FCC Shows VoIP Adoption on the Rise

The Federal Communications Commission has released a report providing details about telephone subscription information within a three-year period ending June 2013. It revealed that nearly half of wireline telephony customers in the U.S. are using some form of VoIP, but that 38 percent of that population is not buying service from traditional carriers such as AT&T and Verizon.

A summary of the report and its findings comes courtesy of Whir hosting and cloud services. During the period ending in June last year, Whir says the report shows that VoIP subscriptions (excluding Skype), where people could make and receive calls across an Internet connection, increased 16 percent in the U.S. This is in contrast to growth in the mobile telephone market which showed only a three percent growth over that same period. Furthermore, retail switched access-line subscriptions decreased by 10 percent in the same period.

Although the growth in the VoIP market appears to be booming, there is the caveat that the FCC found subscription numbers as much higher for individual consumers than it did for businesses. The report shows that, in June 2013, the VoIP business connections accounted for only seven percent of the total telephony market. VoIP residential, however, accounted for 27 percent of the overall market.

Whir speculates that the disparity in adoption could be a result of the difficulty of setting up business VoIP accounts. No matter how simple companies may make the setup, businesses will almost always have more lines, more phones, and ultimately more complexity than individual residences.

Regardless of who is adopting VoIP, though, telecoms may find themselves in danger of losing even more customers over the next several years if the trend continues. Individuals are apparently already seeing the benefits of VoIP, and as installation of such services for large groups becomes even easier, more businesses will likely switch to VoIP services as well. This could create a situation that is similar to what callers experience now but with Internet-based services instead of traditional landlines — “another system based on a different technology but with just as little competition,” Whir says.

That said, with an abundance of free offering such as Skype, the marketplace is also becoming difficult for VoIP providers. Service providers such as Vonage, though, are striving to compete by providing services to small and medium-size businesses. As they make it easier for businesses to establish their own multi-phone connections and continue to offer them premium features at competitive prices, business adoption could continue to rise and competition could find a niche in which to thrive.

The Modern IP Phone

A recent post at Telecom Reseller discusses the fate of IP phones. While it says that some online news sources have slated them to be doomed to the evolutionary dustbin, others have marveled at the flexibility of SIP technology and the transformation of IP phones that conform to the changing nature of the business world. It is impossible to truly predict the future, but the prevalence of SIP technology and its wide-reaching effect on global businesses may, in fact, be a better predictor of the lives of desk phones than any other information currently available.

Desk phones of the past were often mass-produced machines that attempted to meet the needs of many different businesses and their departments by becoming multi-use devices. Telecom Reseller says these phones “did a lot of things, but none of them really well.”

The status quo has changed, though, and IP phones are more advanced than ever. They have come a long way since the Meridian, and modern technology has made it possible to create both desk phones and mobile phones that can utilize SIP trunking architecture by manipulating that service with hardware and software.

Telecom Reseller believes that these advances will keep the IP phone around for many years to come. Yes, the desktop phone does face some competition with mobile phone technology — especially those mobile devices which can use the SIP architecture. Mobile phones are slowly replacing home phones in the consumer world, and that could definitely reveal itself as a strong predictor for what might happen in the business world.

However, despite advances in mobile, desk phones still make themselves widely useful because of their versatile and necessary nature. As this article has pointed out, desk phones can provide tremendous functionality with respect to handling unified communications; some phones can even allow users to participate in video conferences. For as long as employees continue to work at their desks, their desk phones will likely be an irreplaceable part of their working experiences.

For the time being, IP-based desk phones also have the advantage of never losing power. Although users can plug their mobile phones into outlets, desk phones provide an ease of use in some aspects that mobile phones cannot yet match. They are comfortably-sized, and they are assuredly a staple of UC. Mobile phones will continue to press hard for dominance, but they will not overtake desk phones just yet.

Study Predicts VoIP Infrastructure Investment to Grow by 90 Percent in Next Five Years

Businesses have moved beyond the trial stage when it comes to VoIP. That is one of the takeaways from a new report on the industry issued by networking and telecommunications analysts, the Dell’Oro Group. The report predicted that spending on emerging voice-related systems such as Session Border Controllers (SBCs), IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) Core and Voice Applications Servers (VASs) will grow by more than 90 percent over the next five years.

SBCs, IMS and VAS systems serve as some of the foundational infrastructure that runs VoIP systems, which signals that VoIP is on the rise and here to stay.

Part of what’s driving the growth is mobile VoIP. While mobile phones make it possible to call from anywhere, there’s still the added cost of using cellular minutes and managing both mobile and landline phones. But mobile VoIP eliminates many of those challenges, centralizing all calls around a single number that can follow the person around whether they are in the office, on the road or at home.

Mobile VoIP uses cellular data, not voice minutes, which also cuts calling costs.

“New services such as Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and Voice over Wi-Fi are expected to drive robust demand for SBCs, IMS Core and Voice Application Servers in the coming years,” noted Chris DePuy in a statement, vice president at Dell’Oro Group.

He added: “These newer systems are expected to replace the existing voice systems that have been used for over a decade. After several years of robust growth of these newer systems, their revenues are now overtaking older system revenue, resulting in our expectation that the overall voice market will remain stable in the coming years.”

Other VoIP infrastructure also will benefit from the growth, including the hosted softswitch market.

Softswitches enable the connection between the calling party and the receiver, the modern version of the switchboard operator. Hosted softswitches make VoIP even easier because they move the softswitch infrastructure to the cloud instead of requiring on-premise hardware installation.

So as VoIP investment grows, so too will the investment in other telecom infrastructure such as hosted softswitches.

Zambian mobile networks accused of telecom fraud

The Zambia Consumer Association (ZACA) has challenged Zambia’s telecom sector regulator to thoroughly investigate the country’s three mobile operators for fraud.

The consumer rights body wants the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA) to institute disciplinary measures against MTN, Zamtel and Airtel over the poor quality of service.

ZACA claims that the poor quality of services are not reflective of the high tariffs the operators were charging.

In addition, ZACA said the operators were also charging exorbitant fees for participating in promotion competitions that were often run to attract more subscribers.

Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority
ZACA’s complaint comes in the wake of a poor quality and congested Airtel network over the past few days that has left subscribers fuming and in some cases even failing to communicate. Airtel claims it is upgrading the network.
ZACA executive director Samuel Simutunda alleges that mobile services provision continues to be poor despite high tariffs.

“Despite the high tariffs that telecom companies are charging, poor communication services have continued and that is why ZICTA must quickly move in to probe these providers,” Simutunda said.

Last week, ZICTA said it was probing all the three operators for poor communication services and warned it would take further legal action against the operator that will be found wanting.

ZICTA has already dragged all the three operators to court over poor communication services, which the authority claims were ‘criminal in nature’.

FCC Adopts Text-to-911 Rules

Building on commitments made by America’s four largest wireless carriers to provide text-to-911 service, the FCC adopted rules to ensure that all remaining wireless carriers and certain IP-based text application providers are prepared to support text-to-911 by the end of the year. Currently, more one hundred 911 call centers in the U.S. are serving portions of 16 states and two entire states (Vermont and Maine) are now accepting emergency texts.

The FCC said its new text-to-911 requirements apply to wireless carriers and “interconnected” text messaging providers (i.e., those which enable consumers to send text messages to and from U.S. phone numbers). This includes providers of “over the top” applications that support texting to and from phone numbers but not, for example, messaging apps that only support communications among users of games or social media.

The FCC also adopted a Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks comment on the continued evolution of text-to-911, including the delivery of location information and support for text-to-911 when roaming.

The FCC previously adopted rules requiring text messaging providers to send an automatic “bounce-back” text message to consumers who try to text 911 where the service is not available.

BroadSoft Launches Hospitality-Focused UC Offering

BroadSoft has announced a new, hosted unified communications (UC) offering for the hospitality industry, UC-One Hospitality, based on the acquisition of Systems Design & Development (SDD).

SDD is a software and services provider to hotels, resorts, convention and meeting facilities, extended stay, and fractional ownership properties.

As in other verticals, businesses throughout the hospitality industry are looking to cloud-provided communications services to replace their aging PBX solutions and align with their corporate IT cloud migration strategies.

“Many of the hospitality premise-based PBX solutions are reaching their end-of-life, creating a need for the industry to seek new innovative communication alternatives that better align with their integrated guest services strategies,” said Michael Tessler, CEO at BroadSoft. “We believe the services capabilities of SDD, when integrated with our unified communications services, will unlock a sizable new vertical market opportunity for our service provider customers.”

UC-One Hospitality integrates BroadSoft’s UC and SDD’s Jazz Fusion capabilities; hospitality properties to create customized communications services using dynamically targeted pricing, packaging, service authentication and digital content presentations. Channel partners and providers can thus deliver a bundled offering (including connectivity, minutes, unified communications and property management system data integration).

“Service providers can also eliminate the capital investment, special knowledge and operational standards required to support diverse and changing collections of hospitality enterprise systems, hotel on-premise systems and their necessary proprietary integrations and certifications,” the company noted.

Liberia Busts SIM Box Fraud

The Liberia Telecommunications Authority or LTA’s Anti Fraud Unit uncovered the largest illegal SIM Box network operation late Thursday, July 31 and with the help of the Justice Ministry took possession of close to 3,000 unregistered active SIM Cards used to facilitate Grey Routing.

A statement issued in Monrovia quotes Acting LTA Chairperson and Commissioner of Licensing and Regulations, B. Anthony McCritty as saying, “This is a great day for the LTA; this is a great day for the telecom sector and despite the challenges we are facing now with Ebola, this is a great day for Liberia.”

According to the statement, the acting LTA boss, who is serving his first term at the institution, furthered that “We want to send a message to fraudsters that Liberia’s spectrum will not be abused, we will pursue violators to the highest extent of the law and continue to be vigilant.”

The LTA warned that international call appearing on cell phone as a local number is an illegally routed call known as Grey Routing. This practice, according to the LTA, is on a sharp national increase, robbing the telecommunication sector of hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

Fraudsters use a SIM Box which is about the size of a DVD player to house unregistered SIM Cards connected to their network. Incoming international calls are then diverted from the designated GSM Service Provider and government monitored signal routing points to illegal SIM Box terminals, making international calls appear as local.

But the LTA says agents detected signals from the Broad Street location, opposite the old Education Ministry weeks ago through LTA’s SIM Box Detector equipment and a warrant to search the premise and seize the equipment used in the fraudulent operation had to be channeled through the Justice Ministry in the form of a petition providing evidence of LTA’s findings.

Records of SIM Box activity through data from the detector were submitted to support the petition, and LTA says with enough evidence submitted to the Justice Ministry, the courts approved the petition, issued a warrant, assigned a sheriff and the LTA Anti Fraud Team moved in.

“The building is the Uptown Building near the Corner of Broad and Mechlin Streets. An iron door on the second floor where the signals were coming from prevented entry to the actual apartment. No one answered the knocks to serve the warrant and after several hours of waiting the LTA had to once again seek court clearance to break through the iron door with the help of welders. This took a couple of hours,” said the LTA.

Once inside, LTA said Agents and the court Sheriff came face to face with the largest SIM Box operation in the history of the LTA. The apartment was totally empty except for the equipment used to execute Grey Routing elaborately set up across a table and in full operation connected to a small laptop.

However, LTA says the equipment seized will remain in police custody pending further investigation. All the Sim Cards seized were from the Lonestar Service Provider. The LTA will of course launch a detailed investigation into how much the sector loss due to the illegal operation of the SIM Cards employed in the use of the SIM box.

It says the minutes accrued on each card will be tallied through the system and converted to a monetary value. Last year, over USD$400,000.00 was lost in the sector due to one SIM Box operation and a total of three separate cases are pending in courts for possible prosecution on charges of Economic Sabotage.

FCC Releases List of Areas Eligible for Rural Broadband Experiments

Last week, the FCC Wireline Competition Bureau released a list of census blocks that are eligible for rural broadband experiment support and their associated support amounts, as calculated by the Connect America Cost Model (CAM).

The Bureau also announced that the map previously released depicting the geographic areas that may be eligible for Phase II support now provides more detailed information regarding location totals and support amounts at the census tract level, which may be a useful tool for applicants interested in applying for rural broadband experiment funding.

Millennials and BYOD: Study Finds 70% Use Unapproved Apps

Dubbed “Digital Natives,” U.S. adults coming of age around the turn of century – aka Millennials – are driving fundamental change in information and communications technology (ICT) throughout organizations. Millennials, according to a new study from TrackVia, “have embraced the Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) and Bring-Your-Own-Application (BYOA) revolution like no other generation in the workplace.”

TrackVia, a provider of do-it-yourself application platforms for businesses, found that nearly 70 percent of all Millennials said they bring applications from outside the company to support their work, despite this often running counter to corporate policies. Just 31 percent of Baby Boomers admitted to doing the same.

Millennials and BYOD
Accustomed to finding and making use of new devices, applications and ICT services on their own, Millennials are making regular use of cloud tools and services, such as Box, Google Drive and Evernote, to help them do their jobs. Nearly half use their own apps, “because corporate apps don’t meet their needs,” according to a TrackVia press release.

Such habits pose challenges for IT departments. Sixty-nine percent of Millennials said they never work with IT when choosing new business apps. Sixty percent said they aren’t concerned about corporate security when making use of personal apps instead of those approved by corporate IT departments.

In addition, TrackVia found that:

  • Less than a quarter of Millennials (22 percent) think that BYOD/BYOA policies cause headaches for IT, but 40 percent of Baby Boomers do;
  • 35 percent of Millennials use their own apps because the corporate apps can’t be used across different devices.

“Millennials are on target to make up the majority of the workforce by 2015,” Walker Fenton, TrackVia product SVP, was quoted as saying.

“What we found in our research is that Millennials not only prefer to use their own devices, but their own software as well. In many cases the software provided by their companies simply isn’t meeting their needs. In today’s ‘there’s an app for that’ world, Millennials know they can buy or build flexible, mobile, custom solutions to be more efficient and productive.”

Wireless and VoIP Continue to Replace Wireline

Surveys of consumer and business voice communication trends have shown a steady decline in wireline usage, replaced by Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) subscriptions and wireless adoption.

One such survey is the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) annual Local Telephone Competition, formulated with data up through June 30, 2013. In this report, it was found that in June of 2010 there were 123 million end-user switched access lines in service, 29 million interconnected VoIP subscriptions and 279 million mobile subscriptions in the United States. Meanwhile, 2013 data showed that switched access lines fell to 90 million (an annual decline of 10 percent), VoIP rose to 45 million (a compound annual growth of 16 percent) and mobile subscriptions rose to 306 million (a compound annual growth of 3 percent).

Of the wireline services, which include switched access lines and VoIP subscriptions, 57 percent were residential connections and 43 percent were business. Forty-seven percent of those residential customers were VoIP subscribers, as opposed to 15 percent of business subscribers.