Saturday, April 14, 2007

India - undersea cable landing stations

Consultation Paper on Access to Essential Facilities (Including Landing Facilities for Submarine Cables) at Cable Landing Stations

From TRAI:

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had earlier observed that International Private Leased Circuits (IPLC) segment is lacking competition needed for creating conducive environment for growth of various telecom services and requires soft regulatory intervention. In order to enhance competition in international bandwidth connectivity segment, TRAI had issued Consultation Paper No.5/2005 “Measures to Promote Competition in International Private Leased Circuits (IPLC) in India”, in June 2005. The Authority made recommendations to the Department of Telecommunications (DOT) on “Measures to Promote Competition in International Private Leased Circuits (IPLC) in India” on December 16, 2005. DOT accepted TRAI’s recommendations pertaining to (a) Introduction of Resale in IPLC segments and (b) Access to essential facilities including landing facilities for submarine cables at cable landing stations. The Licensor has also amended the relevant clauses in International Long Distance (ILD) Service licence to bring out regulations to ensure efficient, transparent and non discriminatory “Access to Essential Facilities including landing facilities for Submarine Cables at Cable Landing Stations (CLS)”.

TRAI believes that competition in IPLC segment could be enhanced if ILD licensees entering the market have adequate access to necessary facilities at cable landing stations. To ensure this access, the interconnection regulations should provide for dominant suppliers who control or who are responsible for the operation of the cable landing station to allow other licensees to (a) have access to the cable landing stations; (b) physically co-locate their own equipment necessary for connection in the cable landing stations; (c) interconnect at the cable landing station to any operator’s equipment in the cable landing station at any technically feasible point; and (d) access backhaul circuits of all types in a timely fashion, under terms & conditions and rates that are cost oriented, transparent, and non-discriminatory.

With a view to bringing out all the related aspects of the issues and to provide a suitable platform for discussion, this consultation paper (along with draft regulations) is being released in the public domain. It focuses on the approach and modalities on The International Telecommunication Access To Essential Facilities (including Landing Facilities for Submarine Cables) at Cable Landing Stations. Any expression of opinion in the document is to be read in the context of analysis of the option/data and not the final view of the Authority.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Europe - roaming

Roaming Vote in the European Parliament: "The bell is now tolling for international roaming charges in Europe" (Commissioner Viviane Reding)

From the European Commission:

This morning, the European Parliament's Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee voted on the Commission's proposal of 12 May 2006 for an EU Regulation to reduce international mobile roaming charges by up to 70% by this summer. The ITRE Committee is the European Parliament's lead Committee on the EU Roaming regulation, in association with the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO).


On the outcome of this vote – which supported all the main points of the Commission's proposal for an EU Roaming Regulation –, EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding commented as follows:

"Loudly, the bell is now tolling for international mobile roaming charges in Europe. Thanks to the tremendous work accomplished in the European Parliament over the past days, this last border in the EU's internal market, still visible for the moment on most consumers' mobile phone bill, is now bound to disappear very shortly.

I congratulate Paul Rübig, the Rapporteur on roaming in the European Parliament's Industry Committee, for his great efforts made to match the ambitious proposals presented last July by the Commission with very low price caps both at wholesale and at retail level.

It is very good news for Europe's consumers that the European Parliament's lead Committee wants to allow roaming charges of no more than 40 cents per minute for a mobile call made abroad, and of no more than 15 cents per minute for a call received abroad.

The best part of this is: in the view of the Parliament's Industry Committee, these low roaming tariffs should apply automatically to all customers unless they decide to opt for an even cheaper package offered by a mobile operator (opt out-system). This is the solution also favoured by the Commission, as it is easy to handle and avoids red tape both for consumers and for operators. It also means that mobile operators will now have to convince consumers that they offer an even better package than prescribed by the new EU roaming rules. This is a strong incentive for more competition among mobile operators

I also welcome the fact that the Industry Committee today voted in favour of low price caps at wholesale level. This will help ensure that smaller mobile operators also will be able to compete on the European roaming market.

With today's vote, all Parliament Committees charged with the matter are now supporting all the main points of the Commission proposal, namely regulation both at wholesale and retail level and greater price transparency.

It is now in the hands of 785 Parliamentarians – who are going to vote in May on the final text in the Parliament's plenary – and of the 27 national Telecom Ministers – who will meet for a final formal Council on Roaming in Luxembourg on 7 June – to abolish exorbitant mobile roaming charges once and for all.

In view of the emerging consensus on the new rules, an early entry into force of the EU Roaming Regulation is now a very realistic possibility. With the combined will and efforts of the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers and the European Commission, it should be possible to secure lower roaming tariffs as early as this July.

I call on all EU institutions, Member States and national regulators to work very closely together over the next weeks to make sure that this summer, consumers – and not again the operators – will be able to go on a real roaming vacation."


Today's vote in the European Parliament's ITRE Committee successfully completed the Committee stage of the Parliament's legislative procedure. Thanks to the efforts made in particular by the Rapporteurs of the 4 separate Committees that have now voted on the Commission proposal (Paul Rübig, EPP-ED, Austria, for the Industry, Research and Energy Committee; Joseph Muscat, PSE, Malta, for the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee; Andrea Losco, ALDE, Italy, for the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee and Manolis Mavrommatis, EPP-ED, Greece, for the Culture and Education Committee), all the main points of the EU Roaming Regulation (retail and wholesale price caps and grater transparency obligations) have now been approved by all Parliamentary Committees.

The next steps in the legislative process are:

* Vote in the plenary of the European Parliament: expected mid May.
* Formal EU Telecom Council in Luxembourg: 7 June.

USA - corporate networks

Network Commoditization Is Leading to an Expanded Set of Full-Service North American Service Providers

From Gartner Group

The increasing deployment of fiber to the business building enables a new breed of large companies to become service providers. They can do this efficiently by packaging their own IP and Ethernet infrastructure around the fiber link. This results in a simple, high-capacity Ethernet or IP access pipe that delivers a cost-effective converged voice, data and video delivery model.

Companies like IBM, Unisys, EDS and CSC can be one-stop retailers of IP communications along with their traditional IT services. Likewise, international players such as Equant and BT can now tie in their multinational customers with U.S. operations via IP/Ethernet fiber connections. Discussions with the systems integrators and global operators reveal that Ethernet/IP access to their customers is increasingly less of an obstacle. The industry is therefore on a path to end-to-end network commoditization.

The result is a new breed of telecom providers focused on large enterprises. But these new providers offer far more than network services, including their core offerings of LAN management, VoIP, storage, desktop management, security, help desk support and business continuity. End users will be the biggest beneficiaries, because they will have more options, with each option offering greater service depth.

Mobile - broadband

Value of mobile broadband access unclear to average consumers

From Parks Associates

Mobile broadband access services have failed worldwide to capture the interest of average consumers, with Internet users in most countries unwilling to pay a premium for such services, according to a study published by Parks Associates. The market research shows that only Internet users in the U.K. are willing to pay a significant premium -- 28 percent on average -- over the cost of a fixed connection for mobile broadband access. U.S. consumers are willing to pay only a 6 percent premium for a basic mobile broadband service.

Consumers in countries with advanced phone-centric mobile Internet services are even less interested in paying a premium for mobile broadband access.

Parks defines mobile broadband access as a wireless high-speed service with which users can access the Internet wirelessly at home and in other locations.

"Wireless broadband access services marketed by mobile carriers today resonate with road warriors and are having success in that segment," said Yuanzhe "Michael" Cai, director of broadband and gaming, Parks Associates, "but the majority of Internet users primarily access the Internet at home and work and are unwilling to pay more for a subscription service they won’t use on a frequent basis."

The report finds that at $35 a month, a rate much lower than the prevailing price offered by major mobile carriers, only 19% of U.S. Internet users are interested in adopting a mobile broadband service. At this price point, the total worldwide addressable market is less than 100 million subscribers.

"The road warrior market offers great ARPU potential but is limited in size," Cai said. "In order to expand beyond this segment, mobile carriers need to provide application-centric rather than access-centric mobile broadband services and offer flexible business models that fit consumers’ usage patterns."

About the market research study

The Parks Associates report, "Mobile Broadband Wireless: Path toward 4G", examines next-generation mobile broadband wireless solutions, including 801.16e/WiBro, FLASH-OFDM, and cellular solutions. It analyzes potential market opportunities, examines the competitive equipment and service industry landscape, shares consumer perspectives, and provides market-sizing information.

China - 3G

The fog over China's 3G begins to clear
full report in CBF
From China Business Feature

BEIJING, April 12 /Xinhua-PRNewswire/ -- CEOCIO Magazine, through its China Business Feature, recently reported on the latest developments on China's 3G industry. The writer commented that the uncertainties surrounding China's telecommunications future was finally starting to clear.

China Business Feature reported that, "China Mobile's first round of bidding for TD-SCDMA network construction started in March, and the procurement of network equipment is expected to be done by the end of May. With 15,000 base stations deployed, the TD-SCDMA network covers ten cities and 95% of the existing networks. It will be completed and launched by the end of October. RMB26.7 billion (US$3.4 billion) has been put aside for TD-SCDMA construction.

"The 3G licenses have yet to be issued and the scheme for telecom reorganization is still nebulous. Due to risks in the first commercial deployment of the TD-SCDMA network, China's 3G is still a little gun-shy.

"In any case, TD-SCDMA is coming to China, and it's getting lots of governmental support for the start-up. TD-SCDMA is of great political and economic significance as the mobile communication standard was initiated by China itself. There is no turning back on this venture as China's telecom industry makes its first formal steps into the 3G era.

"Meanwhile, doubts about 3G licenses and telecom reorganization are being clarified. The most likely scheme for telecom reorganization goes something like this: China Unicom sells the CDMA network to China Telecom, and merges its GSM network business with China Netcom. If so, in the 3G era, a new landscape will develop where two new companies will compete against China Mobile. The government authorities have always stated that to avoid repeated investments, three 3G licenses will be rational. Now, the most likely outcome is that China Mobile will be granted a TD-SCDMA license, China Telecom will be given a CDMA2000 license, and China Unicom and China Netcom will share one WCDMA license.

"With the disclosure of China Mobile's procurement list of TD-SCDMA equipment, telecom equipment vendors are even more eager than the operators to start the bidding war. Although RMB20 billion (US$2.5 billion) is not a stunning figure for manufacturers with high expectations for 3G, everyone is clear that the results of the bidding will have a great impact on the further application of 3G."

Nokia - mobile advertising

Nokia enters mobile advertising fray

From Ovum:

Nokia's shift from device manufacturer to a wider services company stepped up a gear this week when it announced two mobile advertising services: Nokia Ad Service and Advertising Connector.

The first is a fully managed service that will feature an advertising network and platform to deploy, manage and optimise mobile advertising campaigns. Nokia Advertising Connector is a white label solution that acts as an'intelligent switch' by serving adverts best suited to the consumer's device and usage context.

Nokia is positioning itself as a mobile advertising service provider, which is a bold move as the market is becoming very competitive from the platform and provisioning side of the equation. There are already several established and respected mobile advertising specialists that taken together provide the full range of services from the creative side through to ad sales, provisioning, delivery and campaign management and reporting. In other words, they have got the mobile advertising value chain well covered. At the same time, mobile search specialists are increasingly focused on advertising - for example, Jumptap, Mobile People and Modeo. And of course Internet giants like Google and Yahoo! are joining the party.

There are a lot of partners for the advertising community to choose from and Nokia will have to fight to stand out from the crowd. In Nokia's favour is the fact that it is well on the way to becoming a Web 2.0 service provider.

It will be interesting to see how mobile operators react to this development. Nokia is not looking to compete with them but instead wants to act as a service provider. However, some may be uncomfortable because Nokia wants to place itself at the centre of a mobile advertising community that it controls in terms of provisioning and, presumably, revenue flows. Operators like 3 want to do something similar themselves - though clearly others will not and are seeking strong partners that can take the strain for them in the form of a managed service solution. Nokia might seem a friendlier, more familiar entity than the likes of Google, and has more clout than some of the pure play mobile specialists given its strong relationship with many operators. Then again, there is no reason why it should not partner with the pure play specialists here.

Nokia has conducted trial campaigns based on the Ad Service proposition and claims good results from a technology and consumer experience perspective. The managed Ad Service proposition is designed to support interactive content such as click through banners and embedded advertising in applications. Nokia Ad Service will be showcased this week at ad:tech, an interactive marketing event in Paris. It is expected to begin operations globally in the second half of 2007.

The white label Nokia Advertising Connector will serve ads based on text, audio and visual/video based on the usage context, for example the difference between someone watching mobile TV or playing a game. Nokia is currently piloting the solution, which is expected to become commercially available towards the end of this year.

Mobile television

Mobile TV continues slow, steady growth, says In-Stat
see also In-Stat

The worldwide mobile TV broadcast market is expanding, as the number of commercially launched mobile TV broadcast networks will grow from nine in 2006 to 13 in 2007, reports In-Stat. The unavailability of spectrum is the largest barrier to the launch of more mobile TV services -- particularly in Europe.

"Over the next 10 years, as more spectrum is made available, in many cases when analog TV signals are shut off, more mobile TV broadcast services will launch," says Michelle Abraham, In-Stat analyst. "Another issue limiting the market today is the small number of mobile TV broadcast enabled handsets available in many markets."

Recent research by In-Stat found the following:

* Mobile TV broadcast subscribers will reach 125 million worldwide in 2011.
* Asia continued to have the greatest number of mobile TV broadcast subscribers through 2006.
* Mobile TV broadcast standards are proliferating, with the most recent being those suggested for the ATSC standard.

About the market research report

The In-Stat research, "Mobile TV Broadcasts: Coming Soon to a Cell Phone Near You!" (#IN0703416MBS), covers the market for mobile TV broadcasting around the world. It addresses deployments of mobile TV broadcasting, including broadcast TV and entertainment-on-demand, which are received on a mobile receiver via a broadcast network, as opposed to video streaming services available via the cellular network. It contains forecasts for worldwide mobile TV broadcast subscribers, annual revenue, and average revenue per subscriber, segmented by region through 2011. It also provides analysis of the various mobile TV technical standards.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

USA - corporate use of VoIP

VoIP usage among US businesses growing but not displacing traditional phone lines, says In-Stat
In-Stat - April 11, 2007

US businesses continue to embrace VoIP, but they are not abandoning traditional voice lines, reports In-Stat. VoIP is currently used by 20 percent of US businesses, but 44 percent of these businesses' voice lines remain TDM, the high-tech market research firm says. Robust business adoption of VoIP will continue, as In-Stat predicts that two-thirds of US businesses will have some form of VoIP service by 2011.

“VoIP is particularly attractive to businesses with dispersed workforces, where long distance savings can be easily achieved," says David Lemelin, In-Stat analyst. "However, VoIP is not typically embraced as the sole source of voice communications for the vast majority of businesses that have adopted VoIP to date."

Recent research by In-Stat found the following:

* Multiple VoIP solutions are used by 36% of businesses that have adopted VoIP, with broadband IP telephony solutions resonating most strongly with smaller businesses and IP PBX with larger ones.
* Hosted IP revenues will exceed Broadband IP Telephony (BBIPT) by 2010 in the business market, despite more BBIPT lines being in place.
* Roughly 14% of US businesses have at least some workers who use voice-enabled IM for business purposes.

About the market research report

The In-Stat research, "Business VoIP: Multiple Flavors Drive Growth" (#IN0703862CT), covers the market for business IP telephony. It contains forecasts for hosted IP seats in service and revenue in the US business market through 2010. It also includes forecasts for broadband IP telephone lines deployed and resulting revenues through 2011. It provides analysis of the types of currently deployed and planned BBIPT by US businesses, and business VoIP market trends and barriers.

see also In-Stat

Europe - roaming

EU law case study: Roaming charges

From the BBC:

The EU Commission's attempt to cut mobile telephone roaming charges reaches a key stage on Thursday, when the European Parliament's industry committee votes on the plans.

Here we take the proposals as an illustration of the "co-decision" process, where MEPs and the 27 member states decide jointly on a draft law produced by the commission.

European laws come in different forms and are made in a variety of ways.

The process is often no more complicated than legislation at national level, but it is less familiar to most Europeans.


I have told the market in 2004 and 2005 that it had to bring the prices down - it didn't, so now legislative initiative is necessary
Viviane Reding, February 2006

In 2000, the European Commission starts investigating operators accused of overcharging customers. In 2004, it warns the industry as a whole that prices must come down. The next year, it launches a website revealing startling variations in charges - from 0.58 to 5 euros per minute.

In 2006, following a recommendation from national regulators, Commissioner for Information Society and Media Viviane Reding announces plans to cap the price of roaming calls at the level of equivalent calls on the customer's home network - the "home-pricing principle".

EU targets mobile roaming costs


The Commission puts forward a draft regulation which it claims would cut the cost of roaming by up to 70%. Public consultation has already led to changes to the home-pricing principle: Ms Reding's new idea is to cap wholesale roaming charges - which operators charge each other for handling foreign calls - and then to cap the retail mark-up at 30%. She has defended this plan against a last-minute attack from other commissioners, who wanted retail price caps to kick in only if industry failed to bring down prices voluntarily over the course of a year, or 18 months. But she has had to give some ground. She has dropped her demand that it should cost nothing to receive calls when abroad, and agreed to a six-month transition period before the retail cap on calls made abroad enters (automatically) into force.

EU slashes overseas mobile costs


Officials from the EU member states meet frequently to discuss the commission's proposal in the autumn of 2006, before the first talks at ministerial level - a gathering known as the Telecoms Council - in December 2006. At this point, France and the UK are leading a push to water down the commission's proposal. By March, there is still some disagreement on how the price caps should work, but ministers are reported to agree that the cap for a call home from abroad should be 50 euro cents (33p) per minute - not far off the 44 cents proposed by the commission.

EU 'agrees' cap on mobile charges

Next steps:

12 April 2007: Vote in European Parliament industry, research and energy committee, on a report by the committee's "rapporteur" on roaming, Austrian MEP Paul Ruebig. Other parliamentary committees, including the internal market and consumer protection committee, have already adopted opinions, which they have sent to the industry committee.

9 May 2007: Vote of full European Parliament. MEPs may accept the amendments to the commission's proposal laid out in the Ruebig report. However, other amendments can also be put forward, and may be approved.

7 June 2007: Final agreement by the Telecoms Council. The key question will be, do the ministers agree with the text of the law adopted by the parliament? If so, the law is passed. The ministers - represented by the German presidency of the council - will have been in close contact with the key parliamentary rapporteurs, in the aim of finding the necessary common ground to make this possible.

If this were a directive, it would not come into force for a couple of years after approval, because each state would be given time to transpose it into law in its own way. But as it is a regulation - which applies immediately in all member states as soon as it is published - approval in June would allow it to enter into force before Europe's summer holiday season.

Further readings?

If the ministers do not approve of the parliament's amendments, the draft regulation will go to a second reading, in both the parliament and the council, and the timescale for adoption will begin to stretch.

The parliament has three or four months to vote on a second reading, after which the council has six to eight weeks to give its views on the parliament's amendments.

If the governments and the parliament still disagree, an attempt to rescue the legislation is made by a process known as conciliation. In conciliation, which can last up to 24 weeks from the date of the council's second reading, representatives of member states and the parliament work together to produce a compromise text. If either the parliament or the council rejects it, the legislation fails.

see also Parliamentary Oeil and Draft agenda for Plenary 9 May 2007

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Arab nation - competitiveness

United Arab Emirates is the most competitive among the advanced Arab countries

Tunisia and Egypt are the most competitive Arab countries in their peer groups.

Doha, Qatar 10 April 2007 – United Arab Emirates is the most competitive economy in the Arab world among the countries at the third and most advanced stage of development according to The Arab World Competitiveness Report 2007, released today by the World Economic Forum. It is followed by Qatar and Kuwait. Among countries at the second stage of development, Tunisia and Oman are the best performing Arab economies while Egypt is the regional best performer in the third group of countries.

This year’s report has expanded coverage to 13 Arab economies – Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Syria, Tunisia and United Arab Emirates. Libya, Oman and Syria are assessed for the first time. Rankings are presented in three country groups according to the stage of development to enable benchmarking against peers in other parts of the world.

Download the full Global Competitiveness Rankings for the Arab world in Excel format.

“Today, the Arab world is at a critical juncture. Although the region’s economies are currently very dynamic and offer tremendous business opportunities, there is no doubt that improvements to national competitiveness and closer integration with the global economy and within the region are necessary if this growth momentum is to be sustained.” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

“The Report underscores the importance of a profound change in mindsets in order to realize the region's full potential. Entrepreneurship, an element that is often cited as the key to unlocking the potential of the Arab economies, can only take root in societies where freedom of thought, enthusiasm for inquiry and critical thinking are popular values. To that end, the pace at which the leaders of the region will address educational reform and the route that this reform will take are the determining factors when it comes to ushering in the productive power of Arab entrepreneurship. Diversification of Arab economies and improving business competitiveness are a direct function of education reform” said Sherif El Diwany, Director, Middle East , World Economic Forum.

“The rankings highlight the diversity of Arab economies and the divergent performance in terms of national competitiveness. A closer look at the results reveals that although most countries have achieved significant progress with respect to their own past, many challenges remain to be addressed. The most important weaknesses are to be found in the areas of education, low efficiency of goods markets as well as labour markets and, for the more advanced economies the very weak innovative capacity.” said Margareta Drzeniek Hanouz, Senior Economist at the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Network and Co-Editor of the Arab World Competitiveness Report.

“The current situation provides an opportune moment for forging ahead with reforms to improve national competitiveness. Educational reform is a high priority in the region, given the high unemployment rates among educated youth. Educational outputs remain mismatched with the needs of the business sector, depriving the economies of the trained talent needed to raise productivity and move up the value chain. At the same time, high unemployment and labour force growth require that governments overhaul the regulation of labour markets that rely heavily on the public sector and migrant workers.” said Tarik Yousef, Dean, Dubai School of Government.

The Arab World Competitiveness Report series serves as a platform for public-private dialogue on issues related to competitiveness as is being witnessed at the Arab World Competitiveness Roundtable in Doha in 2005. These high-level discussions use the findings of this report as a basis for competitiveness benchmarking and for advancing policy discussions.

This year’s Arab World Competitiveness Report features a progression in the methodology with respect to how the competitiveness of resource extracting economies is assessed, based on the methodology of The Global Competitiveness Report, the Global Competitiveness Index. Developed for the World Economic Forum by Professor Xavier Sala-i-Martin of Columbia University, this index provides an excellent tool for assessing and analyzing national competitiveness.

The rankings are drawn from a combination of publicly available hard data and the results of the Executive Opinion Survey, a comprehensive annual survey conducted by the World Economic Forum, together with its network of Partner Institutes (leading research institutes and business organizations) in the countries covered by the Report and other nations worldwide. Over 11,000 business leaders were polled in a record 128 economies worldwide. The survey questionnaire is designed to capture a broad range of factors affecting an economy’s business climate that are critical determinants of sustained economic growth. The Forum annually delivers a comprehensive overview of the main strengths and weaknesses in a large number of countries, making it possible to identify key areas for policy formulation and reform.

This year’s Report features a number of external studies on pertinent issues related to global competitiveness and, more generally, themes which emanate from the World Economic Forum’s concern with growth and development. The Report contains a detailed country profile for each of the 13 economies featured in the study, providing a comprehensive summary of the overall position in the Index rankings as well as a guide to what are considered to be the most prominent competitive advantages and competitive disadvantages of each. Also included is an extensive section of data tables with regional rankings covering 90 indicators.


• United Arab Emirates is at rank 29 the best performing Arab country among the 40 most advanced economies. Sound economic management has contributed to stabilizing the macroeconomic environment and strengthening public institutions. Areas of concern include educational attainment, in particular at the primary and secondary levels. These need to be tackled on a priority basis, as lack of educated workforce could put current diversification efforts at risk. For the same reasons, the country will have to increase efforts to promote innovation and tertiary education and combat red tape that constraints competition on markets for goods and services.

• Qatar ranks 32nd in the group of 40 most advanced economies. In regional comparison, it shows a relatively good track record with respect to education at all levels, yet for the country to move ahead a higher turnout of university graduates will be necessary. Qatar’s ranking among the 128 countries on this category is only 77th. Macroeconomic management has been good so far and current public investments appear to be made in the right areas, for example for improving transport infrastructure, which lags behind other countries in the region. Going forward, the capacity for innovation in the public and private sectors will have to be upgraded.

• Kuwait occupies the 37th place out of 40 countries in this group. The macroeconomic environment has markedly improved in the past few years and the country ranks first within the group on this indicator. It equally boosts a very good financial infrastructure. At the same time, improvements to the country’s higher education institutions and an enhanced innovation capacity would benefit the country’s business sector. The business community also highlighted pervasive red tape and the relatively closed nature of the economy as areas of competitive weakness – entrepreneurs find it difficult to set up shop and the country foregoes the benefits of intense competition for goods and services.

• Bahrain is ranked 39th out of 40 countries in this group and displays a number of notable strengths and weaknesses. One particular area of strength is the excellent performance on health indicators and primary education. Yet, schools could improve the preparation of graduates for positions in the private sector as well as for establishing a strong foundation for innovation. Further increases in competitiveness could be achieved through leveraging the good technological capacity of the country as well as the well developed financial markets.

• Tunisia is at 3rd place the highest ranking Arab economy among the 40 countries at the middle stage of development. Tunisia’s good results are based on strengths in the area of education, where quality is assessed as very good and universal primary education has been reached. The country also benefits from stable and efficient public institutions and shows further strengths in innovation and business sophistication. Yet, a high budget deficit and public debt coupled with weak infrastructure and a low level of sophistication of financial markets prevent the country from reaping the full benefits of a more competitive economy.

• Oman is the second best ranked Arab country in the group of countries at the middle stage of development, coming in at a 8th rank. The country’s solid outcomes on macroeconomic indicators, its well-developed institutions and high level of efficiency of labour markets contribute to this good result. The country’s competitive position is weakened by low levels of education and technological readiness as well as weak business sophistication and low capacity for innovation.

• Jordan ranks 13th among the 40 countries at the middle stage of development and the third best Arab economy in this group. Its strong performance is linked to transparent public institutions and business-friendly regulations that are easy to comply with. And the Jordanian economy is fairly open to trade and foreign participation. Yet, the macroeconomic environment remains fragile, labour markets over-regulated and latest technologies largely unused by consumers and business.

• Libya, at its first inclusion into this report, comes in at rank 26 in the group of countries in the middle stage of development. Thanks to the recent oil boom, the country excels on macroeconomic indicators, with one of the highest budgetary surpluses and one of the lowest government worldwide. Libya has only recently embarked on the process of economic reform and the list of challenges to be addressed is long. Underdeveloped physical infrastructure, weak public institutions, and low penetration of latest technologies are the most pertinent among them. But to improve its competitiveness, the country will also have to open to international competition and improve the overall level and quality of education.

• Algeria occupies the 29th rank among the 40 countries at the middle stage of development. The macroeconomic environment improved significantly with rising energy prices, public institutions are fairly sound and the population benefits from good health services and education. Making the country more competitive will require a number of basic reforms, in particular with respect to opening the country to international competition, strengthening the banking system and increasing the use of advanced technologies.

• Egypt is the best performing Arab country among the countries at the lowest stage of development, ranking 4th out of 48 countries. The well-developed physical infrastructure serves the economy well and good progress has been achieved with respect to primary education. But to fully utilize the country’s competitive potential, enhance growth and create urgently needed jobs, a number of fundamental challenges will have to be addressed, such as a soaring budget deficit, rigid labour markets and financial markets that are ill-equipped to channel financial resources into investments. Equally, the potential of latest technologies is not fully used.

• Morocco occupies the 7th place among the 48 economies at the lowest stage of development. Among the country’s strengths are the good quality of infrastructure and the relatively solid public institutions. And although penetration rates for most advanced technologies are fairly low, companies are aggressive at absorbing technology from abroad. And although local firms are sheltered from international competition administrative barriers to setting up new businesses have been reduced. Last but not least, diversification efforts will only be successful, if access to finance is facilitated and human capital advanced.

• Syria, which ranks 12th among the 48 economies at the lowest stage of development has only recently embarked on the path of economic reform. Among the country’s notable strengths are the relatively low levels of corruption and infrastructure facilities are considered to be efficient with the exception of air and sea ports. Progress has also been made with respect to health and primary education. But Syria achieves only inferior results on macroeconomic indicators with a high budget deficit and considerable public debt. Any future reform agenda should envisage a comprehensive liberalization of foreign trade and labour markets, facilitating access to finance for business as well as fostering the use of latest technologies.

• Mauritania, the country with the lowest per capita income in the Arab world and placed at 38th place out of 48 countries. The recent discovery of off-shore petroleum fields will bring strong growth over the next years and make funds available for investment in competitiveness-enhancing reforms. Mauritania suffers from a low assessment on virtually all pillars of the Index. On a positive note, public institutions are assessed as fairly well functioning given the country’s level of development with an independent jovial system in place and low distortion resulting from government regulation. Flexible labour markets complement this positive picture. The newly elected government will have to focus on stabilizing the macroeconomic environment and upgrading infrastructure, education, and health. To boost productivity and create jobs, any future reform programme should include a significant liberalization of foreign trade.

see also spreadsheet

East Africa - telecommunications

World Bank Approves US$164.5 Million for Connectivity to Make Kenya, Burundi and Madagascar More Competitive

Up to 25 countries in East and Southern Africa could benefit from the broader US$424 million Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (RCIP)

Press Release No:2007/309/AFR

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 2, 2007 — The World Bank Board of Directors approved on March 29, an International Development Association (IDA) financing package of US$164.5 million for Kenya, Burundi and Madagascar as the first tranche of the US$424 million Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (RCIP) for high-speed connectivity in East and Southern Africa.

The region is being held back by the prohibitive costs of international connectivity. Businesses are unable to compete in the global economy; university students suffer because they cannot access the Internet; and Government agencies cannot communicate effectively with each other and their citizens because they are not connected.

East and Southern Africa is the only region in the world that is not connected to the global broadband infrastructure and accounts for less than one percent of the world’s international bandwidth capacity. As a result of this ‘missing link’, the region relies on satellite connectivity, with costs amongst the highest in the world.

One Kenyan call-center entrepreneur told the World Bank Board of Directors the region simply cannot compete. “To put 25 agents on the phone, it will cost us close to US$17,000 a month. Elsewhere, it will only cost US$600-900 a month,” said Nicholas Nesbitt, CEO of KenCall. “It is absolutely imperative that something be done right now to make bandwidth affordable. Otherwise, we’re going to miss a huge opportunity and people are simply going to say that Africa is not ready for these kinds of jobs, is not ready for business.”

The Board of Directors responded to the appeal and Governments’ requests for assistance by unanimously endorsing RCIP, which will bring affordable high speed connectivity to as many as 25 countries* in East and Southern Africa. The US$164.5 million first tranche of funding consists of IDA credits in the amount of US$114.4 million to Kenya and US$30 million to Madagascar, and an IDA grant in the amount of US$20.1 million to Burundi.

RCIP is an innovative example of the emphasis on regional integration, which accounts for more than 10% of total World Bank support to Africa.

“Improving broadband connectivity will add tremendous public value for Africa. Low cost, high quality communications is essential for economic competitiveness,” said Paul Wolfowitz, President of the World Bank Group. “Africa is becoming more plugged in - this is very encouraging for the continent. Our partner countries are sending a strong signal to the world that they are open for business and ready to leap into the information age.”

RCIP financing of terrestrial networks will be a catalyst to attract and maximize private sector investment in telecommunications infrastructure. RCIP complements regional undersea cable initiatives, such as the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy) developed by telecommunications operators with support from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and other development partners.

By the end of the Program, it is expected that all capitals and major cities in East and Southern Africa would be linked to competitively priced high-bandwidth connectivity. This will equip Africa to trade on a level playing field, extend education beyond the classrooms, and accelerate good governance.

see also and project web site

Philippines - WiMAX

Pacific Internet Announces Plan for WiMax Rollout in the Philippines

SINGAPORE, April 10 /Xinhua-PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Pacific Internet Ltd., the largest telco-independent Internet Communications Service Provider by geographic reach in the Asia Pacific region, today announced a major investment and expansion plan for Pacific Internet Philippines (PI PH). PI PH will invest over US$12 million in building a wireless broadband infrastructure, initially in the Greater Metro-Manila area.

This will be the first rollout of a WiMax infrastructure in the Philippines. The plan includes multiple wireless technologies to support its core business: leased lines and broadband Internet access and other IP-based services mainly for corporate customers. PI PH has recently been assigned the 15MHz spectrum in the 2.5-2.7 GHz band, suitable for Broadband Wireless Access for business customers and professionals.

Managing Director of PI PH, Ms Jojie Yap, said, "We are especially delighted to have been assigned the BWA spectrum, as this will allow us to expand our range of services to both corporate and individual customers. By owning our infrastructure we can achieve lower cost of sales and better margins. Pacific Internet Philippines looks forward to strengthening its position among the leading Internet service providers in the Philippines and offering the widest choice of broadband services, as well as more value-added IP services.''

PI PH recently launched PacNet Vocal, a VOIP service, which, among other features, provides un-metered calls between the subscribers, wherever they may be located.

The infrastructure expansion will make PI PH an important component in PacNet's regional strategy, by providing the means to extend corporate networks from the other PacNet countries into the Philippines, while having full end-to-end control over the service delivery and quality. PI PH will also be able to strengthen its brand name and market positioning by owning its infrastructure down to the last mile.

Ms Yap added, ''Customer satisfaction has always been our company's driving force and we continue to listen to the pulse of the market in all the initiatives that we have laid out for the forthcoming years. Our company is one of the pioneers in the Philippine ISP industry, and we shall continue to bring exciting developments to meet the market's increasing demand for more choices and better alternatives.''

Mr. Phey Teck-Moh, President and Chief Executive Officer, Pacific Internet Limited said, ''We are delighted that PI PH is set to be the first to rollout WiMax there. This expansion is in line with Pacific Internet's five-year business plan announced in 2006, to transform Pacific Internet into an IP- based Communications and Solutions Provider.''

PDSI secured its Congressional Telecommunications Franchise in 2001, and its wireless operating license in 2005.

See also Pacific Internet

Merger control - Alcatel-Lucent

Alcatel-Lucent Cleared by the EU to Transfer its Space Assets to Thales

PARIS, April 10 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Following the unconditional clearance decision of the European Commission, Alcatel-Lucent (Euronext Paris and NYSE: ALU) announced the transfer of its shareholdings in two space joint venture companies, Alcatel Alenia Space (67%) and Telespazio (33%), to Thales. This final regulatory approval permits the transfer of Alcatel-Lucent's satellite shareholdings, in addition to its railway signaling business and its integration and services activities for mission-critical systems which were already transferred to Thales in January.

In December, Alcatel-Lucent and Thales had already reached an agreement to extend and reinforce the partnership between the two companies to exploit the synergies that can be obtained from their complementary skills, the highlights of which include the following: commercial cooperation for the major institutional markets such as Defense, Security, Energy and Transportation markets, cooperation in space activities especially in Mobile TV and enhanced cooperation in Research and Development. Besides, the signing of a mobility charter for employees is planned between Alcatel-Lucent and Thales which will stimulate the sharing of talent and exchange knowledge between the two companies.

Alcatel-Lucent and the French State entered in January 2007 into a new Shareholders' Agreement for a renewable period of 5 years, replacing the former shareholders' agreement concluded in June 1998 between Alcatel, Groupe Industriel Marcel Dassault and the French State.

The terms of the overall transaction which is now completed are:
- With respect to the transfer of the space, transportation & security activities, 25 million new Thales shares were issued in favor of Alcatel-Lucent, as well as a cash payment of Euro 710 million.
- As a result, Alcatel-Lucent's interest in Thales increased from 9.46% to 20.95%. The French State remains Thales' main shareholder with a 27.29% stake (compared with 31.26% previously).
- The value of the 67% shareholding in Alcatel Alenia Space will be re-assessed by an independent expert at the beginning of 2009, which may trigger an upward value adjustment.
- Alcatel-Lucent has four members of the Thales Board.

Alcatel-Lucent should book a total capital gain before taxes of around Euro 800 million in its Q1 2007 results.

see also Alcatel-Lucent

USA - mobile television

ATSC to Develop Standard for Mobile and Handheld Services
ATSC-M/H to be optimized for use in broadcast channels

Washington, D.C., April 9, 2007 –The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) has launched the process to develop a standard that will enable broadcasters to deliver television content and data to mobile and handheld devices via their DTV broadcast signal.

“The ATSC-M/H Standard will facilitate broadcasters’ use of their DTV broadcast channels to provide new services directly to small hand-held receivers, laptop computers and vehicles moving at a high rate of speed,” said ATSC President Mark Richer. “ATSC-M/H will be backwards compatible, allowing operation of existing ATSC services in the same RF channel without an adverse impact on existing receiving equipment.” Broadcasters will be able to allocate a portion of their 19.39 Mbps/8-VSB signal to mobile and handheld while continuing to transmit services such as HDTV.

“Development of a standard for mobile and handheld services is a major priority of the ATSC’s strategic plan,” said Glenn Reitmeier, Chair of the ATSC Board of Directors and VP, Technology Standards, Policy & Strategy, NBC. “We encourage participation in our standards development process and welcome technical proposals for consideration by our Technology and Standards Group (TSG)."

ATSC-M/H will be developed to support a variety of services including free (advertiser-supported) television and interactive services delivered in real-time, subscription-based TV, and Non-real-time content download for playback at a later time. It may also be used for transmission of new data broadcasting services such as real-time navigation data for in-vehicle use.


USA - cable telephony services

Cable TV Operators Targeting Small Business Phone Customers Means Phone Companies Lose $4 Billion Over Five Years, Says Insight Research Corp

BOONTON, N.J., April 4 /PRNewswire/ -- The top 20 cable operators are ramping up to grab a slice of the lucrative small business phone market, a move that could cost incumbent phone companies more than four billion dollars over the next five years, says a new market research report from Insight Research Corp. Incumbent phone companies are expected to loose more than 1.5 million small business phone lines to cable competitors by the close of 2007 alone, and nearly 10 million small business phone lines over the next five years, according to the new research study.

According to Insight's newly-released market analysis report, "Cable Telephony: The Threat to Small Enterprise ILEC Markets 2007-2012," fierce competition-long a hallmark of MSOs and phone companies that provide residential telephone and broadband data services-is now spilling over in the small business market. On a per-customer basis, the revenue associated with providing a small business with data and voice services can generate three to four times the revenue of the residential customer buying a bundle of voice, data, and video services, which makes the competition for these customers all the more turbulent.

"Recent announcements by Comcast and Time Warner Cable make it plain that the small enterprise is the next battleground in the cable versus phone company fight," says Robert Rosenberg, President of Insight. "We looked at the 20 largest cable operators that together have within their operating footprints about 6.5 million out of more than seven million small businesses in the US. MSOs such as Comcast, Cox, and CableVision have the offers and the reach, and they are going to have a definitive impact on phone companies' bottom line over the next few years," Rosenberg concludes.

From PRNewswire
see also Insight Cable Report

Monday, April 09, 2007

USA - corporate data services

J.D. Power and Associates Reports: Assigning a Single Point of Contact Can Have a Considerable Impact on Customer Satisfaction With Data Services

MHC - J.D. Power and Associates Logo.

AT&T and Verizon Rank Highest in Satisfying Business Customers With Telecommunications Data Services

/PRNewswire/ -- Data service providers that assign a specific point of contact to business customers when issues or questions arise average customer satisfaction scores more than 80 index points higher (on a 1,000-point scale) than providers without a dedicated account team, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2007 Major Provider Business Telecommunications Study(SM) released today.

The study measures customer satisfaction with providers of data services, such as cable modem, DSL, T1, T3/DS3, Ethernet and Frame Relay. Rankings are compiled in two segments: small/midsize businesses (companies with 2 to 499 employees) and large enterprise businesses (companies with 500 or more employees). Seven key factors are used to measure satisfaction: performance and reliability; billing; cost of service; sales representatives/account executives; company image; offerings and promotions; and customer service.

Overall satisfaction increases by 93 points among small/midsize businesses and by 81 points among large enterprises when there is a designated account representative, account team or special service such as a specified 800 number to contact for sales and service. Currently, 43percent of small/midsize business customers and 68 percent of large enterprises indicate they have a single point of contact with their data services provider, which is essentially flat among customers in both segments versus 2006.

"Customer service and enhanced account management are increasingly important among large enterprises in particular, as better customer service is the top reason why businesses in this segment would consider switching data providers -- up from the fourth-most-frequently cited reason in 2006," said Steve Kirkeby, executive director of telecommunications and technology at J.D. Power and Associates. "In light of cable companies making inroads into the business data market in recent years, providing more customizedservice options to businesses is one way many legacy telephone providers are rededicating themselves to providing the best product and service experience they can possibly deliver."

AT&T ranks highest in customer satisfaction in the large enterprise business segment, performing particularly well in performance and reliability, image, sales representatives/account executive and customer service. Verizon follows AT&T in the segment.

Verizon leads the small/midsize business segment, receiving high ratings from customers in six of the seven factors that drive overall satisfaction: performance and reliability, cost of service, sales representatives/account executives, company image, offerings and promotions, and customer service. Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable, respectively, follow Verizon in the segment.

The study also finds that total customer-reported spending for data services among businesses in the small/midsize segment has increased considerably, from $2,934 in 2006 to $4,658 in 2007. Much of the increase can be attributed to a large boost in the number of small/midsize businesses using private lines in their data networks to connect wide-area networks (WANs) and local-area networks (LANs). At the same time, the desire to bundle services remains strong within both the small/midsize business and large enterprise segments. The percentage of small/midsize businesses that say they "definitely would" or "probably would" bundle is down by 1 percentage point in 2007 (48%) compared to 2006, while bundle intent among large enterprise customers is up 3 percentage points (50%) from 2006.

"Business customers have a need for back-up and survivability alternatives, which impacts their likelihood to trust and bundle all of their services with one provider," said Kirkeby. "As network stability and survivability issues wane, customers are becoming more trusting of providers, and the willingness to bundle will remain strong in the short term."

The 2007 Major Provider Business Telecommunications Services Study is based on responses from 2,855 business customers with telecom services at small/midsize and large enterprise businesses in the United States and includes evaluation of their data and voice service providers. The second part of this three-part study, an evaluation of wireline voice services, will be released in late April, and wireless services will be released in mid-May.

Customer Satisfaction Index Scores:

Small/Midsize Business
(Based on a 1,000-point scale)

Verizon 707
Cox Communications 692
Time Warner Cable 683
Small/Midsize Business Segment Average 678
AT&T* 671
Qwest 670
Comcast 637

Customer Satisfaction Index Scores:

Large Enterprise Business
(Based on a 1,000-point scale)

AT&T* 737
Verizon 735
Large Enterprise Segment Average 733
Comcast 718
Qwest 714
Time Warner Cable 709

*AT&T includes BellSouth customers. BellSouth was acquired by AT&T in 2006.

From PRNewswire

VoIP - Free calls

Want Free VoIP? Your Top 10 Options Compared

In your quest to find a free VoIP service, you will quickly learn a harsh reality: "free" is a very subjective word. Keep in mind that you will never find a VoIP provider or program that is completely free. In the end, you are at least paying for your Internet service, right? However, the good news is you can steer clear of any mainstream and costly VoIP subscription services like Vonage or SunRocket. After all, the fact that you are shirking the telephone company in the first place means you are tired of hidden and needless fees.

The following lists the pros and cons of ten "free" VoIP options. Keep in mind that while many of these alternatives offer some sort of free and immediate service, you will first need something to speak through. From headsets to WiFi phones, there are many devices available to fit any budget or lifestyle.

1. Skype

Pros: Skype is a reputable service that, when used a specific way, will be completely free to you. The software is easy to download, and talking to any other Skype user is free. Rest assured that there are plenty of Skype users out there, too, as it is currently the most popular VoIP service. If someone you call frequently doesn't use Skype, you can merely send him/her the link to easily download the software. Long distance phone calls to your mom in another state, for instance, will at once be pain-free for both you and her. A professional site and customer service, in addition to clear sound, makes this a legitimate winner for most.

Cons: The free feature is only available when calling from one computer to another. If you are interested in dialing regular landlines from your computer, Skype offers unlimited calls to all of North America for $30 a year. Not steep by any means, but still not free. Also, there is controversy about their use of supernodes, which could put your computer at risk of contracting a virus.

2. Raketu

Pros: Raketu is a hip site, combining state-of-the-art communications with the networking style of MySpace and YouTube. Free calls can be made to landlines and mobile phones in 42 countries, which is very impressive. Also, features like live stream television allows for people to chat with their friends about what they are watching together.

Cons: Although seemingly perfect, this site does have some discouraging fine print: you will be required to make a $9.95 deposit into your account when registering before you start making free calls. They do not consider this a membership fee, however, but a "credit" for your new account. Think of it as insurance, should you wish to make a call to a location that isn't covered by the free plan. It will likely be the only money you will ever have to spend at Raketu.

3. VoipCheap

Pros: VoipCheap should be more aptly titled "VoipFREE". Unlike Skype, VoipCheap will allow you to make free phone calls to regular phone lines. This free service also includes many other countries, not just USA and Canada. The software is free to download and simple to start using right away, provided you have a headset or phone ready to plug in.

Cons: While VoipCheap does allow for free calls from your computer to regular phones, there is a weekly limit of 300 minutes per IP address. Watch that limit, or rates will apply to your calls! Should you choose to make a call to a paid destination, VoipCheap does require a very small credit deposit before dialing, not unlike Raketu's credit system. Although their regular rates are still very cheap, the object here is to call for free.

4. Gizmo

Pros: Like Skype, Gizmo offers free software and free calls to all other Gizmo users. The interface is very user-friendly and the company claims it "is as simple as instant messaging". A bonus to this service is the "All Calls Free" plan, which states that Gizmo users can call other Gizmo users' landlines and mobile phones, not just their computers.

Cons: Although Gizmo proudly boasts that users can make free calls to landlines and mobile phones, they really prefer you to make PC-to-PC calls. There are some very tedious (sneaky, some would say) rules to the "All Calls Free" plan at Gizmo. If not used properly, some hidden fees could sneak up on a Gizmo user, which is unfortunate.

5. Windows Live Messenger

Pros: PC-to-PC calls are always free when made between those who have Messenger installed. VoIP novices may feel more comfortable with a provider like Windows, as the conglomerate is more likely to offer round-the-clock customer service should any problems arise. Also, the interface will look and feel familiar to longtime Windows aficionados.

Cons: There are no drawbacks to their PC-to-PC plan. However, should you decide to pay a low rate to call a landline with your computer, phone calls are limited to five minutes. For some, that is a major deal breaker.

6. Yahoo! Voice

Pros: This is a simple and free PC-to-PC calling software like Windows Live Messenger. Similarly, the free calls must be made to other active Yahoo! Voice members. Those who are already familiar with the regular Yahoo! Instant Messenger system should feel right at home with the application. Since there are already so many Yahoo! IM users, this may be a great place to begin experimenting with VoIP technology.

Cons: There have been many complaints about inconvenient technical difficulties with Yahoo! that could make the Voice feature less than desirable. Yahoo! is admittedly a busy site that is growing exponentially. As such, constant updates to their applications can trip up their services at times.

7. WengoPhone

Pros: WengoPhone intends to circumvent any restrictions that Skype or Gizmo users experience. Their software allows for users to make free PC-to-PC calls to anyone else with compliant software, no matter who their VoIP provider is. This is a very subversive program and many tech-savvy folks are very happy with it.

Cons: The interface is very crude when compared to well-known providers like Skype or Raketu. Likewise, you may find their customer care to be lax when experiencing technical difficulties. Many Wengo users depend on their peers to help with any problems.

8. Internetcalls

Pros: Internetcalls is a popular alternative to services like VoipCheap, although they are practically identical. Like VoipCheap, all calls should be free to most destinations. Also, the service is now boasting improved sound quality, which is a relief to those wishing to use it for business purposes.

Cons: If you are a stickler about perfect sound and a short delay, you may wish to go with a larger company for VoIP service. This is a free to cheap program that is mainly used for personal calls, particularly people with friends and family out of the country. A troubleshooting guide can be found at the site, but it isn't as nice or thorough as a paid providers' 24-hour, live customer service.

9. Level3

Pros: Level3 is a giant in the business of communications, so many companies will probably adopt their revolutionary VoIP service in the near future. Businesses can now handle all their toll-free calls through VoIP, thanks to Level3, and this is a completely free service. The prospect is a boon for call centers in particular, as well as offices that conduct a lot of conference calls.

Cons: There aren't any drawbacks to this service to speak of, but it is limited to businesses and probably of no use to individuals making personal calls.

10. Google Talk

Pros: Another PC-to-PC application that is free to use for fellow members, Google Talk offers a very polished and user-friendly interface. BlackBerry addicts will be happy to know that Google Talk is available for free on their handheld lifelines. Also, the newly introduced Google Talk Gadget offers fun tools like YouTube interaction between chatting friends.

Cons: This is a brand new VoIP service, still in beta mode. Any number of kinks could be discovered with Google Talk, despite the brand name backing the software.

Although you can receive free VoIP through any one of the above services/programs, they all have a limitation somewhere. Choosing which is the best one really depends on your needs. If you are looking for unlimited calls to distant lands, in addition to perfect sound and customer support, you may well be better off with a paid service. However, you will certainly save a lot of money if you are able to drop your phone bill in lieu of one of these recommendations.

From VoIP Now

VoIP - migration

Before You Migrate to VoIP: A 25-Point Checklist

So you've seen the ads for VoIP. With the growing popularity of VoIP it's hard to miss them and even harder to ignore the kind of savings they promise. But like any new technology, VoIP doesn't come without a few kinks. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't switch to VoIP. But before you take the plunge you should make sure your experience will be a refreshing one. Here are a few tips and precautions to make sure your transition to VoIP doesn't leave you wishing you hadn't been so hasty to dump your traditional service.

Getting Started

  1. Broadband Connection — The most basic element you will need in order to switch to Internet phone is a high-speed Internet connection. The quality of your VoIP experience depends on the quality of your Internet service. So choose carefully. Both DSL and cable Internet connections can provide the speed needed to make VoIP phone calls. In fact, many Internet service providers have started offering VoIP service for an additional charge, allowing you to bundle monthly service costs. While DSL connections are generally fast enough to handle VoIP calls, cable Internet has the speed advantage. Of course, faster service comes with a higher price tag and it's up to you whether or not you need the additional speed.
  2. Bandwidth — So you have a high-speed Internet connection, but is it high-speed enough? For the uninitiated, bandwidth is the ability to transfer data (such as a VoIP telephone call) from one point to another in a fixed amount of time. Essentially, the more bandwidth you have, the better quality phone calls you should be able to make. If you're planning on having multiple phone lines on the same Internet connection you need to make sure that your bandwidth can support this, especially if you'll be downloading from the Internet at the same time.
  3. Customer Service — In an ideal world, the transfer to VoIP would be seamless. But let's be realistic: you will probably need some assistance in installing your new services and equipment or dealing with problems. When choosing a VoIP provider, make sure you're satisfied with the level of customer support available to help you through these problems.
  4. Phone Number Portability — In most cases, you should be able to take your existing number and migrate it over to your VoIP service, avoiding the inconvenience of alerting everyone to your number change. Of course, if you get a number from your VoIP provider and later want to change to another VoIP provider or regular phone company, it isn't so simple. VoIP providers don't usually own their own numbers, so they aren't theirs to give to you to take to another service. Keep that in mind if you're the fickle type.
  5. Equipment — Most VoIP services can be hooked up with a simple adapter that connects to your broadband service to your regular analog phone through your cable modem or router. If you want something a little fancier, there are phones made specifically for use over the Internet. Many VoIP providers have these phones available for a reduced rate when you sign up for their services.


  1. Battery Backup — One of the disadvantages of VoIP compared to traditional phone service is that when the power goes out, VoIP service goes out with it.You can prevent this though, at least in the short term, by getting a battery backup for your equipment. Some cable modems even come complete with battery backups that can last for up to eight hours.
  2. Call Forwarding — In case your VoIP service does go unavailable either because of power failure or problems communicating with your VoIP service, most VoIP providers do have a call forwarding option that will direct any incoming calls to a number of your choice. Check with your VoIP provider to set up this service.
  3. Keeping an Alternate Phone Line — For many users it will be impractical to rely solely on VoIP service. If the service is down or you require access to features that VoIP doesn't provide, it would make sense to keep a land or cell phone line. If you're unsure about making the leap to only using VoIP, keeping an additional means of communication can help ease the transition.

Home Use

  1. Water, Gas and Electric Meters — Some water, gas, and electric meters are connected to your home phone line which allows the company to remotely monitor your usage. If you switch to VoIP you will need to notify these services that you will no longer have phone service. Don't worry, they have other ways to monitor your usage, so the change won't affect your monthly billing.
  2. Satellite and Cable Boxes — Some satellite and cable top boxes won't work with VoIP service. Since many cable companies are now providing VoIP it may not be a problem, but you'll want to check to make sure before making the transition so you won't miss out on any important programs.
  3. Modems — While most VoIP calls don't use a huge amount of bandwidth, you may notice that using the Internet and making calls simultaneously decreases the quality of both. To make the highest quality calls, you may need to stick to doing one Internet-based task at a time, or switch to an Internet service that provides more bandwidth.
  4. Caller ID — VoIP numbers rarely show up on caller ID. An alternate number might show up or the name of your service provider instead of your name. This may or may not be a big deal to you, depending on whom you are calling, but at the very least it can be confusing to the recipient of the call.
  5. Number of Phones — Getting VoIP service to more than one phone in your home may be a tad tricky. You might need to alter the wiring that connects traditional phone lines to your home to be compatible with VoIP services. Most VoIP providers can give you information on how to do this. Although if you're not handy around the house, you may want to have a professional make the changes for you.

Business Use

  1. Fax Machine — Most models of fax machines should be able to work with your VoIP system but you will need to connect them to the fax port of your VoIP adapters. Some VoIP providers even provide separate fax numbers free of charge with business plans. Check with your VoIP provider about the fax services that are available and to make sure your model of fax machine is compatible before switching.
  2. Phone Book Listings — VoIP phone numbers are not always listed in local telephone directories or on 411. Some VoIP companies can provide the service and you simply need to let them know you want to be listed. Others, even some larger companies, don't provide this telephone listings and you may need to purchase a listing on your own.
  3. Credit Card Machines — If you're getting VoIP for your small business you may want to make sure that your VoIP service will work with the credit card machines you have. Some machines only work with analog systems. Some might work with VoIP lines, but the speed of transactions may be reduced. Check with your VoIP provider for concerns with this. Adapters may be available in some cases; in other cases you may need to keep a traditional line.
  4. No Disconnect — Some VoIP services don't send a disconnect signal the way traditional lines do when a party hangs up. This can cause problems when leaving a voicemail or if you use an automated attendant to direct callers to extensions. The failure to disconnect could cause long delays after voice mail messages and cause phones to ring long after the caller has hung up. Test these systems out before making the complete switch to VoIP.
  5. Business Size and Needs — Before you switch your business to VoIP, be sure to fully research whether or not it is right for your company. While it has the possibility of saving you hundreds of dollars in phone charges, it can also have its drawbacks. Changing over to VoIP will most likely require a significant up front investment in equipment, and there is the possibility that VoIP may not work with some of your existing equipment and systems. It's better to find out in advance, before any potential loss in sales, that the system might not be for you. Try testing out VoIP with just a few users before overhauling your entire phone system.


  1. Dropped Calls — VoIP has been subject to a lot of criticism regarding the quality of calls. A major complaint of many users is that they frequently have dropped calls. This isn't always the fault of the VoIP provider — it may be your broadband connection — but you may want to ask around to see if the provider you are thinking of signing up with has a history of these types of problems.
  2. Echo — Echo on calls isn't something that's specific to VoIP calls, it can happen just as easily over traditional phone lines. The difference is that with the inherent delay caused by VoIP, the echo is much more noticeable. Many companies equip their adapters with echo cancellation devices to reduce this phenomenon.
  3. Hiss — Some VoIP lines might have a background hiss or white noise on them when you make a call. Sometimes the problem can be fixed by changing out hardware — a new router or a different kind of telephone — but sometimes it's just a drawback of the service that you would have to learn to live with.
  4. Garbled Voice — VoIP can also be subject to voice garbling or cause sentence to be clipped at the beginning or end. Again, this can be related to the quality of your broadband connection. Before you settle on any complete change to VoIP service, see if the company offers a trial period so that you can test out the sound quality and reliability of the service before being completely dependent on it.

Security and Safety

  1. Hackers and Spam — Most experts agree that VoIP security isn't as good as it could be, partly due to the nature of VoIP itself. VoIP conversations have to be encrypted and pass through a firewall without causing undue delays between the sending and receiving of the call. Most traditional firewalls don't protect VoIP. VoIP can be at risk of voicemail spam, eavesdropping, and redirection. So before you make the leap to VoIP, make sure you also get the most up-to-date security.
  2. 911 Service — Another big concern with VoIP service is reduced access to 911 services. With traditional phone lines, calls are directed to a local public safety answering point (PSAP) which can usually automatically identify your location and your phone number in case they need to call you back. Because of the popularly of VoIP, the FCC has tried to increase access to 911 services by creating E911. VoIP providers are required by law to provide 911 service as a mandatory feature and ensure that the location that the customer plans to use the phone at is stored in their system to that it can be automatically transmitted to the 911 operator. If you have any concerns about E911 services, you can find out more from the FCC.
  3. Alarm Systems — VoIP phones most likely will not work with most home or alarm systems without some adjustments. Changing to VoIP can cut the link between alarm systems and the companies that are supposed to be monitoring. To ensure that your system will work correctly, perform a monthly test and alert your monitoring company to your change in service.

Changing to VoIP can be a great way to save money on long distance and local calls. But don't let the dollar signs blind you. The cheapest service may not always be the best. Take advantage of trial plans offered by vendors to find the right fit for you. If you do your research before you make the switch, you can save yourself a lot of stress and make your switch to VoIP a much more rewardig experience.

From VoIP Now