedIn or Facebook… So I just need to attach them. If we are connections on both services thats fine too.

fundamentally I should have a gateway or agent that puts me in control. I may even be happy to contract that out. I may also be happy to put myself in a state of open channels from time to time… eg re a location.. or a time…. or relative to a subject…. I should be able to hear it even if I am in another call.. .just like outside my office door.

b) APIs .. I used to long talk of APIs but are they a red herring. Opertaor APIs have existed for some time. I am not sure what the real usage ie. ie APIS seem to be a strategy to imitate the web. But the web has scale. most operator APIs(voice or data) have limited audiences – hence the qs if they are a red herring and what value they would add

As someone who used Twitter API’s to develop on…. for awhile you better be really careful. API’s are too often used against you or the rules changed when the real value become obvious to the company. I was certainly part of the first Skype API’s and the initial hack that created the presence server and the Callto: approaches. They served a purpose… get handset manufacturers making handsets that ran off computers… Then the controls came in… API’s are ultimately required for people… not programmers alone. The language typically remains too complex when what we want is drag and drop.

Perhaps what’s required is API’s for me….??? Rather than API’s for the telco. That’s empowerment. As an example…. when we did Phweet by setting up each call using a public or private tweet… and another when it was accepted… it meant we created a searchable record. All the records around that exchange were public or private. Try searching your phone records… and whether or not they tie to a person or SMS or MMS or some packet exchange today. It’s a nothing. Why aren’t calls searchable on the corporate database?

If the operators gave people real API’s then perhaps they would build the value added networks around them. The problem is… they have to give us access to our name, numbers, call logs etc. And even the signaling and setup. In the meantime progress will come from other directions.

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Re: personal gateways and APIs
by Ajit Jaokar – Tuesday, 24 May 2011, 06:05 PM

very insightful. many thanks.
I liked the idea of a personal gateway and one product is from a friend (http://www.privateplanet.co.uk/index.html)
but what you describe is more than private planet.

Re APIs I once said that I needed a service that will tell me (using network APIs) how much a session would cost (or how much I just paid for!)
Customers would love it. telcos – not so much!

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Re: Have Operators lost their voice ..
by Gabriel Brown – Tuesday, 24 May 2011, 02:20 PM

If you ever get into the building game, please warn us…

Under your analogy Skype would be like a 60s block of flats knocked up quick with dodgy concrete. Developer will have disappeared by the time the liabilities come up. Why’d you want to live in a place like that? I’ll be in the well-built Edwardian semi.

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Re: Have Operators lost their voice ..
by Ajit Jaokar – Tuesday, 24 May 2011, 02:33 PM

Hi Gabriel
actually a 60s block of flats is interesting
telco equipment may be from that time
and you have to replace some of it.
and meanwhile someone else is creating a block of flats using a totally differnt building technique
but more to the point, the analogy was applied to interconnect ie operators need(or percieve to need) interconnect
They try to BILL for IP interconnect. which is a losing proposition
This, in a nutshell, is the problem with IP voice(and with initiatives like IPX which are created on the same principles)
rgds
Ajit
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Re: Future of Voice and Personal Communications
by Alex Kerr – Tuesday, 24 May 2011, 02:38 PM

A subset of the overall discussion, but I see great potential in a resurgence for some sort of IVR (probably keypad rather than voice-recognition based).

Why? Well simply because of the number of blind (~800 million) and illiterate (~1 billion) people in the world. We all enthuse about SMS, apps and the mobile web, but these are obviously visual/literate mediums. There is GREAT potential for reaching those for whom a phone is only ever an audio device, but allowing them to access and interact with content in a controlled way. The obvious way being via the phone keypad. There is great potential for more developers to build stuff for this “platform”.

Also with the rise of the elastic cloud (e.g. Amazon Web Services) plus great VoiP switch/pbx software like FreeSwitch (10 times more efficient than Asterisk on the same hardware), you can have the back end infrastructure to serve a continually fluctuating global audience (and of course there are ASPs that already have this all set up). The one issue I did find when I looked into it a couple of years ago was a lack of ability to connect local access numbers in less developed countries, into the internet, but this has probably improved now.

Content publishing on mobile phones (specifically, i.e. to reach those in poorer areas) does not have to just be a visual medium only for the sighted/literate.
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Re: Future of Voice and Personal Communications
by Ajit Jaokar – Tuesday, 24 May 2011, 02:40 PM

good point.
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Re: Future of Voice and Personal Communications
by ALexander Gödde – Tuesday, 24 May 2011, 08:15 PM

My landline is gone. I make calls on my mobiles, work and private computers. Ideally I’m reachable on all of them under the same identity.
Currently the most universal identity is still a phone number. Reachable from the most devices in the most places. My mobile phone operator can only enable a phone number that works on my mobiles – well, more than one mobile is already a stretch.
The alternatives? skype or SIP, linked to a traditional phone number. Both work, albeit in my experience not very well over mobile data yet. Additionally, data connectivity is not universal yet.
Since I only pay for minutes I use, and need a contract for the data plan anyway, I can just forward incoming calls to my mobile number once I’m out of reach of data. Outgoing calls are a problem – no way of avoiding them being shown as originating from my mobile number in these cases.
So for the time being, mobile operators can only count on some incoming and some outgoing minutes to fill the gaps – either when VoIP is not possible, or the quality is not acceptable. Should they ever close the gaps in their network enough, then traditional voice is no longer a consideration.
At the same time even that part of voice that is routed through operator phone networks at all is taking a plunge. Some of my contacts are on skype – and that’s what I use then. Other networks may come in the future. I don’t think the operators have lost their voice yet, and they’re not going to lose it for a long time. It’ll just go quieter and quieter, switched connection by switched connection.

Image source: the lost voice