HD Quality Voice Calls

by Ari Rabban

Last week in Las Vegas during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) we celebrated the dedication of the HD Voice Network. Thanks to the team at WorkInProgress for hosting us.

Guest post by Daniel Berninger. Reach Dan at dan@danielberninger.com.

Dan Berninger with Edwin Grosvenor the Great Grandson of Alexander Graham Bell

Dan Berninger with Edwin Grosvenor the Great Grandson of Alexander Graham Bell

Quote from a speech Alexander Graham Bell delivered in Kensington, England in 1878:  “It is conceivable that cables of telephone wires could be laid underground, or suspended overhead, communicating by branch wires with private dwellings, country houses, shops, manufactories etc., etc., uniting them through the main cable with a central office where wires could be connected as desired establishing direct communication between any two places in the city. Such a plan as this, though impracticable at the present moment will, I firmly believe, be the outcome of the introduction of the telephone to the public. Not only so, but I believe, in the future, wires will unite the head offices of the Telephone Company in different cities, and a man in one part of the country may communicate by word of mouth with another in a distant place. I am aware that such ideas may appear to you Utopian… Believing, however, as I do that such a scheme will be the ultimate result of the telephone to the public, I will impress upon you all the advisability of keeping this end in view, that all present arrangements of the telephone may be eventually realized in this grand system.”

Contemplating the original challenge Alexander Graham Bell sought to address – placing voice on a wire – helps place the benefits of the new all-IP telephone network aka HD voice Network (HDN) in perspective.  Alexander Graham Bell sought to eliminate distance as a barrier to communication.  The HDN provides fresh start and much more promising platform than the public switched telephone network (PSTN) or old telephone network in this regard.  The technology limitations of the PSTN continue to shape the telephone business long after the technology limitations in modes of deployment disappear.  Pause for a moment and contemplate the complete absence of any attempt to improve the experience of telephone call from the creation of the Federal Communication Commission in 1934 to present day.  All manifestations and changes in telephony for 80 years exist for the convenience of government or network efficiencies, so the loss of interest in a plain-old-telephone-call should not come as a surprise to anyone.

The HDN provides a fresh start for thinking about the means of global communication.  The elimination of distance requires elimination of friction impeding communication at a distance.  The HDN doubles the number of octaves associated a telephone call (four to eight) and sets in motion near term implementation of full spectrum (10 octave) audio.  Conventional wisdom regarding the adequacy of standard definition voice rests on a circular rationale.  By definition, the uses of the old telephone network include only those activities feasible with standard definition voice.  Asserting the adequacy of standard definition voice addresses only the narrow set of uses associated with the old telephone network.  No one can dispute people still find it necessary to invest considerable time and money to convene in remote locations in order to communicate – by voice.

A review of incremental industry accomplishments after 1876 (e.g. first transcontinental and transatlantic calls) and the recent decade of euphoria around a revolution in mobility address without exception the question of distribution.  There exists a tremendous accomplishment in solving the challenges necessary to make seven billion devices reachable by telephone numbers.  The accomplishment nonetheless means exactly nothing for the experience of an individual call.  The automation required to make covering the planet with telephones practical degraded the experience of calling from the days when an operator connected every call.

Edward Tuck notes in a 1996 IEEE Symposium speech:  “Telephone service I had in 1984 was in most ways worse than the service I got when I was a little boy in the South in the 1930s. Then, I’d pick up the receiver, and the lady would say, “Number, please,” and I’d say, “I want my Mommy!” She might say, “Well, Skippy, she was over at Miz Ferguson’s, but she left there and now she’s at Miz Furrey’s. Somebody’s using the phone there right now, but I’ll break in and tell them you need your Mama.” We had call waiting, call forwarding, executive override and voice recognition. I didn’t even have to dial. Things went straight downhill from there.”

Alexander Graham Bell’s recognition a voice communication imperative reflects an immersion in the world of the hearing impaired.  His father and grandfather were prominent teachers for elocution and the hard of hearing.  His mother lost the ability to hear at age 5.  The emotional isolation caused by the difficulty of communicating was not an abstraction.  Alexander Graham Bell made a living as a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing throughout the period of his experiments leading to the telephone.  The failure to continue improving voice quality owes to a loss the imperative driving the original invention of the telephone.  The “modern” PSTN and the seven billion telephones on the planet impose a hearing impairment on callers sufficient to justify a hearing aide in daily life.  Alexander Graham Bell would be amazed (as we should be) of a failure to improve voice quality from the standard set in the 1930’s before the invention of the transistor and decades before computing.

Enabling HD voice represents for communication the equivalent of the invention of glasses in the visual realm.  VCXC’s dedication of the HDN on January 6, 2015, during the Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas, Nevada included Alexander Graham Bell’s great grandson and granddaughter in recognition of the need to resurrect the spirit of the inventor of the telephone in the HDN.  The HDN provides an opportunity to return to the original inspiration of – placing voice on a wire – driving the invention of the telephone.  The HDN places communication on the Moore’s Law ramp of continuous improvement for the first time.  HDN offers the immediate benefits of HD voice quality and global unlimited calling, but there remain unknown horizons and opportunities for expanding communication capacity for the rest of the 21st century.

The VCXC Phase II HDN Trial implements a dual provisioning functionality allowing operators to make telephones reachable via both the PSTN and HDN through an existing Local Number Portability Database.  The adoption of HDN by network operators involves publishing IP/HD routes (IP addresses/routing for Session Border Controllers), identifying a media path, and working through an interoperability checklist.    Enabling the provision cool new services via the HDN provides a first opportunity for network operators to compete with over-the-top service providers.  The replacement of the PSTN by the HDN will pick up momentum and show up on “radar screens” during 2015.  The HDN dedication ceremony marks for the HDN the same type of moment as the deployment of the first few hundred Internet websites by industry insiders in 1993.  The Netscape IPO kicked off hyper-growth as the subsequent phase in the case of the Internet.  The time has come to place bets on whether the HDN follows the same pattern.

Closing Comments (by Ari Rabban):

By now many of us (or perhaps all) know HD TV but not many enjoy HD Voice. The simplest way, to explain HD voice, is to simply have you imagine phone calls with CD quality or better. Dan Berninger has been a big promoter of HD Voice over the past several years and in the 90s was a strong promoter of the then young, VoIP industry. We at Phone.com are proud to be one of the first phone services to introduce HD voice capability on our network. The HD voice network still has a way to go, but we are happy to celebrate its progress we believe it will be another major evolution in this 100-year-old plus industry.

There is no better way to celebrate such progress then to do it with the great grandson and granddaughter of Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the phone! As well as some of the founders of the VoIP industry including our very own Alon Cohen, who co-founded the first VoIP company and the VoIP industry most public evangelist Jeff Pulver (also co-founder of Vonage).

With us at this event were other pioneers: former FCC Chairman Richard Wiley, who helped make HD TV a reality and also Jeff Rohdman Co-founder of Polycom, an HD voice pioneer. We also have David Frankel founder and CEO of ZIPDX, the company that pioneered HD voice conference calling. CEOs and senior executives from Cogent, AT&T, Qualcomm and others also participated. Today we face a business environment where the technology of HD voice, which is pretty much ready for mainstream and policy, is one of the primary reasons it is not more readily available.

When Bell died, the US shut down the entire phone network for one minute in his honor. We can’t do this in 2015, but we can take a ceremonial minute of silence as a final farewell to the old phone network.

Build loyalty with Mobile Apps from Appdator

by Phone.com

Guest Blog Post

In today’s competitive environment, businesses lose clients to competitors every day. Even customers who adore your business, like you and love your products or service sometimes shop elsewhere. Why? Maybe because they didn’t have time to compare, maybe because they happened to be near your competitor, or maybe because they just forgot all about your business.

Large brands have already figured that out. Once a customer rolls in the door (e.g. an acquired customer), they will try their best to get that customer to keep coming back (customer retention). It’s a well-known marketing fact that it’s far easier to sell to existing customers than to new customers, so why not put those bucks into retention marketing?

How? There are a lot of ways to reach out to customers. Emailing them, texting them, even sending good ol’ mail to their homes. But in order to do that, you first have to get those contact details, which will turn out to be a very difficult task. What do large brands do? Create a branded app. Macy’s, Walgreens, Walmart, Sears – they all have their mobile apps with lots of information about products and services, value-added features, and of course – the ability to send campaigns to customers as push notifications.

Push is rising above the regular email and promotional text “noise” and is still perceived as a non-intrusive means of contact. These are updates and campaigns that customers have specifically opted in to receive.

appdator_apps

ZZZZoom. Back to reality. A small business could never afford to build such an app, and certainly not to maintain its content or know when to send campaigns.

Until Appdator was born. It’s a service that lets small businesses build such apps in 5 minutes from the convenience of their smartphones. Customers then download these apps and can browse through the business’ photo galleries and new arrivals – and even use a loyalty punch-card and appointment scheduler (for businesses that need that). It’s a completely branded app, made by the owner. Appdator is giving away a 6-month free service for Phone.com customers. Just get the app from http://get.appdator.com and use the promotional code phone123 during sign-up.

Happy apping!

Reaching for VoIP: Grasping the Benefits, Avoiding the Obstacles

by Sue Walsh

Caller using mobile phoneVoice Over IP is no longer the new kid on the block. Emerging in the seventies, coming of age in the eighties and nineties, VoIP has matured as a feature-rich, wallet-friendly alternative to the wired services that were the backbone of the businesses of our parents’ and grandparents’ generations.

Old-fashioned phone service is a funny thing: As a business owner, you plug a traditional phone into the wall socket and place it on your new employee’s desk. Apart from paying the bill every month, you might not think about it much after that. Phone service on the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) is just so straightforward and established, so plug ‘n play.

Yet a recent report by Software Advice, a free online service that offers VoIP system reviews, shows that 25 percent of the business owners they surveyed in 2014, who are currently using PSTN, would consider switching to VoIP. The reasons are pretty compelling.

VoIP is less expensive. Basic phone service, with no commitment or contract, costs as little as $9.99 with Phone.com. With our service, extensions are unlimited, features are plentiful, support is free, and you only pay for the phone numbers you need.

VoIP scales really well. And so easily! Need to add extensions quickly to support seasonal staff? No problem. Adding a brand new department to your business? No need to install additional trunk lines or guess at future capacity. VoIP service is truly elastic, growing or shrinking to meet your needs instantly and exactly.

VoIP is loaded with features. Local, toll-free and international numbers. Menus, queues and unlimited extensions. Forwarding, scheduling, faxing and SMS. Call management, voicemail, text-to-speech and voice-to-text. You can add, tweak and remove features as needed, and almost all of Phone.com’s features are included in your basic account.

VoIP is crazy-flexible and mobile friendly. Moving to a new location no longer means running a whole lot of new wiring or waiting for a phone technician to come out to your office. Your phone numbers and service simply move with you. It really is a new kind of plug ‘n play! And while PSTN might play nicely with your desk phone and fax machine, VoIP can extend phone, fax and SMS services to all of your wired, desktop and mobile devices, regardless of where you are located or traveling at the time. Think of it in terms of party games: If PSTN is really good at playing Simon Says, it’s crazy cousin VoIP is just outstanding at playing Twister!

So Why Aren’t Businesses Moving to VoIP Faster?

Software Advice’s report PSTN User Perspectives on IP Communications shows the key reasons business users are thinking about shifting to VoIP. At the top of the list? Price, mobile integration, features and scalability.

Primary Draws of VoIP - Image by Software Advice

Primary Draws of VoIP for PSTN Users (Source: Software Advice)

While it’s clear that business owners on PSTN are intrigued by all of these benefits, the idea that Internet-based VoIP services are not as reliable as legacy wired PSTN networks, especially in disaster and emergency situations, still lingers. If your connection goes down, so does your phone service, right?

Yes and no. VoIP systems designed to deal with downtime are available. Hosted solutions, like Phone.com, typically offer emergency routing to mobile devices. Our call-handling rules can redirect your incoming calls to a pre-set mobile number if connectivity to your primary VoIP device is disrupted. As long as you set those rules on your account, your calls will route to a mobile number.

We should also note that there are catastrophic disasters that will disrupt any phone service, regardless of whether it’s VoIP or hard wired. As business communications evolve, it makes sense to design your phone networks to spread connectivity and redundancy across all of your physical, IP and cellular networks.

The other reason business owners cite for not switching to VoIP is that of call quality. First, if you haven’t experienced a phone call using HD (High Definition) Voice, you will be amazed at the quality and clarity of your conversation!

According to our support team, occasional call quality issues can often be attributed to the speed and performance of your Internet connection. When our customers have consistent, adequate Internet connectivity, audio quality is not usually a problem. If, as a VoIP user, you’re experiencing degraded audio, we strongly suggest you check the performance of your Internet connection. Your ISP and VoIP provider should have tools to measure whether your connection is robust enough to support VoIP service.

If quality is a concern on calls forwarded to your cell phone, there are a number of variables at work, from the quality of your cell phone connection to the quality of the connection between Phone.com and your carrier. Our fantastic customer service team has the tools to help determine where the issue lies!

By taking these steps, businesses can ensure the reliability and quality they’ve come to appreciate with PSTN service, along with the array of services, benefits and savings offered by VoIP. Price, mobile integration, advanced features and easy scaling. It’s yours for the taking!

Friendship and Feasting! Happy Holidays from Phone.com

by Sue Walsh

Diwali candle, Phone.com international holiday potluck

With our Phone.com team hailing from every corner of the globe, our international holiday potluck last Friday was truly spectacular. Sweet plantains from Nigeria, Chutney fish in banana leaves from India, scrumptious Swedish meat balls and traditional English mince pies to name just a few. Needless to say, we did not go hungry!

Food at the Phone.com international holiday potluck

My plate was laden with latkes and blintzes, lumpia and barfis, and they were all delicious! We dimmed the lights and lit candles, wished each other cheers, l’chaim and salud, and spent the afternoon celebrating a year of hard work and friendship.Phone.com team enjoy the holiday potluck

As the year draws to a close, we wish our customers a very happy holiday season, and a peaceful, successful year in 2015.

This is my wish for you: peace of mind, prosperity through the year, happiness that multiplies, health for you and yours, fun around every corner, energy to chase your dreams, joy to fill your holidays!

— American peace activist D.M. Dellinger

Hands Holding Give Thanks

Threads of Thankfulness

by Jeremy Watkin

Raise your hand if you cringe just a little bit when people hit “reply all” on company-wide emails.  I’m glad to see we’re in agreement.  In case you didn’t know, the holidays are the one time each year where “thread etiquette” goes out the window.

In a recent company-wide email, I asked everyone to hit the dreaded reply all button and complete the following sentence:

I am thankful for…

These are four powerful words followed by a profound little view into the lives of each of my colleagues.  Our thread is up to 28 and counting.  The responses have been amazing.  Some folks expressed gratitude for one thing while others listed twenty.  Family, friends, coworkers, customers, pets, health, life and love all top the list.

Even still, others caught us off guard.  At least one person was thankful for me (flattered).  Others were grateful that they no longer have to use the Oxford comma and that fizzy water abounds in the refrigerator at Phone.com.  Last but not least, there’s the Ewok dog on a treadmill.

Allow me to highlight the common thread if you haven’t seen it yet.  Were you to look in a thesaurus at the word “thankful,” you would not find words like angry, sad or depressed.  Being thankful is calling to mind everything that is good about our lives.  If it’s been one of those years, you may have to dig a little deeper and that’s ok.

The point of this exercise is to remember that we have much to be thankful for, and it is made so much more powerful when we share that with those around us.  On that note, can I interest you in completing the following sentence?

I am thankful for…

Happy Thanksgiving!