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'[OT:] VoIP ready for Prime Time?'
2004\03\25@042845 by Picdude

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Are there any VoIP providers to date that have decent-quality sound?  So far, I've not found it to be so great (example my cousin uses Vonage in FL and phone service is frequently choppy).  Any ideas how Packet 8 works?  Any others?

I'm considering this since the US supreme court recently overturned the FCCs ruling to allow non-Bell companies to compete for local phone service over existing (Bell) infrastructure.  If my current carrier (MCI) goes out of the local-service business, I'd just drop my telephone line since SBC has really poor customer service out here.  Cellphone service (sound quality) is not great either, and BPL is just a dream still AFAIK.

Any of you folks have thoughts on this recent decision of the US courts to reverse the ruling that allows non-Bell companies to provide local phone service?  I think it would be bad for us consumers, not just from a $ standpoint, but also since we'd be compelled to use a companies that don't have to provide decent customer service.

Anyway, I'm surfing for answers on this and thought some of you might have ideas on what could happen if this ruling reversal sticks, and what the practical options might be.

Cheers,
-Neil.

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2004\03\25@113354 by Harold Hallikainen

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I use VOIP from http://www.sipphone.com . It seems to work very well. The
audio MIGHT break up when traffic gets heavy (and I don't know where the
congestion is... it might be on my DSL, since I run a server on it, or it
might be somewhere else). SipPhone is pure VOIP in that they do not bridge
to the POTS network (though you can call 800 numbers). It's generally
intended to do free calling to other SipPhone users and users of Free
World Dialup (which the FCC just declared is an "information service"
instead of a "communications service", so it is exempt from various
requirements and taxes). Once you have the SipPhone equipment, there are
no usage fees. After that point, you're really just using their directory
server (my name for it). They also offer free voicemail (the message is
emailed to you) and conference calling.

Fun toy! If you have a calling card from some company that lets you use an
800 (or similar) number, you can use SipPhone to bridge into POTS and call
non-SipPhone customers.

Harold


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2004\03\25@130814 by Dave L

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you are saying that the incumbent/ILEC (SBC) has inferior service to a CLEC
(MCI)
despite the fact that the CLEC has to lease the local loop from the ILEC
anyways
that isn't typical is it? how often have you been out of service?

my local cableco are ramping up for voip but given the frequency of
downtime on my
cable internet I certainly would not use them for a primary line


At 03:46 AM 3/25/04 -0600, you wrote:
>.... If my current carrier (MCI) goes out of the
>local-service business, I'd just drop my telephone line since SBC has really
>poor customer service out here.  Cellphone service (sound quality) is not
>great either, and BPL is just a dream still AFAIK.
>......


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2004\03\25@154813 by M. Adam Davis

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The only downside is the emergency 911 service being unavailable over
VOIP, and the problems of getting something to do what E911 does are
tremendous.  When VOIP hits the point where non-technical people are
adopting it the gov't is going to require it, which will then cause
companies to start charging us.

The probability of calling 911 is very low.  The probability of needing
to call 911 and not being able to give location information is lower
Asthma, heart attack, allergic reaction - all can make it difficult to
understand an address if the caller happens to know it in the first
place.  The consequences of not being able to do so when needed are so
large that many people will choose to keep basic phone service on
premise even if they use another method fo normal calls.

I suspect that the two will converge along with IPv6 which will have an
easier location based IP tracking, though still far from pin-point.  Of
course, current addressing relies on IPv4 addressing, so it won't apply
now.  But since there are 4x10^20 addresses per square inch of the
earth's surface (including water, which makes up about 70% of that) then
it should be trivial to tie IP addresses to large geographical areas (A
state or region).  Then a reverse DNS lookup with specific location info
(ISP's location in the coarsest cases, or reference to the ISP's
geo-location server).  Of course, GPS is getting down in price so every
portable voip phone will have that capability.

Still not trivial...

-Adam

Picdude wrote:

{Quote hidden}

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2004\03\25@194950 by Russell McMahon

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> But since there are 4x10^20 addresses per square inch of the
> earth's surface

Actually, there's 2.5 x 10^66 addressable locations per square inch
(according to Planck) :-) - but an addressing scheme that is 10^45 or so
times coarser should be good enough for most purposes.



       RM

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2004\03\26@013356 by William Chops Westfield

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On Thursday, Mar 25, 2004, at 01:46 US/Pacific, Picdude wrote:

> Are there any VoIP providers to date that have decent-quality sound?

IMO, the internet as a whole isn't quite ready to have VoIP widely
deployed, although it can work pretty well in intranets...

BillW

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2004\03\28@004306 by Picdude

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On Thursday 25 March 2004 10:31 am, Harold Hallikainen scribbled:
> I use VOIP from http://www.sipphone.com . It seems to work very well. The
> audio MIGHT break up when traffic gets heavy (and I don't know where the
> congestion is... it might be on my DSL, since I run a server on it, or it
> might be somewhere else). SipPhone is pure VOIP in that they do not bridge
> to the POTS network (though you can call 800 numbers). It's generally
> intended to do free calling to other SipPhone users and users of Free
> World Dialup (which the FCC just declared is an "information service"
> instead of a "communications service", so it is exempt from various
> requirements and taxes). Once you have the SipPhone equipment, there are
> no usage fees. After that point, you're really just using their directory
> server (my name for it). They also offer free voicemail (the message is
> emailed to you) and conference calling.

Interesting.  Had never heard of them.  I'll check it out.


> Fun toy! If you have a calling card from some company that lets you use an
> 800 (or similar) number, you can use SipPhone to bridge into POTS and call
> non-SipPhone customers.
>
> Harold

THanks,
-Neil.

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2004\03\28@005135 by Picdude

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On Thursday 25 March 2004 12:07 pm, Dave L scribbled:
> you are saying that the incumbent/ILEC (SBC) has inferior service to a CLEC
> (MCI)
> despite the fact that the CLEC has to lease the local loop from the ILEC
> anyways
> that isn't typical is it? how often have you been out of service?

Nope ... not system service, but customer service.  My bill went higher and higher every month with no changes to my service, and I could not get a clear explanation from them.


> my local cableco are ramping up for voip but given the frequency of
> downtime on my
> cable internet I certainly would not use them for a primary line

Time Warner out here has been fairly reliable, expect for once when it was shot for a whole day due to a cable getting chopped.  Definitely gave my cellphone a workout that day. :-)

Cheers,
-Neil.

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2004\03\28@010627 by Picdude

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On Thursday 25 March 2004 02:46 pm, M. Adam Davis scribbled:
> The only downside is the emergency 911 service being unavailable over
> VOIP, and the problems of getting something to do what E911 does are
> tremendous.  When VOIP hits the point where non-technical people are
> adopting it the gov't is going to require it, which will then cause
> companies to start charging us.

Oh absolutely.  It's only a matter of time.


> The probability of calling 911 is very low.  The probability of needing
> to call 911 and not being able to give location information is lower
> Asthma, heart attack, allergic reaction - all can make it difficult to
> understand an address if the caller happens to know it in the first
> place.  The consequences of not being able to do so when needed are so
> large that many people will choose to keep basic phone service on
> premise even if they use another method fo normal calls.

So perhaps this adds to the case that the ILECs are monopolies.  Isn't it something like early May that the CLECs won't be able to provide local service?


> I suspect that the two will converge along with IPv6 which will have an
> easier location based IP tracking, though still far from pin-point.  
But not a problem if there's a database/lookup like regular telephone numbers now.

{Quote hidden}

And not for quite some time.

Cheers,
-Neil.

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2004\03\28@010834 by Picdude

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On Friday 26 March 2004 12:33 am, William Chops Westfield scribbled:
> On Thursday, Mar 25, 2004, at 01:46 US/Pacific, Picdude wrote:
> > Are there any VoIP providers to date that have decent-quality sound?
>
> IMO, the internet as a whole isn't quite ready to have VoIP widely
> deployed, although it can work pretty well in intranets...
>
> BillW

Exactly as I suspected/almost knew, but I was hoping that I was ignorant of some new development/technology out there that would bring a nice grin to my face.  Oh well.

Cheers,
-Neil.

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2004\03\28@053301 by William Chops Westfield

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On Saturday, Mar 27, 2004, at 22:26 US/Pacific, Picdude wrote:

>> IMO, the internet as a whole isn't quite ready to have VoIP widely
>> deployed, although it can work pretty well in intranets...
>
> Exactly as I suspected/almost knew, but I was hoping that I was
> ignorant of some new development/technology out there that would bring
> a nice grin to my face.  Oh well.
>
Personally, I keep wishing that companies would do more along the lines
of investigating how to provide "less than carrier class" service
without having to rip out and replace the entire internet
infrastructure.  Unfortunately, all the VoIP wanna-bes seem to be
aiming smack at being a drop-in replacement for the "near perfect"
existing phone systems.  Sigh.  (like, instead of requiring 100 bytes
of data every 100ms with less than 10ms jitter (which is freaking AWFUL
for the old internet infrastructure), why can't the phone packetize at
natural phonetic pauses so that we can sent 300 byte packets and jitter
isn't very important anymore...)

BillW

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2004\03\28@174652 by M. Adam Davis

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William Chops Westfield wrote:

> Personally, I keep wishing that companies would do more along the lines
> of investigating how to provide "less than carrier class" service
> without having to rip out and replace the entire internet
> infrastructure.  Unfortunately, all the VoIP wanna-bes seem to be
> aiming smack at being a drop-in replacement for the "near perfect"
> existing phone systems.  Sigh.  (like, instead of requiring 100 bytes
> of data every 100ms with less than 10ms jitter (which is freaking AWFUL
> for the old internet infrastructure), why can't the phone packetize at
> natural phonetic pauses so that we can sent 300 byte packets and jitter
> isn't very important anymore...)
>
The internet was designed explicitly for non-realtime information
transfer.  There is no way to deterministically deliver a packet from
point A on the internet to point B and have it arrive within a given
time frame unless the time frame is large (> 1 second, often as much as
several seconds)  Furthermore it's fault tolerance is designed around
the implicit understanding that any packet can be dropped at any time
for any reason with no penalty.  Both of these play directly against the
real-time multimedia nature of a basic telephone call.  If you've talked
to someone across the ocean with a delay of under 300mS you know how
painful even that small delay is.

You've nailed it on the head by saying that VOIP providers want to
provide phone class service.  The problem is that they have to - no one
is going to switch to VOIP unless it's at /least/ phone class service
with no noticable delay and at least 3kHz audio bandwidth.

There are several issues with placing this kind of data on the
internet.  The round trip time for one packet is often on the order of
100mS or more.  By the time the sender realizes a packet was not
delivered to the receiver (dropped for whatever reason) it's too late to
send it again.  Because of this packets are kept small and algorithms
are built around filling in the blank spots which works pretty well for
normal human voices.  The jitter issue is psychoacoustically important.
People, apparantly, can't stand the sound of jittery audio.
Unfortunately the solution you provide isn't workable either since 300
bytes is too long of a delay, but even if it wasn't english does not
have 'pauses'.  If you remember the old speach recognition packages of
years ago they required users to place a distinct pause between words
for detection.  Newer technology doesn't require that and is called
continuous recognition.  It would take a very powerful system to break
up the words in english.  In most cases pauses only occur while
inhaling.  It would be like talking over walkie talkies, only more
annoying because you could still talk at the 'same time' but it would be
percieved differently.

In any case it wouldn't be like you were there, and the primary
advantage to phone is that it's as though you are present, thus tele-phone.

I suspect that these test-beds will continue for another year or two
while they overcome the limitations of the internet with superior
processing power at each end of the line (error detection and correction
- it costs about the same time to send a packet that contains current,
old, and new data.  Loss of one packet then can be fixed with
information from previous and next packets).  In 1-2 years we'll see
providers that will charge normal amounts of money for VOIP telephone
services.  3-5 years the FCC will regulate and start considering
internet access as a basic service and start surcharging that, rather
than the phone service on top of it.  By that time we should see 1mbps
service to the home as common, and 10mbps service as available.  Phone
service will be value added - essentially 'free' but many providers will
compete for attention with bells and whistles.

Either that or I'm really bored today.  It's a nice day too - I should
go play with my kids.

-Adam

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