VON no shows; fixed-mobile convergence; Skype mobile

VON trade show: the no-show list

San Jose, CA -- The VON spring 2007 trade-show this year was notable for who was absent. Among the non-attenders: Cisco, Lucent, and Nortel. Sonus didn't have a booth, but they rented some meeting rooms.

To be precise, Cisco was present in the logos of some literature in the Linksys booth, but the extremely popular Cisco SIP phones and AS5400 gateways were not represented at all.

I heard several folks say they wouldn't be back for spring next year; some of these had the big expensive booths, too.

It just seems like there are too many VON shows; i.e., one too many in the US. The Boston fall VON seems like plenty. Perhaps if they had fewer, they could also be more choosy about their speakers.

Fixed-Mobile Convergence -- All in the edge device?

One speaker from Motorola, John Waclawsky, argued that the edge device -- e.g., the cell phone -- would be the key to future innovation. And maybe it will be. But I didn't see in his model exactly how you're going to get the mobile carriers to play along. By this I mean: if I have a PSTN number, that number can only reside at one LRN, an that LRN can only be routed to one switch. So what if my device does GSM and WiFi -- if I leave the GSM network and register via VoIP with WiFi, I won't be able to get calls that go to my PSTN number hosted on the GSM-network's switch. At least, not by default.

We could setup number forwarding, so that calls will try the cell phone network first, then be forwarded to a VoIP number. That might work OK. Outbound caller ID might be tricky to get right, depending on where you hosted the number and how you forwarded the number. Another, more sophisticated and robust mechanism might be integrating with a mobile carrier's network to become a visitor network. My point here is that just enabling an endpoint device to talk lots of wireless protocols doesn't mean its user will be able to receive telephone calls automatically.

Perhaps the IMS registration mechanism is a reasonable way of doing this. I haven't seen much of IMS that seemed innovative. Mostly just acronyms and Bellheads running another good idea into the ground. I'd like to be disproved in this.

Skype's New Services

I just chatted with one of Pulver Media's journalists from Israel as he and I were leaving the VON show in San Jose. In his view, the Skype CEO's talk at the show was the big news. The announcements:

  • Skype will provide a front-end to Paypal money transfers between Skype users. Will that be useful? Who knows. On the face, it's not exactly technically innovative, but sometimes baby steps in usability can make let you cross the line between hassle and usefulness.
  • Skype will have a version that runs over EV-DO and other broadband wireless services. That seems like a nifty implementation. But who will pay $50 or $100 per month for high-speed wireless Internet service...then use Skype on top of it? According to my Israeli friend, high-speed wireless service is cheaper in Israel -- $10/month for 1 GB of transfers. Assuming a 8 kbps codec, 1 GB is about 113 hours of talking. (
    1*10^9 [gigabytes / byte] / 8 [kbps] * 1024 [bits/kb] * 1.2 [overhead for IP] * 2 [individual streams in the conversation] / 8 [bytes per bit] / 3600 [seconds per hour]


    The journalist was impressed by the way Skype is piggybacking on systems that other people operate. Skype definitely isn't cheating anybody, though -- they're completely dependent on infrastructure provided by others. This is classic layered application development. In effect, Skype is offering the application, while the ISPs offer the transport network.

    But the ISPs all want to do "triple play" -- i.e., they want to sell you telephone service, Internet service, and television programming (a la Cable TV). It's difficult to buy high-speed residential Internet service from a telco without buying telephone service along with it (i.e., "naked DSL" is rare). The cable carriers are glad to just sell Internet service, but they'd love to bundle in their overpriced TV and phone service. So as a business proposition which I am completely unqualified to analyze, Skype will have a hard time competing with existing carriers for the voice calls.

    OTOH, Skype is a handy supplemental tool for people who are already buying all of those services. If you already have Internet service, then Skype gives you something else to do with it.