IP-based telecommunications Archive

Orange to set up Facebook-based voice calling in France

Articles

French wireless carrier lets you call friends through Facebook | Internet & Media – CNET News

Facebook Is Launching A Numberless ‘Social Calling’ Service | Gizmodo

My Comments

The French are at it again with their online technology. Orange (France Télécom) have provided a Facebook-based “social calling” feature as part of their Livebox service for their subscribers.

The service, sold under the marketing name of “Party Call” is not a VoIP service but uses Orange’s mobile and landline voice infrastructure. But how does it exploit Facebook? Instead, it works as a Facebook app for the call management process, using your “Friends” list as the phone book if your Friends have listed their phone numbers, typically their mobile numbers, in to Facebook. Effectively it is as though you don’t have to remember their phone numbers.

I would improve on this through the ability to manage whether you can receive calls made on this setup or not. Here, this could prevent people from “stalking” you with your Facebook identity especially if you have tied a phone number to it.

Similarly, I would like to see a warning if you are calling someone who has an overseas mobile number or is roaming mainly to avoid bill shock for either party. This could be augmented through the the call routed through Skype, Viber or similar over-the-top VoIP services when the caller is roaming or overseas.

Of course, for people who use regular computers or tablets that don’t support cellular voice calling, I would want to be sure whether this function ties in with Orange-supplied telephone equipment like the Livebox and its DECT handsets or whether it simply uses a “softphone” setup that uses a VoIP setup.

It can also relate to issues like highly-strung DECT cordless handsets being able to import Facebook “friend lists” in to their contact lists and, eventually, Facebook turning in to an Internet-driven contact directory.

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An add-on Skype videophone for the existing flatscreen TV

Article

Logitech TV Cam HD brings Skype video calls to your television | TechGuide

From the horse’s mouth – Logitech

Product Page

My comments

An increasing number of newer flatscreen “smart TVs” have Skype capability when equipped with an optional camera. But there are an increasing number of flatscreen TVs and TV-optical-disc-player combos sold at very affordable prices that don’t support this network ability. Add to this the number of flatscreen TVs currently in use that don’t have integrated network functionality.

Logitech have answered this situation by offering the TV Cam HD which is an add-on network videophone that plugs in to a regular flatscreen TV via its HDMI input. This videophone connects to your home network using Ethernet or 802.11g/n Wi-Fi wireless connection and uses the Skype IP-telephony service.

The camera can work at 720p resolution and uses a noise-cancelling microphone array in order to allow for use in a larger area. It also has a ringer which works whether the TV is on or off so you can quickly turn on the set and select the right input to answer that incoming videocall.

What I personally like of this camera is that there has been a lot of thought going into this product so it can be a videophone even if you focus on your TV’s picture and sound quality when buying that TV or allowing you to enable a cheaper set to work as a Skype video terminal. As well, it would be an ideal Skype solution for older people who need to keep in contact with distant relatives using this medium.

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Canal+ providing its own triple-play service to France

Article – French language

Canal+ prépare une offre triple play – DegroupNews.com (France)

My Comments

Canal+, France’s main pay-TV provider and known for the Engrenages (Spiral) crime drama, now is in on the Internet-service game.

This service will be primarily based around the SFR infrastructure, which means it will be available in areas that are “dégroupée” (fully unbundled) to SFR or have FTTH fibre-optic established by SFR. To understand this for anyone setting up in France, have a look at my feature article about what these terms and requirements are about in this highly-competitive market.

In this keenly-priced market, the prices range from €32.99 / month with 25Mb/s and the typical free landline calls to France and most destinations to €44.99 / month with the LeCube hardware. Expect this to have things like high-definition viewing, Wi-Fi home network and a personal-TV service as well as multi-screen and other features.

This shows that the competitive market can even allow for many service operators to exist using other providers’ infrastructure on a wholesale basis; and many of these operators could exist on such capabilities like content provision.

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Netherlands makes net neutrality mandatory | DigitalProductionME.com

Article

Netherlands makes net neutrality mandatory | DigitalProductionME.com

My Comments

The issue of Net Neutrality and access to competing telecommunications services is still a thorny issue in the USA and some other countries where telephony and cable-TV monopolies still exist and have extensive clout.

But the Netherlands government have used their telecommunications laws to make Net Neutrality a mandatory requirement through that country. This also encompasses the requirement of ISPs and mobile carriers to allow customers to gain access to “over-the-top” telecommunications services in that country. It was driven by the KPN incumbent telecommunications company wanting to slug customers for use of these services and this practice that KPN did was working against the European goal of competitive trade.

How I see this effort in the Netherlands is that it is another step in the right direction to encourage competition for value with telecommunications, something which is being required in the European Union. The more countries that mandate Net Neutrality and similar requirements, the better it would be for a competitive telecommunications and broadcasting environment.

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Internet telephony on the increase in Europe

Article

Internet-Telefonie in Europa auf dem Vormarsch – Telekom – derStandard.at (Austria – German language)

My comments

From this German-language article published in Austria, I had read that Internet-based telephony was gaining traction in Europe. The article was based on Bitkom’s information which they sourced from Eurostat which is the European Union’s statistics department.

IP telephony was found to be popular in the Baltic states like Lithuania but Germany was third behind the UK and France. Personally, I wouldn’t put it past France to take this technology up due to the VoIP services being part of their “n-box” triple-play Internet

Most setups were based around an existing handset that was connected to an analogue-telephony-adaptor or router with integrated IP telephony gateway. As well certain call classes such as international calls and calls to mobile phones do attract the VoIP users most likely due to cost savings.

But I notice a gap in the information about whether the customers use VoIP at home or at work. This includes whether multi-site workplaces implement VoIP for tie-lines and whether users are using VoIP without knowing it due to dial-plans that are set up for particular call classes.

It is also worth knowing whether most European users really make use of the PABX-style features like call transfer on their home VoIP setups. This is more so as manufacturers implement these features in ATAs, Internet telephones and similar devices.

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Getting Skype ready for the Christmas season

Previous coverage

Feature Article – Videoconferencing on the home network

My Comments

Some of you may have relatives who are far away or are ill and unable to come out for the Christmas festivities. So you may find that Skype would work as a valuable too for this season.

Skype-enabled video devices

You may have recently purchased a Skype-enabled TV or, if you are in America, had Comcast install one of those new cable-TV set-top boxes. Increasingly, some of the “smart-TV” devices like TV sets, Blu-Ray players or network media adaptors may have Skype functionality on-board, able to work with an optional camera module.

If you are buying a device that you know has Skype integrated, make sure that you buy the Skype camera for this device. You could use this as a deal-maker when you are buying any of these devices. For the abovementioned Comcast subscribers, if you are running with the newer cable-TV boxes, contact your Comcast customer-service line and ask how you can get that Skype camera and whether the Skype facility is running.

Here, you could enable this device to an account primarily used by your household and make sure you have the camera accessory for the video equipment.

Your laptop computer

If you are using your laptop or other computer, you would need to connect it to the main TV screen. Nearly all plasma or LCD flatscreen TVs have a VGA or HDMI connection which can allow you to use it as your computer’s display. If you use a DisplayPort-equipped computer like a MacBook Air, you may need to use a DisplayPort-HDMI adaptor in order to use these connectors.

As well, you may have best results with this setup when you use a USB webcam or a regular video camera or camcorder connected to a USB-based AV capture card. Here, you can have the Webcam fixed at the top of the TV.

Configuring Skype appropriately

AV Peripherals

You may have to make sure that if you are using an HDMI connection or an external camera or microphone, you have the video and audio devices setup appropriately. Some HDMI setups may enumerate the audio feed to the HDMI device as a discrete sound device and you may have to select this as your sound output in Skype if you want the correspondent’s voice through the TV or home-theatre.

For the USB Webcam or the USB AV capture device, you would need to set Skype’s video source and microphone to the Webcam or AV capture device.

Quality of service

Skype does perform properly with quality of service for most Internet connections but I would make sure that you use a wired connection to the router or have a strong Wi-Fi connection between the wireless router and the device if you are using a Wi-Fi link.

You may want to do a “dry-run” call with the intended household before the big event so you are sure that it is going to work properly. This may be a limitation if you intend to have the Skype-enabled TV or video peripheral as a Christmas gift.

Contact Lists

Another good hint is to make sure that the households are registered on Skype and that each one is part of each other’s Contact List. This could be established by sending each other their Skype name through an email. It could be followed up by arranging a contact time to make this videocall through subsequent emails, taking into account the time differences between the locations.

Conclusion

With Christmas being the time to catch up with family and friends overseas, why not make it the time to do it with pictures the Skype way.

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Freebox Révolution–the standard to measure a triple-play service by

Articles (French language – best resources)

Dossier -Test du Freebox Server | DegroupNews

Freebox Revolution – Test du Freebox Player | DegroupNews

From the horse’s mouth

Freebox Home Page – Free (France – French language)

My comments

Typically, the kind of equipment supplied to consumers by telecommunications carriers and Internet service providers for “triple-play”or similar Internet services has typically been drab in design and functionality. This is typically to work to the lowest-common denominator with both price, functionality and style.

The situation is very different in France where there is a lively competitive market for “triple-play”Internet service. Most urban or regional centres in this country are “dégroupée” for multiple competing ADSL-service operators. Here, these operators have access to the customers’ telephone lines as cable without paying France Télécom for a dial-tone service. There is also a steady rollout of fibre-optic service by the competing service providers for next-generation broadband Internet, with an overlaying requirement to provide competitive access to the ducts and poles for the fibre-optic service.

One of these major players is Free who have established a triple-play service for many years. Their latest iteration of the “Freebox” is now a benchmark for anyone offering a similar setup, whether in France or anywhere else.

I have previously covered the Freebox Révolution  in HomeNetworking01.info when a recent firmware update was released that integrated it with Apple’s ecosystem. As well, I have researched many French and English-language resources to learn more about this system.

The Freebox Révolution system

This system, like other triple-play setups offered in France, comprises of an Internet-gateway device, known as a “box”, and a set-top-box, known as a “décodeur”. These units have typically been interlinked by an Ethernet cable or user-supplied HomePlug kit, but is connected through a pair of “Freeplugs” which combine a power supply and a HomePlug-AV-Ethernet bridge in one box.

The units are a statement of industrial design in a similar way that Bang & Olufsen equipment are still a statement in this regard for consumer audio-video equipment. Both the Internet-gateway device and the set-top box have been designed by Phillippe Starck, known for extraordinary designs like the Parrot Zikmu network-enabled speakers or some of the LaCie external hard drives or network-attached storage systems.

Internet Gateway Device (Freebox Server)

This device consists of a broadband router, network-attached storage, VoIP ATA with DECT base station and audio player in one box.

It has a dual-WAN interface for either an ADSL2 service or an FTTH fibre-optic service. But the LAN functionality is one of the hallmarks of a cutting-edge device. It has 4 Gigabit Ethernet switched ports for Ethernet client devices as well as an access point for an 802,11n three-stream 450Mbps Wi-Fi segment. I mentioned previously that this unit also supports a HomePlug AV segment through the use of the supplied Freeplug adaptors. The Wi-Fi access point can also work as a separate “hotspot segment” for other Free subscribers.

The VoIP functionality works with an integrated analog-telephony adaptor and a DECT base station that you can associate 8 DECT cordless handsets with. These will provide full functionality with CAT-iQ DECT handsets.

The 250Gb NAS can work with the regular file-protocol suspects (CIFS, FTP, HTTP) but can work as a DLNA media server. It also works as a “staging post” for FTP, HTTP and BitTorrent downloads, the latter function being described as a “seedbox”. The recent firmware upgrades also implemented Apple TimeMachine support for incremental MacOS data backups. Of course, there is USB connectivity for 2 devices as well as eSATA connectivity for an external hard disk.

There are integrated speakers for playing media held on the hard disk, the Internet or an Apple AirPlay network but you can use it as an elementary amplified-speakers setup by connecting a Discman or iPod to its AUDIO IN jack. Of course you can play the music through better powered speakers or an amplifier using the AUDIO OUT jack.

This router is totally UPnP to the hilt with UPnP Internet-Gateway-Device for hands-free setup with Skype, games, MSN Messenger and the like; as well as being a UPnP AV / DLNA media server. Free could do better by integrating something like TwonkyMedia which can allow content discovery on metadata other than the file-system tree.

Let’s not forget that the Freebox Server is IPv6-ready as expected for a future-proof device. This is being augmented by the fact that ADSL Free subscribers in zone dégroupée aras or FTTH Free subscribers can have an IPv6 connection now.

Set-Top Box (Freebox Player)

This unit has an integrated Blu-Ray player with Blu-Ray 3D support (after new firmware added) as well as a digital-TV / IPTV set-top box / PVR. It connects to the TV via an HDMI connector or a SCART cable, both offering that “single-pipe” connectivity between the Freebox and the TV. Of course, there are connectivity options for other audio-video setups like SPDIF optical; and you can connect USB peripherals like SD card readers to this unit for direct viewing.

It is controlled via a gyroscopic remote control but has a supplied game controller as an alternate input device. Of course, you can connect a USB keyboard and mouse to it as extra input devices or control it from your iPad using the Freebox Connect app.

One drawcard in my opinion is that it is a fully-fledged Internet terminal with access to an app store, namely the FreeStore app store. This allows you to download games and similar “lean-back” apps; as well as view the Web or check email from your couch. Just of late, this set-top box has had YouTube support baked in to its latest firmware update.

You can now use the Freebox Player and its associated sound system or television’s speaker to play material from your iTunes software or iOS device using AirPlay. This at the moment applies to audio content only.As well, you can discover and play content held on DLNA-compliant media servers on your network including the Freebox Server’s hard disk.

Plans and Pricing

You can equip that French home or apartment with this device for € 29.90 per month. This gives you inclusive unlimited telephone telephone calls to standard phone services in most countries (Europe, Francophone countries, US, Australia, NZ, etc); and mobiles in France.

The Internet service would be up to 28Mbps while you have access to most basic TV service. Pay €1.99/month extra for 185 additional TV channels while you can service another room with Free’s TV service for €4.99/month extra with a simple set-top box or another of this Freebox Player for €9.99/month extra.

Existing Free subscribers can upgrade for €199.99 less €30 for each year they have been with Free.

The prices are obtained from Free’s latest tariff charts available on their site and would appear to be ridiculously low for people who live in a country that doesn’t have a lively competitive broadband-Internet market.

Conclusion

What I see of the Freebox Révolution is a system of equipment for a home network that is all about an Internet service provider offering a future-proof attractive cutting-edge piece of equipment rather than offering second-rate equipment to their customers.

This is primarily driven by a country who is behind a really competitive Internet service market for consumers and that the competition is driven on value rather than the cheapest price possible.

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Answering the main entry door using a video intercom based on standards-based IP telephony–that is now real

Articles – From the horse’s mouth

T24 IP Video Door Station – Mobotix Website

My comments

The Mobotix T24 video entryphone (door intercom) system piqued my interest with this site because it is a device of its kind that is primarily driven by IP connectivity with access provided through a standard IP-based network.

This has allowed you to “release that door” to a world of innovation as far as these systems are concerned because there is the ability to build out a cost-effective and flexible door intercom setup for that apartment block or gated community.

Standard IP connectivity

Here, the resident or tenant can use an IP-based SIP-compliant hardware or software videophone (or a VoIP telephone for voice only) connected to their Internet service. It can be feasible for the door intercom to be connected to its own Internet service, which may be the case for tenants who want to let in visitors using their smartphone while out at the shops for example; or for use at the entry gates of a larger property or gated community, where you can’t affordably extend the main Internet service to those gates.

What the door intercom offers

Of course, this unit has all the features necessary for a door intercom of its class that would pique the apartment-block / gated-community market. For example, it has its own access control system for the associated door or gate, which can be driven by a PIN number or an RFID (near-field communication) card.

As well, by virtue of innovation, the system has recording abilities for logging what happened as well as a feature not often associated with the door intercom setup. This is a video-mail system that allows visitors to leave “while you were out” messages for tenants.

Questions worth raising

A major reality that will affect the door intercom over its lifetime is how the unit is set up as far as the equipment installed in the resident’s or tenant’s unit is concerned. This is more so as VoIP telephony becomes mainstream with triple-play services, VoIP business telephony and cut-price long-distance VoIP telephone services coming on the scene.

There needs to be knowledge about how this unit can be provisioned in to IP telephony setups especially as different residents or tenants, with differing technology skill levels, move in to and out of the units over the development’s life. It also includes enrolling additional handsets to the intercom so that users can answer the door from the device they feel comfortable with and are near.

Similarly, there needs to be support for a “function key” setup for devices like this when they are integrated with standards-based IP telephony setups so that one can know which button to press to unlock the door for example.

As well, there should be knowledge on how the residents or tenants can get at the messages that are left on the video-mail system while visitor-resident privacy is assured. This also includes support for and integration with standards-based email or unified-communications setups.

Conclusion

The Mobotix T24 IP video door station has set the cat amongst the pigeons as far as IP-telephony is concerned. Here, it has defined a particular device and usage class that will become increasingly real especially as residents or tenants in multiple-tenancy units and gated communities welcome the arrival of IP-based telephony technology.

It also allows further innovation to take place with these devices, such as improved security and aesthetics and the potential to improve the user experience for both the resident and the visitor.

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Parents get children back after testifying via Skype

Article

Parents get children back after testifying via Skype | The Age Technology

My Comments

The courts of justice are again being used as a proving ground for today’s Internet-driven technology. This time it is the use of Skype in a child-protection case occurring in the USA concerning immigrant parents who were deported back to Mexico. Here, the US-based court had used Skype as a tool for taking the Mexico-based parents’ testimony due to cost and logistical reasons. Video-conferencing has been used in the courtroom for a lot of cases such as high-profile crime trials where it is desireable to keep a high-risk defendant or “supergrass” confined at a secure jail through the hearing. These setups typically use a direct link between known locations like a courthouse and a major prison, or an expensive-to-hire videoconferencing setup for temporary arrangements.

Of course, the Skype-based solution had facilitated the use of cost-effective equipment that didn’t need intense technical help to set up. This has allowed the parents to prove to the court that they were fit and appropriate parents for the children concerned even though they were limited in funds and based in Mexico.

This case could benefit other civil, family and similar cases in most jurisdictions where a key participant or witness is separated from the main court of hearing by significant distance or ill-health. Typically most of these situations would require an expensive video-conferencing setup which may not be feasible in most rural areas and the setups would require a lot of specialist time to set up and run. Or they would require the lawyers representing both sides of the case to travel out to the witness’s location and make a video recording of their testimony which doesn’t have the immediacy and constant judicial oversight of the live testimony.

Here, a Skype setup on an ordinary 15” or 17” laptop, like most of the laptops reviewed on HomeNetworking01.info, connected via a broadband link can be established by most computer-competent people. These same setups could be transported in the typical briefcase, laptop bag or backpack as cabin luggage on a flight or in the boot (trunk) of a typical car.

One step of progress I would like to see for Skype in the courtroom as a remote-testimony tool is for a similar situation to work with a criminal trial, especially one heard by a judge and jury. In this situation, there would be a requirement to test the case beyond reasonable doubt and these cases may be more exacting than the civil case mentioned above.

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Another attempt at the “smart cordless phone” for the regular telephone service

Article

DECT-Telefon mit Android: Archos 35 Smart Home Phone – COMPUTER BILD (Germany – German language)

My Comments

I have previously covered various attempts by landline-telephony carriers and electronics manufacturers to restore faith in the classic telephone service. This is more so as younger people are thinking more of the mobile phone as their main telephone device and ditching the classic landline telephone.

The two main examples of this was a DECT cordless telephone handset which worked on the Android operating system but looked like an early-generation car phone as well as the Telstra T-Hub with a separate screen which linked to the home Wi-Fi network.

Now Archos have taken this further with a DECT cordless telephone that is styled like the typical smartphone. As well, they have run this phone on the Android platform with the ability to download software to the phone through the Wi-Fi network. They even have run TuneIn Radio, which is an Internet-radio client, on this phone so it can offer the same Internet-radio experience as the T-Hub’s Internet-radio client.

Archos have emphasised the DECT cordless-phone setup because most of the Internet-gateway devices that are part of a fully-featured “triple-play” service in Europe, especially the Germanic countries (Germany, Austria and Switzerland), can work as VoIP base stations for these handsets. This allows for centralised management of the handsets and for the assured quality-of-service that DECT offers.

It will be interesting to know who else will try to run with a “smart household phone” system to keep the classic home-based voice telephone service alive and relevant in the mobile world.

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