Shareholder vs. Sociological Incentives: A Comment on VoIP Numbering

Policy Perspective

If you watch rural telecom as a spectator sport, you might have noted two recent issues that are potential game changers – perhaps not in the short-term, but certainly worthy of the impact they might bear in the long-term. One event was a business decision guided by perhaps unseen but not unperceived capitalistic interests, while the other (and more troubling) emanated from a regulatory proceeding at the FCC.

This week, Google confirmed that it will bring Google Fiber to Provo, Utah; the deployment will utilize vast expanses of iProvo, a municipal network that was first installed in 2004, but which never took off. Over ensuing years it was sold several times over, not quite unlike the Biblical Joseph – first to Broadweave, then back to the city, and then leased to an entirely new entity, Veracity.

The deployment of a new Google fiber city, following on the heels of Kansas City and Austin, highlights some of the challenges awaiting regulators. As we have discussed previously, Google demurred to offer voice service in Kansas City, citing regulatory burdens that interfered with the desired outcomes of the firm’s business model. I would not begrudge that decision – publicly traded firms (and private firms, too) get into business to make money, and if that goal would be frustrated by commercial or regulatory circumstances, then the firm has good reason to avoid those impacts. Read more

ATIS PSTN Transition Team in Place and More

ATIS last week announced the launch of its Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) Transition Landscape Team.  According to ATIS, this unit will be making high-level assessments of issues associated with the transition from the PSTN to IP-based networks.

In addition to extensive evaluation of replacement network architecture and engineering, the group said the transition team will provide documentation detailing requirements for telecommunications services and new networks along with answering the question of whether new standards should be developed to accommodate IP telephony as the successor to PSTN. The team will look at regulatory implications concerning the proliferation of voice-over-IP (VoIP) and over-the-top (OTT) content provision along with security and implications and goals for the public. Read more

Mobile VoIP to Triple in 2012

For many years now consumers have been cutting the landline cord, replacing traditional, landline voice minutes with other offerings such as stand-along VoIP, Internet-calling packages and wireless phones. Not surprisingly, with the increased penetration of smartphones, wireless subscribers also are starting to decrease their traditional calling minutes.

In a new report released last week, In-Stat predicts that mobile VoIP minutes will triple this year, growing from 9 million in 2010 to 29 million. The research firm also predicts that revenues associated with mobile VoIP usage will increase to more than $4 billion in 2015. Of note,  LTE operators are not likely to have a significant impact on the mobile VoIP market until 2013.

Wireless providers are aware of the impending revolution, as they move to make changes to their offerings such as eliminating unlimited data and creating new fees for services.

Skype Launches Home Phone Adapter

Skype is enabling users to turn their home phone into a VoIP calling platform with its new Freetalk ConnectMe adapter.

The adapter, which can store up to 100 speed dials/Skype contacts, also includes a switch that allows users to jump between their landline and VoIP connections.

It requires a PC for the initial set up. However, to use it, all a consumer needs is a broadband Internet connection and a home phone. This means that once the adapter is set up, users don’t have to turn on their computers to connect with friends and family through Skype – an advantage over its competitor MagicJack. Read more

Skype to Acquire Group Text-Messaging Service

Skype announced today that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire GroupMe, a provider of mobile group messaging services. GroupMe was founded in 2010 at the Techcrunch Disrupt Hackathon and is headquartered in New York City. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, however media reports state that Skype paid up to $85 million for the start-up company. Read more

Facebook, Skype Partner on Video Calling

Last week via a press conference, Facebook announced that it has partnered with Skype to integrate video chatting into the world’s largest social network.

The goal of the integration was simplicity. “This is by far the easiest way to get connected by video,” Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, said during the launch. “If it was any easier, it would be like reading your mind.” Read more

Comcast Demos Skype via Set Top

At the Cable Show just a few weeks ago Comcast revealed that it is working on a new service integrating the Skype video chat application into the Comcast Xfinity cable set top box.

This service will be delivered on the subscriber’s HDTV through an adaptor box, a high-quality video camera and a specially designed remote control that enables customers to type Skype chat messages as well as control their television. Subscribers will get notifications of incoming calls on their TVs and will be able to answer calls with full-screen video or in a window while watching TV.

The other calling party does not need any special equipment beyond what is needed to use Skype. Read more

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