New Unlicensed Mobile Access (or UMA) cell phones from manufacturers such as Motorola, Nokia and Sony Ericsson are expected to deliver connectivity to both the traditional cell phone infrastructure (through GSM) and to VOIP services through Wi-Fi. However, its yet to be seen whether such functionality will provide competition and lower rates for consumers or whether these devices will be sucked up through exclusive deals by the dominant cell phone companies in the North American market, with the VOIP functionality tied to their networks. In other words, they’ll automatically switch to the cell phone operator’s VOIP service when used inside the home or in the office where cellular connectivity may be weak but where a strong wi-fi signal may be available, but won’t necessarily offer lower rates for such usage. To get the best of both worlds, I suspect early adopters will still need to carry two phones.
Talk about an all-in-one device. The new SMC Travel Voice Gateway (SMCWTVG) has almost everything a road warrior could ask for. It can be used as a wireless wi-fi (802.11b/g) access point, client or bridge. 1 FXS and 1 FXO interfaces (with RJ-11 connectors which can be connected to traditional telephones) for Voice-over-IP support. Address Translation (NAT), SPI Firewall and VPN pass-through. Expected to retail at US$199. Availability by end of Q1 from retail channels.
Pulver.com has announced the launch of IPeerX, a VOIP peering service (which originated with FWD) that can be used by VOIP service providers to interconnect their networks and bypass the local public switched telephone network (PSTN) from calls made from the subscriber of one service to the subscriber of a different service. Over 130 service providers are already connected.
The Interconnection Agreement that participating VOIP service providers must agree to is amazingly short and stated to be “non-binding”. I guess there weren’t any lawyers around.
There have been many recent posts regarding Vonage’s IPO. However, the news that I found more interesting comes from VOIP and Gadgets Blog’s posting – a source informed them that Vonage may open up its SIP credentials to enable users to configure their own SIP softphones and SIP hardphones to work with the Vonage service at no additional charge. I for one had tried the Vonage service early on and had terminated my account due to two factors: (i) many Vonage competitors were less expensive and (ii) the Vonage service would only work with locked telephone adapters and did not allow the freedom of using softphones or wi-fi voip handsets except as an add-on (and at an additional cost). Who wants to have to carry a bulky voice-over-IP adapter around when traveling? On the other hand, Vonage is larger and more credible than many of the smaller VOIP players. If they did open up their service, I would definitely consider re-activating service with them.
Canada’s Telecommunications Policy Review Panel is expected to issue its report later this month or sometime in February. Hopefully, the concerns addressed will include the issue of network neutrality. A number of the public submissions supported implementation of a policy providing for network neutrality – including those filed by Michael Geist (pdf), Patricia Arney (doc) and Tucows (doc). Not surprisingly, the Canadian Cable Telecommunications Association took the position that regulatory intervention supporting network neutrality was not required.
The next Toronto Computer Lawyers’ Group meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 17, 2006 from 12:00 noon to 2:00 p.m., at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, 1 First Canadian Place, 63rd Floor, Toronto. The topic will be Canadian Regulation of Voice over IP (VoIP) – Framework, Issues and Implications. Further information is available at tclg.org