We see Apple have announced that they are now supporting third party applications for the iPhone including WiFi based VoIP. As mentioned in a previous blog Truphone have already released a demonstration model late last year, they have confirmed their interest here and indicated they would be developing a fully fledged application.
Not only have Apple opened the iPhone up to external developers but they have also announced a $100 million developer fund from its VC partners called KPCB’s iFund™. There is now an SDK available for developers that allows applications to be tested on a regular iMAC before they are used on the iPhone. You can see it here
We are looking forward to see what external developers produce espescially in the VoIP area and many observers are waiting to see what happens with Skype and what applications they will surely produce.
We are seeing these mentioned in the press a lot so decided to do some research so lets ask and answer a few questions about them:
What is a Femtocell?
A Femtocell was originally known as an Access Point Base Station and is a small cellular base station, typically designed for use in the home or small business environments (SOHO). It is designed to connect to the service provider’s network via broadband (usually DSL), the current designs under development will support 2 to 5 mobile phones in a residential setting.
A Femtocell allows service providers to extend service coverage indoors, especially where access could otherwise be limited or unavailable. The Femtocell incorporates the functionality of a typical base station but extends it to allow a simpler, self contained deployment.
What are the Advantages of a Femtocell?
Femtocells are an another way to deliver the benefits of Fixed Mobile Convergence. The main difference is that most FMC architectures require a dual-mode (GSM/3G and WiFi) handset, while a femtocell-based deployment will work with the users current mobile handsets. The cellular operator also benefits from the improved capacity and coverage but also can reduce both capital expenditure and operating expense. There could also be an opportunity for new services and reduced costs.
When can we Expect to See Them in Use?
A lot of the carriers here in the UK and around the world are testing units and/or running trials – there are a lot of technical challenges facing the service providers as they will have to operate their networks in a completely different way plus it is vital that the Femtocells are pllug and play so users can buy them and simply plug them in at home.
For more information visit the Femtocell Forum http://www.femtoforum.org/femto/index.php
We talk a lot about VoIP Security not because we want to sell you products but because it is an important and interesting subject. We see that a public hacking warning group has found a large security flaw in the web interface of Snom VoIP phones. The Snom phone is very popular with IP telephony business users and has a web interface to enable users to make calls and manage their phone.
gnucitizen.org highlights some of the easy to do breaches. These include makiing arbitary calls via the Web interface, stealing the phone history from the logs, poisoning the address book and the most serious flaw, monitoring the victim by making a phone call to the attacker’s number (at their expense).
The gnucitizen.org group are a responsible group and they are publishing methods of how to make your Snom phone more secure and contacting Snom and their distributors to explain the flaws.
While this article highlights Snom phones it is entirely possible that many other phones have similar problems so watch this space.
Read their post here
We see that BT have taken a decision to drop their Fusion FMC Solution, it was first launched in 2005 and was a really innovative offering for a Telco however BT has now dropped the Fusion FMC solution. The company had initially stated that it expected Fusion would generate around £1 billion from new mobile and convergence services within five years, instead only around 45,000 people have subscribed to date (not the millions expected) and the company has now stopped promoting the service.
The solution was designed so that users could make cheap or free calls using the Fusion handset at home over BT broadband, and switch to the Vodafone network or BT’s WiFi hotspots outside. However, the concept seems to have proven too challenging for potential users to grasp.
This is a real shame as this service really promoted the FMC concept but I guess domestic users really did not grasp the benefits offered.
We saw an interesting article over on the Inquirer stating that VoIP calls struggle to convey humour.
The problem is the range of frequencies used by regular land line telephones is far wider beacause VoIP calls use compression such as G729. The top and bottom end of the spectrums are cut off, and there is far less variation in tone available on Internet Telephony systems.
The variation in vocal tones gives human communication its many nuances. You can call someone a fool, but make it sound like you’re joking, by raising the pitch of your voice. When we joke, we go to a higher pitch and the human voice has a frequency spectrum from 20 hertz to 20 kilohertz, with Voice over IP compression a lot of that range is lost.
So if you try even the most harmless dig at your colleague on an IP telephony call, all human warmth is lost, and you end up delivering the gravest insult possible, in a flat sneery sarcastic tone. So there you have it – Internet telephony is bad for communications
View the article here
Many users who are looking at implementing on site wireless communications naturally look at VoIP over wireless, but it seems a lot of companies are concerned about the security and reliability implications on Wireless.
A survey from SAS Group of 100 IT and Telecoms Managers, revealed a lack of in house skills to support VoIP technology, this really is not surprising but 21 percent of firms mentioned reliability and 18 percent highlighted security concerns. The SAS Group believes that this lack of faith in wireless VoIP is to be expected, as the technology is outside the comfort zone of many IT departments, putting voice traffic over a wireless network requires specialist skill sets to implement and manage.
From our experience in the IP PBX market we see many users at a crossroads where they need on site wireless communication and they have to make a decision to either use the proven DECT technology or opt for Voice over WiFi. DECT is a technology designed in the early days of GSM and handles wireless voice very well with a wide range of handsets available, if a user wishes to implement WiFi then they have to set up an extension to their fixed data network and ensure that the network is optimised for voice as well as being secure – there is still a relatively small amount of handsets available (compared to DECT) but with manufacturers such as Nokia including WiFi SIP support in their new handsets then this will change.
So this blog entry does not actually answer the question posed but trys to give a balanced over view of the two technologies to help users choose.
We regularly talk about Security issues on VoIP systems and we have seen a report over on lightreading.com that is saying as SIP is such an open protocol it is also open to security problems. With a loosely defined standard like SIP, interoperability issues occur, So whatever security measures might apply to one SIP implementation won’t necessarily work for another.
There appears to be an almost willing ignorance of SIP’s vulnerability issues on the part of VOIP network operators and users, say security vendors. Users of SIP applications either don’t understand or don’t care that their voice communications are prone to the same types of malicious viruses that affect email systems or other IP-based networks.
We always need to be careful with these statements and think who is making them as security vendors would not say that VoIP vendors are protecting themselves as it means they do not sell much product – for sure the real picture lies somewhere in the middle.
The following is a very concise table detailing the types of attacks that we should be aware of – Click Image to Enlarge
View the full report here
We distribute a range of GSM Gateways (often called FCT – Fixed Cellular Terminals or Premicells – an old Nokia trade name) and we are often asked if they are legal to use or not.
The short answer is yes, OFCOM who are the industry regulator have confimed is is legal under UK law for organisations (whether businesses or consumers) to purchase, install and use GSM gateways for their own ‘private use‘. In simple terms this means that the gateway can only be used by the end user/organisation actually making the calls.
It is not legal if an organisation want to use the Gateway as a means to resell the minutes used across it so carriers are preventing from using this method.
We have found that some people try to suggest to customers that the use of a gateway is illegal and this is usually when someone does not want to lose the mobile minutes that are being used over regular landlines
We see that 3Com have recently announced they are going to resell a version of Asterisk from Digium. Designed for five to 30 phone users, it delivers plug-and-play operation right out of the box backed by 3Com’s warranty, service and support. The 3Com Asterisk Appliance works with 3Com’s full line of telephone handsets.
This is a really interesting step with a major manufacturer such as them putting their might behind an Open Source product plus this will compete head on with their existing product range. However this could be the first step toward standards-based VoIP, the question is whether any of the competition will follow.
Have a look at the 3Com Press Release here here
So here we go the dreaded Spammers are looking for other ways to hit us with their unwanted content.
It has been reported that Hackers have attacked Columbia University, ironically this is the university where the co-author of the VoIP protocol resides. The hackers left marketing SPIT (spam over internet telephony) on multiple phone extensions at the University.
According to the Guardian newspaper, there already are examples of voice phishing or vishing in the U.S. where the penetration of VoIP is getting up to 15 percent. “The real problem with VoIP is that it’s very easy to take a name as your identity which appears with a call, or to put up a number on a screen that isn’t actually the number that the call’s being made from,” David Endler, director of security research at TippingPoint told the Guardian.
“This lends itself perfectly to vishing, which we’ve already started to see, and I’m genuinely surprised we haven’t seen more. People generally trust the phone, so if they get a voicemail from their bank saying they need to call in, they will, and they’re used to telling an agent some security details or tapping in a pass code on the phone to prove who they are. As soon as they’ve done that they’ve given a hacker their identity,” said Endler.