ITExpo: The Future is Now: Mobile Callers Want Visuals with Voice over the existing network

I will be moderating a panel on this topic at ITExpo East 2012 in Miami at 2:30 pm on Wednesday, February 1st.

The panelists will be Theresa Szczurek of Radish Systems, LLC, Jim Machi of Dialogic, Niv Kagan of Surf Communications Solutions and Bogdan-George Pintea of Damaka.

The concept of visuals with voice is a compelling one, and there are numerous kinds of visual content that you may want to convey. For example, when you do a video call with FaceTime or Skype, you can switch the camera to show what you are looking at if you wish, but you can’t share your screen or photos during a call.

FaceTime, Skype and Google Talk all use the data connection for both the voice and video streams, and the streams travel over the Internet.

A different, non-IP technology for videophone service called 3G-324M, is widely used by carriers in Europe and Asia. It carries the video over the circuit-switched channel, which enables better quality (lower latency) than the data channel. An interesting application of this lets companies put their IVR menus into a visual format, so instead of having to listen through a tedious listing of options that you don’t want, you can instantly select your choice from an on-screen menu. Dialogic makes back-end equipment that makes applications like on-screen IVR possible on 3G-324M networks.

Radish Systems uses a different method to provide a similar visual IVR capability for when your carrier doesn’t support 3G-324M (none of the US carriers do). The Radish application is called Choiceview. When you make a call from your iPhone to a Choiceview-enabled IVR, you dial the call the regular way, then start the Choiceview app on your iPhone. The Choiceview IVR matches the Caller ID on the call with your phone number that you typed into the app setup, and pushes a menu to the appropriate client. So the call goes over the old circuit-switched network, while Choiceview communicates over the data network. Choiceview is strictly a client-server application. A Choiceview server can push any data to a phone, but the phone can’t send data the other way, neither can two phones exchange data via Choiceview.

So this ITExpo session will try to make sense of this mix: multiple technologies, multiple geographies and multiple use cases for visual data exchange during phone calls.

ITExpo East 2011: NGC-02 “The Next Generation of Voice over WLAN”

I will be moderating this panel at IT Expo in Miami on February 2nd at 10:00 am.

Voice over WLAN has been deployed in enterprise applications for years, but has yet to reach mainstream adoption (beyond vertical markets). With technologies like mobile UC, 802.11n, fixed-mobile convergence and VoIP for smartphones raising awareness/demand, there are a number of vendors poised to address market needs by introducing new and innovative devices. This session will look at what industries have already adopted VoWLAN and why – and what benefits they have achieved, as well as the technology trends that make VoWLAN possible.

The panelists are:

  • Russell Knister, Sr. Director, Business Development & Product Marketing, Motorola Solutions
  • Ben Guderian, VP Applications and Ecosystem, Polycom
  • Carlos Torales, Cisco Systems, Inc.

All three of these companies have a venerable history in enterprise Wi-Fi phones; the two original pioneers of enterprise Voice over Wireless LAN were Symbol and Spectralink, which Motorola and Polycom acquired respectively in 2006 and 2007. Cisco announced a Wi-Fi handset (the 7920) to complement their Cisco CallManager in 2003. But the category has obstinately remained a niche for almost a decade.

It has been clear from the outset that cell phones would get Wi-Fi, and it would be redundant to have dedicated Wi-Fi phones. And of course, now that has come to pass. The advent of the iPhone with Wi-Fi in 2007 subdued the objections of the wireless carriers to Wi-Fi and knocked the phone OEMs off the fence. By 2010 you couldn’t really call a phone without Wi-Fi a smartphone, and feature phones aren’t far behind.

So this session will be very interesting, answering questions about why enterprise voice over Wi-Fi has been so confined, and why that will no longer be the case.

Dumb mobile pipes

An interesting story from Bloomberg says that Ericsson is contemplating owning a wireless network infrastructure. Ericsson is already one of the top 5 mobile network operators worldwide, but it doesn’t own any of the networks it manages – it is simply a supplier of outsourced network management services.

The idea here is that Ericsson will own and manage its own network, and wholesale the services on it to MVNOs. If this plan goes through, and if Ericsson is able to stick to the wholesale model and not try to deliver services direct to consumers, it will be huge for wireless network neutrality. It is a truly disruptive development, in that it could lower barriers to entry for mobile service providers, and open up the wireless market to innovation at the service level.

[update] Upon reflection, I think this interpretation of Ericsson’s intent is over-enthusiastic. The problem is spectrum. Ericsson can’t market this to MVNOs without spectrum. So a more likely interpretation of Ericsson’s proposal is that it will pay for infrastructure, then sell capacity and network management services to spectrum-owning mobile network operators. Not a dumb pipes play at all. It is extremely unlikely that Ericsson will buy spectrum for this, though there are precedents for equipment manufacturers buying spectrum – Qualcomm and Intel have both done so.

[update 2] With the advent of white spaces, Ericsson would not need to own spectrum to offer a wholesale service from its wireless infrastructure. The incremental cost of provisioning white spaces on a cellular base station would be relatively modest.

What is Mobile Unified Communications?

I wrote a while back about Enterprise FMC, but Fixed Mobile Convergence has been around so long that it doesn’t sound new and sexy anymore, so it needed a new name to freshen it up. Mobile Unified Communications is that new name. In a similar spirit of freshening up, I took the terms from the earlier posting, and compiled them into a Definitions page of their own, which you can access in the list of links on the right, under Fixed Mobile Convergence.