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Optical/IP

Report: MSOs Scoring With VOIP

Telephone companies aren't the only ones lining up to provide VOIP services (see Kinetic: Cable's Ready for IP Telephony).

Cable operators are expected to provide VOIP phone services to more than 600,000 subscribers by the end of the year and they'll rope in 15 million new phone customers in the next five years, according to a new research report by Kinetic Strategies Inc. Kinetic says early results from cable operators show they are positioned to pitch VOIP as a replacement for primary lines.

The cable operators are more aggressively pushing their VOIP services to compete with such startups as Vonage Holdings Corp. and the incumbent telephone companies, says Michael Harris, founder and president of Kinetic. Those providers collectively have about 300,000 VOIP subscribers.

For the near term, cable operators will provide VOIP service using PacketCable network control system (NCS) technology, a basic digital replacement for the plain old telephone service. In the next couple of years, cable operators may use the PacketCable Multimedia (PCMM) architecture, which will allow them to provide roaming VOIP services to consumers.

PacketCable, a project managed by Cable Television Laboratories Inc. (CableLabs), helps vendors build interoperable equipment that uses IP technology on cable networks. Cable operators have built PacketCable from the ground up to either meet or surpass the quality of the public switched telephone network (PSTN). The end result will be a world where cable operators exchange voice traffic on their IP networks without handing off calls to the PSTN.

Startups such as Vonage and 8x8 Inc. (Nasdaq: EGHT), as well as carriers such as AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T), use session initiation protocol (SIP) to provide VOIP services. These VOIP services can work over any broadband connection, providing the portability that current cable offerings lack. But because service providers don’t have control of the underlying network, Kinetic asserts that these services may not be as reliable as those provided by cable operators.

Cable operators are also looking at SIP, but they see it as an added service, not a replacement for PacketCable technology, Harris says. Further down the road, they could offer SIP-based roaming services to PacketCable NCS customers. To extend PacketCable into a more general IP platform, CableLabs introduced PCMM in June 2003 (see CableLabs Issues PacketCable Spec). Ongoing testing of this technology is expected to continue for a couple years.

Kinetic says Charter Communications (Nasdaq: CHTR) is conducting a small-scale ISP services trial in an undisclosed location and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is conducting a SIP lab trial. Kinetic doesn’t expect PCMM or SIP deployments by the biggest cable operators for at least another year.

For now, cable operators are getting accustomed to the basics of the IP telephone business -- and even that is winning loads of business. “This is a case of putting one foot in front of the other. Cable operators want to first provide consumers with plain vanilla offerings,” says Harris.

— Joanna Sabatini, Reporter, Light Reading


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alchemy 12/5/2012 | 1:15:51 AM
re: Report: MSOs Scoring With VOIP the author wrote:
For the near term, cable operators will provide VOIP service using PacketCable network control system (NCS) technology, a basic digital replacement for the plain old telephone service. In the next couple of years, cable operators may use the PacketCable Multimedia (PCMM) architecture, which will allow them to provide roaming VOIP services to consumers.

This completely misrepresents what PacketCable MultiMedia is all about. MultiMedia is a mechanism to push QoS down to a cable modem and provide bandwidth allocation on the DOCSIS access network. It allows the MSOs to market new residential services that are "better than best-effort". It could be used for things like SIP-based videophone calls, downloading rental movies to a TVIO box, streaming video, gaming, surveillance cameras, SIP-based instant messaging, WiFi cellphone gateway, better quality VPN tunnels, or web-access to temporarily upgrade your web surfing QoS to "Platinum" level. It's completely useless at providing SIP-based VoIP roaming unless you happen to attach to a home network behind another cable modem. For most of us, VoIP roaming is something we do in a hotel room or off a corporate network. It's unlikely I'm going to carry my SIP phone over to my neighbor's house and plug into their home network unless it happens to be a WiFi SIP phone and they have security disabled on their home wireless LAN.
Frank 12/5/2012 | 1:15:49 AM
re: Report: MSOs Scoring With VOIP Borrowing from Fred Goldstein's descriptor of VoIP services that ride over other people's broadband facilities amid emails and file transfers, the parasitic VoIP services I'm referring to are Vonage, Packet8 and others in their category. This morning I came across this news item (below) by Nuvia that raises the specter that this model is vulnerable to threats from the facilities-based broadband carriers and MSOs. I've posted the article below, prefaced by my own intro:

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Article: "VoIP Provider Fears Predatory Practices [And with good reason, IMO]"

[Frank's notes: This subject is going to come to a head sooner rather than later, imo. Aside from what might be considered 'predatory' or 'discriminating' actions on the part of the oligopoly players, are issues of law and regulations that have not matured sufficiently to address this matter in a logical fashion. It's another case of technology leading the courts and the regulators by 270 degrees on the spinning vector screen. For example, cable tv providers of IP services (cable modem services) are said to be information service providers, and not common carriers. In essence, they are not obliged to carry anything they wish not to. There is ample evidence of there being precedence in this by their arbitrarily terminating (putting an end to) users of VPN services who've received notices that they must pay a premium for the privilege to send corporate data over their loops, or else! If a VoIP service provider's virtual VoIP service rides over a cable modem service and uses the outside plant facilities of that same cable operator, in other words, what is to stop the operator from using packet filtering to detect VoIP and close it down? Nothing, I submit. On the other hand, ILECs and IXCs ARE common carriers, which means that they must provide services to all who meet legal guidelines, or those whose traffic is not injurious to the greater good. So, if I'm passing VoIP traffic over a Verizon DSL line, in theory they are obliged to treat it as they do every other form of IP traffic. Is this going to provide enough incentive for the ILECs to have the status of their IP service divisions changed to that of information service providers? There's a bill in congress at this time that I suspect aims to do just that. Namely, the Stearns/Boucher bill filed recently would deregulate the physical layer. More on this when I have a better understanding of what's going on. But on the surface it appears that if, and once, a carrier changes the profile of its outside plant distribution equipment (FSAN, NGDLC, etc.) to one that supports IP intrinsically -- instead of TDM in support of IP through encapsulation means -- then this could give them an out to reclassify themselves as information service providers, whereas previously they were classified as common carriers. Interesting, eh? And without any material changes in the way things stand today, as information service providers they'd be as free as the cablecos to block whatever they chose to block. Comments welcome. Fred? Are you out there? The article follows.]

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http://news.zdnet.com/2100-351...

VoIP provider fears predatory practices
By Ben Charny CNET
News.com September 20, 2004, 8:03 AM PT

Nuvio, a Net phone service provider, has asked federal regulators to ensure that broadband providers that also sell phone services don't engage in predatory practices to stifle competition.

Kansas City, Mo.-based Nuvio caters to broadband service providers, working with them to provide Net phone service to their subscribers. The company also works with schools, municipalities and value-added resellers, according to its Web site. It does not own its own broadband network and does not focus on selling directly to consumers.

Chief Executive Jason Talley said in an interview that it took just "five minutes" for one of his company's engineers to write coding to block Net phone calls from one provider, while letting others go through unabated. The ease at which it can be done, coupled with the economic incentives for doing so, may prove too great a temptation for cable and DSL providers that also sell Net phone services, he said.

Nuvio has asked the Federal Communications Commission to include a prohibition of such a practice in the rules it's now writing to oversee Net phone calls.

"This is a very large concern in (the) industry," Talley said. "Broadband providers are in a unique situation to exert the influence they have as to unfairly and artificially make other services appear poor."

To a large degree, Nuvio's claims illustrate how the Net phone industry has become divided both economically and politically. On one side are those that own their own broadband facilities, such as Verizon Communications and Cox Communications; on the other side are those that don't.

The two camps' fighting is growing more furious as the stakes continue to rise. By the end of the year, analysts say, more than a million homes in the United States will have dropped their traditional phone line for one that uses voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), the technology for converting phone calls into digital packets that are then sent over the Internet rather than the heavily taxed and regulated phone network. That number is expected to surge to 17.5 million by 2008, according to a study by The Yankee Group.

Several cable and DSL providers contacted since Nuvio's FCC filing last week have denied they do, or ever will, engage in such practices. "It wouldn't be in our interest to do such a thing," a Verizon Communications representative said.

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Frank Coluccio
[email protected]



alchemy 12/5/2012 | 1:15:48 AM
re: Report: MSOs Scoring With VOIP Frank writes:
If a VoIP service provider's virtual VoIP service rides over a cable modem service and uses the outside plant facilities of that same cable operator, in other words, what is to stop the operator from using packet filtering to detect VoIP and close it down? Nothing, I submit.

From a technology point of view, I agree with you. An MSO can filter any traffic they want on their network. From a business standpoint, I think the MSOs are fearful of being regulated so they won't be quite so obvious about it. If I were operating the network, I'd fiddle with my network to make the parasitic services unreliable rather than filter them completely. I'd do things like set up static routes for known parasitic media gateways and route them down known congested paths.
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