After starting as the year of HD voice, 2010 ended as the year of video communication. Video in fact became so prominent that it earned a place in the title of this list. Announcements about new video communication products and services were so numerous they became routine. As the year progressed, it became clear that video conferencing/calling was no longer a luxury for the corporate and government elite, but was well on the way to becoming a commodity for the masses. Ordinary individuals will soon be making video calls with little more thought than they now give to picking up a telephone. Making that happen, however, will be a complex challenge for vendors and service providers.
A variety of other factors shaped voice and visual communication during the year. Chief among these were developments in mobile VoIP and video calling, along with an acceleration of the move to cloud-based voice services. Politics and the weather played unusually high-profile roles as well. So did the negative: Unlike last year, not all the important developments were advances – some were downright problematic. But even the negative developments had some constructive aspects. Skype of course figured prominently in many of the developments. So pervasive was the influence of the Internet VoIP pioneer that it seemed that the corporate slogan of "Skype Everywhere" applied to its appearances in headlines as well.
Continue reading "The Top 25 VoIP and Video Developments of 2010" »
When AT&T responded late last year to the FCC's request for comment on the transition from circuit-switched to all-IP public telephone infrastructure, it seemed to mark a turning point in the history of telecommunications. The 30-page letter the telco filed on December 21 urged the total phaseout of POTS (traditional "plain old telephone service") and the PSTN (public switched telephone network) on which it runs. It also recommended that the agency set a firm date for the transition in order to ensure that it happen as quickly as possible. Thus the company whose name is virtually synonymous with traditional telephony seemed to cast a clear vote in favor of the all-VoIP future. In reality, though, it was just as much a vote against AT&T's traditional service obligations. It was also a shrewd attempt to bind the phone company's interests to the high-profile issue of universal broadband access.
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There were more advances than true innovations in the VoIP world in 2009. That's because some of the most important developments had more to do with commercial and political maneuvers than with technical creativity. Still, such maneuvers often helped spread the benefits of VoIP as much as did technical innovation. And collectively, the advances brought some already-evident trends into clearer focus. A key such trend is the increasing integration of voice with other applications and services. Another is the intensifying interest in HD voice. A third is the growing interconnection of VoIP services, in part in response to the possibilities that end-to-end HD voice offers. With such trends as background, here, in no particular order, are our top 25 VoIP advances of 2009.
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So it's now official: network neutrality is about Republicans versus Democrats. Evidence of the parallel was plentiful leading up to the FCC's recent notice of proposed rulemaking, when many public statements on the subject sounded like partisan rhetoric. But AT&T's September 25 letter to the FCC attacking Google provided the most convincing proof: it amounted to a character assault worthy of a presidential campaign. And a subsequent op-ed piece in the Washington Examiner made clear, if it wasn't already, which sides the high-tech combatants were on.
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The timing of the announcements by Verizon Wireless and AT&T was almost transparent. Both came just a couple of weeks after new FCC chairman Julius Genachowski's September 21 speech on network neutrality. In that speech, Genachowski stated, among other things, that neutrality rules should cover wireless communications. Even then, it was clear that mobile VoIP would be the most explosive issue in the network neutrality battle.
Continue reading "AT&T's, Verizon's Mobile VoIP Moves Reveal Political Concerns" »
AT&T's recent letter to the FCC about Google Voice was obviously disingenuous. It tried to link network neutrality, a key Google crusade, with Google Voice's blocking of certain calls. In reality, there was little connection except the politics involved: The real goal of the communication was to paint AT&T as on the side of network openness, and Google as on the opposite side. But the letter did inadvertently bring to light a potentially major weakness in the Google Voice model: the fact that the free service has to pay to have its users' calls delivered to their destinations on the PSTN (public switched telephone network).
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The most heated battles over FCC chairman Julius Genachowski's new network neutrality proposal will involve its impact on wireless providers. Network neutrality attempts to ensure that Internet providers treat all traffic equally. Traditional landline-based providers have done so from the start, and the chairman's proposal merely aims to make sure they continue to do so. But wireless Internet providers have done just the opposite from the start. Thus the proposal, if enacted, would force them to change their businesses completely. And the biggest reason they will oppose that change is mobile VoIP.
Continue reading "Mobile VoIP Will Be FCC Net Neutrality Flash Point" »