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The August 15, 2004 Issue Provided by System Dynamics Inc.
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Briefly Noted: Updates, Observations and Trends

We’ve decided to make “briefly noted” a section of its own. Each month it collects miscellaneous happenings, studies, trends or observations that you might have missed. This month’s tidbits verify how broadband is increasingly a part of consumers' lives and includes several pieces on VoIP, IP VOD, and video mail.

Broadband Services

Hotel Broadband a "Must Have"

InStat/MDR has published a report indicating that hotel broadband deployment activity is expanding rapidly, as hotels increasingly view broadband as a "must have". "The primary driving factor is guest demand for broadband service and hotels see broadband now as an essential element of the guestroom, along with a bed, telephone, and TV". This is the logical outcome of a trend we started writing about in 2002. ( )

Broadband or Breakfast?

2Wire, Inc has released the result of a study of 400 broadband subscribers which suggests "that broadband connectivity is permeating all aspects of subscribers' lives, with availability of Internet access strongly influencing vacation destinations, daily routines and working practices." Among its factoids, it indicates that "half of American broadband subscribers consider checking email the most essential part of their morning routines, beating out eating breakfast and reading the paper." ( )

The Year of VoIP -- Now!

Here are a few of the indicators in the US that VoIP has really arrived big time:

  • AT&T has reached 100 major markets with its CallVantage VoIP service; it has also announced it will no longer promote standard consumer voice services and is focusing its resources on VoIP, which can serve both business and consumer markets, and data networking for businesses.
  • Verizon announced its new VoIP over broadband service, called VoiceWing, which provides unlimited calling within the U.S. for $39.95.
  • Small new companies are sprouting like weeds to offer VoIP services. VoIP Inc has launched eGlobalphone, a primary line residential VoIP service, in 9 U.S. states. Others include StarNet's VoiceEclipse residential VoIP service. ( ) ( )
  • ...and these are just a few in addition to those we wrote about last December in IP Telephony -- Coming of Age in the US.

Many places around the world have been out in front of the US:

  • In Japan, Yahoo! Broadband has for some time been bundling ADSL and VoIP phone service with huge take rates, thereby scaring major providers into offering a similar service.
  • From the UK, David Moloney, Editor in Chief of Total Telecom, emailed us saying: "...VoIP over BB is completely the buzz word this year, and most operators are launching services." ( )

In a different class from the incumbents, disrupters are also busy:

  • Skype has expanded beyond computer-to-computer voice services by completing agreements with COLT, iBasis, Level 3, and Teleglobe to provide call termination services worldwide. The new SkypeOut pre-pay service allows people to call any land-line or mobile phones at local rates, using Skype software. ( )

Unexpected Consequences?

Communications via POTS telephony has been taken for granted not only by ordinary consumers but also by a variety of industries that have used these telephone lines as part of their product/applications fabric. As VoIP telephony becomes more commonplace and increasing numbers of consumers drop their POTS lines, there are going to be some unexpected surprises for the unwary. One of these--the incompatibility of VoIP telephony with alarm systems--was recently pointed out by Joan Engebretson in America's Network. In the article, Engebretson points to two issues. One is the well-known issue of lack of central office powering in the event of a power failure (although battery back-up mitigates this as long as the battery lasts). The other is the reliance of the alarm industry on long-standing protocols which don't work properly in the new digital environment. ( )

Worst Nightmares--VoIP spam

We hope VoIP providers are paying close attention to security issues and are heading off something which sounds like my worst nightmare (well,...maybe not really the very worst). It's voice spam, or "VAM" as it was dubbed on the Engadget Web site. The implications are awful. When telemarketers call, at least they have to place calls one at a time. However, with VoIP, the message goes right into your inbox, lurking for the next time you go to check voice mail. The difference from telemarketers is that the VAM voicemail could be put into lots of people's inboxes simultaneously. Already one company has issued a press release about filing a patent application for its method to identify and block VoIP spam. ( )

IP VOD -- Coming of Age?

When the New York Times has a headline like "An Online Supplier for Your Desktop Cineplex", it seems like the broadband world we've been talking about is really arriving. The article reviews four current Internet VOD services: Starz Ticket, Movielink, Cinemanow and Movieflix. It concludes that, while Internet VOD misses out on some aspects of renting a movie--like selection and clerk recommendations, "in other ways it makes an ideal way to rent movies." ( )

Video Mail from Comcast

Comcast has added video mail as its latest application -- continuing its quest to distinguish its service by new applications rather than price cuts. Comcast Video Mail, available to its customers at no additional charge, enables users to create video messages up to 45 seconds in length, using their personal computer and a webcam. They can also use Comcast Video Mail to send personalized video greeting cards and to share their digital photos via narrated photo slideshows. The application is based on the Vibe Solutions Communications Platform -- previously mentioned in our February 2004 report. We expect this is the beginning of video applications becoming more widespread in the future. ( ) ( )