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February 2013

Posts from January 2013

Next SIPit Test Event Feb 18-22 - Deadline of Feb 4 For Registration

SipitAre you a vendor of SIP-based products and services? Do you have software or hardware (or cloud-based products) that use SIP? If so, are you planning to attend the next SIPit test event planned for February 18-22, 2013, in Raleigh, North Carolina?

The SIPit events are an outstanding place to test your SIP implementations. Where else will you have so many other vendors also testing their equipment? It's a great place to go, test... and iterate your code even while you are there so that you can test again.

The registration deadline is Feb 4, 2013 for SIPit 30, so you need to act soon if you want to attend.

Olle Johansson posted a great set of slides about why you should go to SIPit:

And reaching back to 2009, here's a video interview I did with Robert Sparks about the SIPit test events:

If you are a vendor of SIP products or services, I would strongly encourage you to consider attending the next SIPit. It's a great way to make sure your SIP works as best as it can.

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Last Day To Submit Speaking Proposals for SIPNOC2013

Sipnoc 2013Got a great idea for a talk to give to an excellent gathering of SIP/VoIP network operators? Have a new way of handling security? Have a case study you'd like to present for how you solved an operational issue?

The SIP Network Operators Conference (SIPNOC) is an outstanding event happening in Herndon, Virginia, USA, from April 22-25. It brings together network operators working with SIP / VoIP networks for several days of talks, networking (of the human kind) and education. I've gone the past two years, speaking about IPv6, and they are truly excellent conferences. Not too big, not too small... and with an extremely high quality of people both attending and speaking.

If you think you'd like to present, TODAY, January 25, 2013, is the end of the call for presentations for SIPNOC 2013. They are seeking presentations on topics such as (see the CFP for more detail):

  • Peering
  • SIP Trunking
  • Congestion Control
  • Applications/content Development
  • Interoperability
  • Call Routing
  • Security
  • Monitoring/Troubleshoooting and Operational Issues
  • Testing Considerations and Tools
  • Availability/Disaster-Recovery
  • WebRTC and SIP
  • SIP-Network Operations Center Best Practices
  • Standardization Issues and Progress
  • FoIP/T.38 Deployment
  • User-Agent Configuration
  • IPv6 Deployment Challenges
  • Emergency Services
  • Scaling and Capacity Issues
  • HD-Voice Deployment Challenges
  • Video Interop Issues

They are seeking individual talks, panel sessions, research sessions and BOFs.

Even if you just have an idea for a session, I'd encourage you to submit a proposal so that the SIPNOC 2013 Program Committee will know of your interest and can reach out to you for more details. More info about the process can be found on the CFP page.

If you aren't interested in speaking, but are now intrigued by SIPNOC and would like to be learning from all the excellent sessions, you can go to the SIPNOC 2013 main page and find out information about how to register and attend.

If you work at or for a telecom/network operator who is involved with SIP and VoIP, I highly recommend SIPNOC as a conference you should attend - you'll learn a huge amount and make great connections.

P.S. I have no affiliation with SIPNOC other than being a speaker there in the past. SIPNOC is a production of the SIP Forum, a great group of people focused on advancing the deployment and interoperability of communications products and services based on SIP.

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Facebook Rolls Out Free Voice Calls In The US On iOS - A Quick Walkthrough And A Big, Huge Caveat

Facebook voice 1Facebook today rolled out it's free voice calling in the US via its Messenger app for iOS (iPhone/iPad). The Verge was the first I saw with the news and a great number of sites are now following.

Voice calling through Facebook has the potential to be hugely disruptive... rather than calling on your phone over your regular phone connection - or even rather than using Skype, you can just call from directly within Facebook. This is the kind of "Over-The-Top (OTT)" app that gives telco operators a fit... goodbye, telco voice minutes!

Plus, it's using some HD voice codec so the sound quality is outstanding.

And since the folks at Facebook want you to live your life inside of their very pretty walls, this just provides yet one more reason for you to stay within those walls.

BUT... there's a big huge caveat that I'll get to in a moment.

A Quick Walkthrough

First, though, let's look at how it works. When you go into the Messenger app and open a chat with a friend (in this case, Jim Courtney), all you have to do is click the "i" button in the upper right:

Facebook voice 2

After you do that you will get a window that I showed at the beginning of an article where you have a "Free Call" button.

Facebook voice 10

When you press that, you begin a call experience very similar to any other call on your iPhone. First you are connecting to the other person and then you are in the actual call:

Facebook voice 3 Facebook voice4

There is apparently the standard accept and decline buttons. (I neglected to have Jim call me back to get a screenshot.) While you are in the call you have a button to hang up, a speakerphone button and a microphone mute button. The last button is very nice in that it lets you remain in the call while using other features of your iPhone. In these two screenshots you can see that I could access our Messenger chat and also go back to my main iPhone screen to launch other applications. I can always tap the bar at the top to return to Messenger and the controls to our voice conversation:

Facebook voice 5 Facebook voice 6

The voice quality during the conversation was outstanding. It was crystal clear and rich enough that we knew it was some kind of HD voice codec being used.

All in all it was an excellent experience.

The Big, Huge Caveat

So what's the problem? Well... the reality is that right now trying to find someone to call is a struggle!

Going down through my contacts in the Messenger app was an exercise in futility. Person after person after person had the "Free Call" button greyed out:

Facebook voice 9

Here's the fundamental problem:

You must be running the MESSENGER app on your iPhone!

It doesn't matter if you are running the Facebook application on your iPhone... you must be running Messenger.

And bizarrely there is no linkage between the two applications. If I am over in the Facebook application and go into a chat with Jim Courtney, notice that I have only the ability to "View Timeline":

Facebook voice 11

And of course you must have an iPhone or iPad. If you have an Android device or some other device you are out of luck right now.

So the only people you can use this with are other people running Messenger on iOS.

Presumably Facebook is assuming people will just keep Messenger running... but I know that I, for one, try to limit the number of apps I keep running on my iPhone for battery life reasons.

More fundamentally, I never have used the Messenger app for chatting with other friends in Facebook. The Facebook app already provides the ability to chat... so why would I use the Messenger app? (And I know Facebook focuses on the speed that you can get to sending messages... but that's not critical for me.)

Potential For Disruption?

Now if Facebook gets their act together and makes this more intuitive and ubiquitous, the potential is there for more serious disruption. If it can be integrated into the main Facebook app... and can work for Android as well as iOS... and can work for people outside the US and Canada... THEN we might see more people shifting voice calls over into Facebook's voice service.

The potential is certainly huge, given Facebook's massive size.

Until then... it's an interesting option to have available... but I just don't see many people using it.

What About The Technology Behind It?

My other natural question was to wonder what they are using for the technology behind their voice service. As The Verge pointed out, Facebook and Skype have had a partnership to deliver video calling within Facebook's website. Could this be another component of that partnership? Is it a partnership with another VoIP provider? Is it something homegrown?

For now, I haven't seen any details that help explain that, but I'll certainly be watching to see what we can learn.

UPDATE: A tweet from Aswath Rao pointed me to a TechCrunch article from earlier this month when Facebook rolled out free voice calling in Canada that indicates that the technology is NOT from Skype. Separately I asked a Skype representative if Skype was involved in today's rollout and received the simple answer of "no".

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Join the Google+ "IP Communications & VoIP" Community

Googleplus ipcomms voipWant to connect with others interested in the bleeding edge of IP communications and VoIP? Want to exchange links or engage in discussions with people interested in these topics? If you are a Google+ user (as I am), there is now the new "Communities" feature and Randy Resnick of VUC fame has set up a new Google+ community on "IP Communications & VoIP" at:

Given that Randy is very active on Google+, this community is also very active, both through Randy's posts as well as the comments and posts of others. I've already learned a good bit from a couple of the discussions that have occurred there.

There are other Google+ communities that you might find interesting, too, such as those related to DNSSEC and IPv6, but Randy's is a great one for VoIP / IP communications / UC topics. Check it out and join in the conversations....

Plus, if you haven't checked out the VUC calls that occur each Friday at noon US Eastern, they, too, are definitely worth listening to and participating in.

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T-Mobile Rolling Out HD Voice (Wideband) In US Mobile Network

T mobileMarking a huge step toward moving beyond the limitations of the legacy phone networks, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week in Las Vegas T-Mobile announced that HD Voice is now available nationwide on its US network. This will give people the richer, fuller voice experience similar to what many of us have gotten used to experiencing while making Skype calls.

There is, of course, the caveat that HD voice (also called "wideband audio") is only available using specific smartphones:

To experience HD Voice, both parties on the call must use capable T-Mobile 4G smartphones such as the HTC One™ S, Nokia Astound and Samsung Galaxy S® III

TheNextWeb also suggests that the iPhone 5 should support HD Voice when T-Mobile makes it available on their network sometime this year.

Over on AnandTech, Brian Klug dives into a bit more detail about T-Mobile's HD Voice, specifically naming the AMR-WB codec, and relays some of his own testing that confirmed that it is live now.

This is an excellent step forward, even with the caveat that it only works on T-Mobile's 4G network and only with specific smartphones. As more and more people get used to the richer and better quality of wideband audio, expectations will rise and continue to push the ongoing migration of all telecom over to IP-based solutions.

Kudos to the technical teams at T-Mobile for making this happen!

P.S. I'm also personally pleased to learn about this because T-Mobile supports IPv6 across their mobile network, too. Now if only they could improve their coverage in southwestern New Hampshire, I'd be able to actually consider switching to them.

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Facebook Rolls Out VoIP In Canada on iOS!

FacebookToday, Facebook apparently began testing of true voice-over-IP (VoIP) calling from its iOS app for all Facebook users in Canada. If you have an iPhone and are in Canada, you can update to the latest version of the Facebook Messenger app and start making free phone calls to your friends on Facebook. Two articles have more details:

I was alerted to this by (appropriately) a Facebook post from Tris Hussey, author of the iPhone Hacks article.

Since I'm not in Canada, I can't test it myself... an update to the Messenger app for me will only get me the ability to leave "voice notes". But I'm looking forward to learning more from my friends in Canada.

If this rolls out to users outside of Canada, this has the potential to be huge and a major disruption to telecom. Yes, there is Skype on mobile phones, and a dozen other apps like Viber and Voxer, but...

... Facebook has the directory and the eyeballs!

You have your friend connections already in Facebook. Plus, people are already spending a significant amount of time in the Facebook app. This just makes it simple to move into real-time communications with someone.

I'm looking forward to learning more from friends up north... and to hopefully trying it out at some point!

UPDATE: Here's the iOS update message for Facebook Messenger:

Facebook v2 1 iphone

So the way I read that, we should all be getting this capability in the next few weeks.

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