telecom

One Number to Rule the World

Transient

Earlier this week it was announced that the Greater Toronto Area would be receiving two new area code overlays this spring, 437 and 375. Mark Goldberg has an interesting discussion on how many numbers that is, and what it really means. The explosion of wireless devices is being blamed for the increased numbering requirements. 

Up until recently, our household had 8 phone numbers associated with it. We regularly have between 16 and 20 IP addresses active on our internal home network. We could easily increase that number by activating some 3G services on various tablets, but we're cutting back ;-D

It seems silly that two people generate that much number waste. In a perfect telecom world, I'd have 1 domain name, and maybe three or four IPV6 addresses, and all of the devices would have a find me follow me feature. I'd connect to the internet and the world would be able to find me, and vice versa. No more phone numbers. Once DNS takes over the PSTN, life will become infinitely easier to manage, certainly from a translations and numbering perspective. Gone will be the day of end offices and toll switches. Hello wireless and wifi and broadband. It's already converging in carrier core backbone networks and international call routing at the carrier level. Now it's just a waiting game until IP makes it way to the great unwashed masses.

Unfortunately, until we push the boundaries of universal broadband or wireless coverage, we're going to have to deal with the copper last mile in Canada, and the use of old school phone numbers. Couple that with the fact that 1 in 6 households doesn't own a computer yet and it becomes dauting to think of a life without the old Public Switched Telephone Network.

It's encouraging that 95% of Canadian households with a computer are connected to the internet. Of that 95%, only 30% have high speed access - another disappointing statistic. Maybe in my lifetime we will be able to switch to a pure IP communications world, but I'm not optimistic. Until then, I suppose I'll just have to deal with my eight phone numbers :-\

Canada's Wireless Code of Conduct aka Protect the Sheeple

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission may be ringing in 2013 with one of the most ridiculous plans yet.

The Wireless Code of Conduct is a set of guidelines for wireless carriers to adhere to in providing servics to consumers in Canada.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the complaints and recommendations that make up this code were submitted by Canadian consumers who may not even have the intelligence to dial a cell phone, let alone understand the services that they are buying.

Top of the list: Outlaw 3 Year Contracts

The main reason for even having a 3 year contract is due to the fact that the average Canadian can’t afford to pay the full price for a cell phone. Having a 3 year contract allows for the carrier to subsidize the cost of the hardware and pass that subsidization onto the consumer. If the CRTC reall does force carriers to remove the 3 year contract option, consumers are now going to be on the hook for shelling out more dough up front for their phone. Likely to the tune of $200 or more, depending on the type of phone they want to get.

What’s funny about the whole contract debacle is the fact that people don’t HAVE to get a 3 year contract right now. All carriers offer various contract lenghts, depending on how much you want to pay up front.

Right now, you can get a Windows HTC phone with no contract for $599 from Bell Canada. You can get a Samsung Galaxy S III from TELUS for $650.

A very smart tech chick (hat tip to @followsandi) suggested that if the consumer bought the hardware upfront, there should be a decrease on the monthly service fees, since you don’t need to subsidize the cost of the hardware. I’m all for that — and it makes good sense. The downside of that is that it REALLY exposes the carrier’s margin models, and unless one of the carriers sees this as a great way to improve transparency with its customers, it’s unlikely that this will happen. You never know.

I’d like to see a few more options for pre-payment of hardware —— if I want to put down 50% of the cost of the phone, I’d like to have a different contract length. I expect that I could walk into any wireless store and make this sort of arrangement, and it changes the outstanding commitments I have with that carrier, since commitment is linked to revenue spend.  Maybe that’s the way to go —- have a minimum spend commitment with a carrier, and when you meet/exceed that commitment, your contract is over, and you’re free to change, upgrade or do the hokey-pokey.

Some of the recommendations are reasonable: alerts when you get close to your data limits, or your voice minutes. EASY ways to upgrade or downgrade services on the fly. 

But really, those recommendations have little to do with consumer safeguards and more to do with service development of the carriers. I expect that some of these recommendations have a pretty heavy service development cost associated with them. The big carriers may be able to shoulder the capital costs of the system upgrades, but the new entrants are going to be challenged with providing additional service features on products that they’re already struggling with.

Sigh.

It’s not going to be pretty, and it’s not going to be the right thing, but silly consumers —- you’re going to get what you get.

Rogers Increases Broadband Pricing, and I'm OK with That...

Hrm… I just got a notification in the mail. My internet pricing is going up by $2.00/month…

I’m actually not sure how I feel about that. Sure, the price is going up, but some of the features are improving, as are the speeds and data transfer limits….That being said, I’ve been happy with my *Express* package, which gave me 60 GB of data transfer and speeds of up to 24 Mbps/ 1Mbps…. I’ve had a Rogers discount, so my totaly price, all in was $57/month (including the cable modem)…..

I don’t have Netflix (yet), but I’m wondering what streaming TV would do to my data transfers… I work from home 90% of the time, so reliable and speedy internet is important to me. 

The one thing that Rogers has done that I’ve been waiting almost 10 years for someone to do is offer a dashboard where you can jack up your bandwidth requirements on demand….Is that wirth $2.00? That’s hard to say as well. I guess time will tell….

Do I begrudge Rogers a $2.00 price increase? No. Rogers employs about 30,000 Canadians, and has 11 Canadian Call Centres.

That’s 30,000 people who are (generally) making a very good wage and make up a very good tax base for Canada. I want those people to keep happily chugging along. 

Without a large tax base of people with good jobs, Canada would quite quickly and easily slide into the problems that the US is facing with debt and social services. A huge component of the US middle class —- you know, those people who actually paid a lot of taxes, disappeared over the past few years. It’s doubtful that they’re ever going to come back (which is why the US is now eyeballing the uber-wealthy). 

I want to keep all the Canadian companies healthy, and if $2 is the cost of that, that’s OK with me.

Will Google Kill Telecom?

Thanks Mashable!

This is Part 1 of a two part series on Google Voice in Canada. Part 2 will theorize on what the impacts will be on Canadian Telecom when Google offers Canadian phone numbers.

 

 

This week’s announcement of Google Voice integration with Gmail, with free calling and free long distance is perhaps one of the most controversial moves yet by an Internet company to change the telecom industry. Free computer to computer calling (a la Skype) isn’t problematic, it’s when free extends to long distance and calls to to the PSTN (public switched telephone network) that the Google service gets spooky.

Telecommunications companies around the world continue to invest billions of dollars into *the last mile*, that’s the distance from your house back to their closest switching office. Folks with a regular telephone (as opposed to a VoIP phone) rely on that last mile to make and receive telephone calls. Despite pushes to move everything to the Internet, that last mile is going to be important for a long time to come. 

If Google is offering free calls to the last mile (this is called call termination), you know they aren’t paying [hardly] anything to the carrier who is actually providing that last mile call termination. They’ve managed to strong arm someone into offering it at no charge, perhaps in exchange for some other service.  Where it gets very spooky is with Long Distance Termination. Again - free over Google, but there is a real and true cost to terminate a call to a standard telephone in Canada and the United States.  If no one is paying for that call, then the local carrier is losing money, and has less revenue to be able to maintain their local telephone network.

:-(

Let’s look at an example:  I called my PRIMUS phone from Gmail. The call routed from Google, through Verizon, up to Allstream, and then down to Primus. All for free to me. Perhaps Google did indeed pay Verizon something, who had to then pay Allstream, and lastly Primus. And this is the call flow for a VoIP call, where most of the routing bypasses the local mile of infrastructure, since my Primus phone is layered on top of my Rogers Broadband connection. Confused yet?

If I call my Bell phone line from Gmail [yup, 2 carriers in this house - diversity and redundancy is important with 2 teleworkers under the same roof], the call still starts in the US, at Google’s data centre, heads off to Verizon, up to Bell Canada, and then down my little copper wires from the Richmond Hill Bell wire centre. If there’s no costs to the user [me], then there are no revenues flowing to Verizon to maintain their interconnection with Bell, and no revenues to make sure my little copper wires from the Bell wire centre stay nice and healthy, or get upgrades when needed. At some point, in the not-too-distant future, there won’t be any money left to manage, maintain and upgrade the public telephone network.  That’s all well and good if EVERYONE in the world has migrated to VoIP service over Broadband Internet, but not so good if you are a carrier who has to maintain 2 networks, one for VoIP and one for the public telephone network. It’s certainly bad news if you have to rely on the public telephone network for your phone services.

At some point, carriers will realize that getting into bed with Google is going to destroy the telecom industry. Everything will be free, for a while. Then everything will be bad, very bad.  Right now, Google can only offer outbound free dialling from Gmail. Just wait until Google gets its hands on Canadian phone numbers. I can only hope that it won’t be a free service too.

Why Unlimited is Bad

Unlimited is bad. For everyone. Full stop.
In 1997, unlimited dial-up internet was the marketing trend du jour. It took less than 2 months for the dregs of society to ruin it for the rest of us. Dregs, you say? That’s a terribly harsh description. No - folks figured out that if you could keep your modem connected 24 by 7, you could run a web server, share your unlimited internet connection with all your friends (rent your internet connection, even), and generally take advantage of unlimited usage. The whole purpose of *unlimited* is to reduce the customer’s fear that they might exceed their maximum static plan in the course of reasonable and normal usage. It’s “not” to give someone carte blanche to take advantage and exploit the service and the service provider. There’s a reason why unlimited dial-up service was $19.95/month, but dedicated, nailed up, always on service was over $500/month ;-)

It seems that marketing folks never learn from their mistakes. Unlimited is bad. Dregs will always try and exploit unlimited offerings with the argument of “unlimited is unlimited - I want to use it all!!!”

It’s hit the cable internet folks, the wireless folks… heck, even the food industry. We are, on average, a species that is unable to control ourselves when it comes to unlimited :-)
Someday, marketing departments will realize we aren’t wired to be reasonable.

The Death of Voice - Long Live Voice Telecom

In late 2001, many of the Canadian telecoms purged their staff of experienced folks who could support traditional voice technologies — 800, 900, casual calling, calling card and other TDM based legacy systems. The theory was that VoIP would soon usurp TDM, and who wouldn’t want VoIP?
Needless to say, many - if not most, of the business and enterprise customers weren’t ready to make the leap to IP Voice.  As it turned out, many of the carriers weren’t as ready as they thought either.

Now, the remaining industry experience is reaching retirement age, with no *junior* experts to fill their roles in the coming few years. Where does that leave the customer? Making a jump to an immature technology? Sticking with a service with limited support?

Ten years ago, I was an Internet and Data specialist. Now - I’m a budding voice specialist, simply because there wasn’t anyone else who knew the answers to the questions I was asking about TDM based voice services. The internet can only help you so far in setting up a 900 network :-)
I’m looking forward to VoIP replacing carrier networks.
The NGN network deployments across Canada are expanding.
I can dream about the SMS-800 database taking on more of a DNS-like quality.

Until that time, I’m going to be using access tandems, term numbers and buddying up to the last remaining TDM voice talent in Canada.

Slamming Canadian Telecom: Canada's Second Favourite Pastime

We are a whiney bunch. Full stop.

If it’s not the weather, how rotten our sports teams are or how miserable our government is, we’re bashing the hell out of any and all Canadian telecommunications companies for their crimes, real or imagined.

It’s so very ingrained in us, I’m not even sure Canadian consumers know exactly why they’re whining and complaining any more. It’s just a habit now.

  • If you were in London, UK, you’d be paying ~$60/month for average broadband internet. (40 Gb of data transfer and up to 20 Mbps of download speed)
  • If you have an unlimited cell phone plan in France, that’s going to cost you $135/month, and that doesn’t include a data plan.
  • If you’re in the US, and want to go with Verizon, you’re going to pay $115/month for 900 minutes of talk time, unlimited texting and a data plan.

All these prices have been converted to Canadian dollars.

You want to gripe about choices and competitive options?

Almost anywhere in Canada, you have upwards of 6 or more choices on who you’d like to have take care of your communications services. Big guys, small guys, and middle size guys are in the communications business.

Wireless carriers in the US? AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and and a handful of others. The trick is that they may not all be national, and a few of them I’d never heard of before. The other popular trick —- smaller guys launching a wireless service that’s overlayed on top of one of the BIG 2. Optical illusions :-D

I’ve been with 3 different wireless carriers, never had a billing problem yet.

Same for Internet Service Providers and TV service providers. Sure, the odd call into customer service, swap out a PVR because it’s gone wonky. Bing, bang, boom. Problem solved.

We are a very hard bunch to satisfy. We’re demanding, mean, threatening and fickle. Maybe we should be fired as customers instead?

 

 

Bringing Internet to Remote Canada

One of the more vocal discussions at the Canadian Telecom Summit yesterday revolved around the Canadian government’s support for increasing rural broadband access to remote areas of Canada. The government, in its misguided attempt to be a Dudley Doright, just can’t seem to get it right with remote broadband support.

Already there are many smaller providers who are attempting to service the under served, with no governmental subsidization. These poor blokes are going by the wayside if the government continues to meddle with little thought of the current landscape.

Ian Marlow from the Globe and Mail has some great commentary from folks who are trying to run ISPs in Northern Ontario and BC, but there are also players like Barrett Xplore, who are having great success with providing broadband internet to areas who don’t have cable or DSL options.

The consensus from the CTS —- subsidize the consumer, not the ISP and let the market drive the expansion of services. Not a bad idea, these guys should get into politics :-)

 

Rural Internet providers angered by federal support of bigger rivals - The Globe and Mail

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