Facebook makes VoIP heard through Skype

Facebook may collaborate with Skype to make the social network even more connectible.

Logging into your Facebook account may soon allow you to make PC-to-PC VOIP calls, video calls and send SMS messages to friends and contacts via Skype 5.0 which is due to be released in October launch.

Facebook users can sign into Skype through Facebook Connect, which allows users access to third-party websites with their Facebook accounts.
A spokesperson for Skype was guarded: "While I would love to give you more information, the only thing I could tell you right now is that Skype doesn't comment on speculation."

Facebook wants to become a layer which offers various ways of socialising. The Facebook Skype VOIP offering will supplement its existing chat features. It will also create a challenge for the Google call phones VoIP offering which is integrated into Gmail. Another rumour is that Facebook is creating a android operated smartphone as it seeks out new platforms.

Together they will form a formidable partnership - Facebook has grown to more than 500 million users, while Skype has 560 million users.

Pinger offers VoIP Calls

The free text messaging service offered by Pinger will now be supplemented with a soon-to-be-released VoIP calls app.

Customers will have access to a new app for the iPod Touch which will  give you a phone number for making 3G and WiFi network calls.

However the company has not said how many free minutes per month will be offered, only that a credit card can be used for top ups. There are also concerns that the call quality on 3G might not be as good as it could be.

Yet the app allows the iPod touch to become another VoIP calling outlet which is independent of mobile network providers.

It is thought that Pinger will offer low cost VoIP calling as another opportunity to boost its advertising space and revenue. Already 1.2 billion ads have been targeted on the 4 billion sent Pinger text messages.

Feds want access to VoIP Transcripts

The New York Times has reported that the FBI want a redesign of any Unified Communications applications in America such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), email and instant messaging so they can check all content.

They would do so with wire-tap legislation which is put together to prevent criminal activities. Over the last few years there has been an increase in VoIP used for criminal activities.

This federal legislation would require websites, phone carriers and other service providers such as Skype and RIM to be able to unscramble encrypted network communications if requested.

Currently the encryption on services like Skype is almost impossible for governments to crack due to their high customer security measures. Although the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act requires phone and broadband providers to offer the authorities eavesdropping technology, VoIP telephony offers strong end-to-end encryption.

Criminals including terrorist groups are taking advantage of this blanket to plan their operations and attacks in a way that the FBI has described as 'going dark'. An IP telephony phone system affords the criminals more secrecy than they could get from a traditional phone system.

Valerie E. Caproni, the general counsel for the FBI, told The New York Times: “We are talking about lawfully authorized intercepts as opposed to just expanding our authority. That would preserve our ability to execute existing authority to protect national security and the public."
He added: "Last year we spent $9.75m helping communication companies comply with surveillance requests."

The draft bill will be submitted to the Congress next year, and it would also require foreign VoIP providers doing business in America to install a domestic office capable of performing intercepts.

Yet the bill will meet with opposition from civil liberties campaigners who say that the provision of a backdoor access to VoIP transcripts could be abused by hackers and act as an invasion of privacy. A similar situation in Greece allowed VoIP Hackers to spy on the Prime Minister. It might also put US VoIP providers at a disadvantage over other countries which do not have the same regulations.

First VoIP Hacker indicted in US

A Voice over Internet Protocol hacker has been imprisoned for reselling VoIP minutes. The 27 year old from Venezuela has been given 10 years jail time for a complex bootlegging operation. In doing so he became the first man to be indicted by American authorities for VoIP hacking.

Edwin Pena and his accomplices managed to force their way through several VoIP networks of telecoms and IP telephony communications companies. In total they stole more than $1.4 million of VoIP minutes.
Pena compromised networks and used them to reroute VoIP calls which he then sold to businesses at heavily discounted prices. The way in which he did this meant no-one suspected he was not just a legitimate business.

The case highlights the security issues that surround VoIP - for all of its cost savings benefits it can be open to abuse if the network is not secure. Over the last few years police across the world and the FBI have drawn attention to a number of VoIP scams.

No VoIP Facetime in UAE

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) regulations in the United Arab Emirates may have prevented the iPhone Facetime feature from being released there.

The service allows for high quality video calling over a 4G network but VoIP, the cheap way of making calls over the internet must be employed.

The telecom operator for the iPhone in the United Arab Emirates, DU, informed its customers by Tweeting that FaceTime would not be offered when the iPhone 4 was sold there.

The statement in 140 characters said: “Our iPhone 4 customers will not be able to make Facetime calls, as this feature is currently unavailable in the UAE.”

Although they did not say this was because of VoIP regulations in is well known that the UAE has had a problem with VoIP.

 Like many other countries such as Lebanon and India the UAE goverment may be trying to protect the vested interests of telecomms companies within its borders by not allowing VoIP to hijack the market.
FaceTime is an open standards video calling software product which is also available for the iPod Touch.

Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook VoIP phone

Techcrunch managed to get a very interesting  interview with Mark Zuckerberg as as he sought to clear up any rumours around the issue of a Facebook phone.
Zuckerberg was keen to stress that the company had a much grander strategy than simply producing a VoIP smartphone.
The Facebook empressario said: "Our whole strategy is not to build any specific device or integration or anything like that. Because we’re not trying to compete with Apple or the Droid or any other hardware manufacturer for that matter.

"Our strategy is very horizontal. We’re trying to build a social layer for everything. Basically we’re trying to make it so that every app everywhere can be social whether it’s on the web, or mobile, or other devices."
Facebook sees its future role as a platform for making all applications more integrated. The company has looked at the way that games have developed into much more by becoming social - particularly the offerings of Playfish and Playdom among others.

This means that they will not venture into producing a phone operating system in the way that android or iPhone have but instead turn Facebook into a layer. That would see any future products designed with the idea that your friends will always be with you.
Facebook is the world's largest social media network with more than 5 million hundred million users.

China VoIP creates Science Park

A Chinese Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and Digital Telecom company will form a cloud computing science park.

The subsidiary of China VoIP and Digital Telecom, Jinan Yinquan Technology Co Ltd, has come to an agreement to invest 48 million Chinese Yuan into the facility.

Under the auspices of Shandong Yinquan Investment Holding the China Cloud Computing Science Park will be established in the Shandong province. The Chinese government is supporting the project with land tax incentives and the technology park will be spread over 50 acres. The local university is also involved and a professional education and training centre will be established.

China VoIP will now have to build 6,000 square meters of data centers.  These will specialise in VoIP tecnology and provide data backup and disaster recovery to government agencies, enterprises and institutions. The idea is to attract both domestic and foreign business by offering a cloud computing virtualization support platform.
Virtualization software technology allows the use of multiple operating systems and multiple applications simultanoeusly which in turn makes hardware work harder.

Nurses will make VoIP calls

A new WiFi VoIP Phone will be used by nurses to give patients in hospitals better care. 
The phone has been produced by Polycom, a provider of Unified Communications. Their Polycom SpectraLink 8400 handset will enable users to make cheap calls but also have access to the internet via Wi-Fi.

Therefore this nifty piece of VoIP Hardware delivers just the sort of flexibility which is needed in the medical profession when the time is at a premium.Within seconds a nurse could get patient details from another nurse which could prove critical in keeping him or her alive.

Polycom used the example of nurses being able to keep in contact with their fellow staff in hospital to save lives, but the VoIP phone could be used by anyone in any industry.

Being able to access information quickly on a WiFi connection can save vital time, whether this is crucial for patient care or in concluding an important deal.
Jim Kruger, the Polycom VP of product marketing, said: "Having access to people and data when and where you need it is important for any business, whether they be large retail stores or manufacturing facilities. "However having access to this technology in hospitals could save lives and we are very proud to be able to help."

Polycom has also recently concluded a deal with Microsoft to provide unified communications to customers on interoperable systems, including the new Lync 2010 communications server product.

Google VoIP could be Regulated

Interestingly the fact that Google now operates a VoIP calling service could open them up to the same set of FCC regulations which are applied to phone carriers.

Other companies are saying that Google should have to follow the same rules as they do because they offer the same service.

Google provides an end-point for VoIP calls via a free software-based platform. However phone system companies cannot manage the Google service, so how would FCC regulations make any difference?

If the FCC does decide to classify Google as a carrier then there is a chance that the search engine giant may get rid of the Google VoIP service rather than go through all of that rigmarole. Watch this space.

Cheap VoIP Calls through Fring

Fring is fighting the market leader Skype and the new Google Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service by offering extremely cheap prices on worldwide calls.

The competition can only be good news in a market that is dominated by the few big players. Previously Skype has prevented Fring users from accessing its service.

The Fring service will be available on smart phones like the iPhone and the Android via the Nokia network and will mainly be used by individuals who want to make international calls.

Using Fring's mobile VoIP service users can make phone calls to land lines and mobile phones anywhere in the world with prices starting at just one cent per minute in the United States.

However if Fring customers want to call India it will cost them 1.1 cents per minute while calls to Canada start at 0.4 cents per minute.

If Fring userswant to connect with outside phone lines then they can make use of  the FringOut service which is similar to SkypeOut.

VoIP comes to College Campus

An American college has overhauled its traditional PBX to replace it with a new VoIP phone system.

The Western State College is based in the Colorado Rocky Mountains and their college administration team decided to embrace new technology in order to save costs.

Chad Robinson, the director of computer services for Western State College, told TMCnet: "We have put IP phones on the Phybridge UniPhyer network switch and it works fantastically well. Using this method of VoIP has allowed us to save money and improve inter-college communications. "

To do this they had IP telephony solutions installed throughout all offices and dormitories in what amounted to a total communications upgrade .
Although it would have cost them $20,000 to lay the necessary cabling and make the dormitories accessible to VoIP via cabling, they found another solution.

College officials made the decision to Install a Phybridge UniPhyer. This device boosted the signal of the voice and data network and allowed students in their dormitories to access the new communication system without the use of cumbersome cables.

Saving $20,000 meant that Western State College could put the money to better use and they bought new computers and printers as well as new VoIP phones.

Australian Troops use VoIP

Australian troops will now be able to make use of VoIP in the field.

The move is supposed to be a boost to their spirits, according to industry publication Computerworld which got a look at some of the defense documents.

However there will only be 370 computers for all of the 3,700 Australian armed forces based in 13 different countries.

That means that one computer will have to be shared between 10 soldiers.

As well as being stationed domestically, Australian troops serve in places such as the Solomon Islands, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The access to cheap calls via Voice over Internet Protocol, as well as IM and email, will be made via Wi-Fi over a PC, an easy an affordable way to contact family and friends.

The PCs will have a minimum bandwidth of 56kbps per user. This large capacity will enable the troops to use a variety of features including software, PDF files, music on Apple iTunes and videos.

Of course the use of VoIP telephony by the army has some security concerns but there is special malware and anti-virus software to deal with any online threats.

So it looks like VoIP is set to improve the lives of Australian soldiers by allowing them to keep in contact with life back home.

3CX Launches Free VoIP Phone for Android

3CX, which makes the VoIP PBX 3CX Phone System and the Windows 3CX softphone, today added a free VoIP phone for the Android OS to its growing list of products.

The phone can be downloaded for free by both consummers and enterprises.

Therefore Android smartphone users on a variety of phones (including the Google Nexus, the HTC Desire and the Sony Ericsson Xperia) can make free phone calls via 3G and wireless.

The 3CX free VoIP phone for Android mobile works with standards based SIP servers including 3CX and other Phone Systems.
It is not locked down to a particular PBX or provider.

This gives users the flexibility to pick and choose their favorite VoIP PBX. They can also switch at any time or use different VoIP providers simultaneously.

The CEO of 3CX, Nick Galea, said: “Smartphones will soon be the defacto mobile communication option. With a docking station they can even act as a desk phone in time.
"A VoIP PBX must embrace this technology and deliver seamless integration to provide true mobility to its users.”
“Smartphone support is a key component of our strategy and the 3CXPhone for Android delivers this vision”.

He added: “We chose Android as our first platform because it is gaining market share and evolving at a rapid pace. Right now in the smartphone market Android has an advantage as it is standards-based, open and vendor independent. Furthermore Android mobiles are available at competitive prices.”

3CXPhone for Android is based on SiPagent. 3CX acquired this popular SIP phone for Android in June 2010. SiPagent users can upgrade free of charge to the 3CXPhone.

How VoIP Works

With all the talk of VoIP takeovers and business manoeuvres this week (I am specifically thinking of Cisco's rumoured move to acquire Skype), it is easy to lose sight of the actual marvel that we have this technology.

Now I am not normally a person who looks at something and thinks 'how does that work', but I have found myself wondering about the mechanics of VoIP this week.

So when you speak into your computer microphone next time, have a think about this.

Each individual sound in your voice is broken down and recorded as a unit of data which is then assigned a numerical value. This is done with an Analogue-to-Digital Converter (ADC).

Right now your voice has been digitalised. The next step is to compress the sound down into an audio file using a codec. The data is reduced, but quality is not compromised.

This data stream is broken into smaller packets, but each are assigned a sort of address that allows them to be reconstructed in the right sequence. In this respect it is a bit similar to the technology used to send an email.

However the transport layer used by VoIP is called User Datagram Protocol (UDP) with an application layer known as Real-time Transmission Protocol (RTP). This is an optimum method of delivering audio and video over the Internet.

As well as recognizing packets of information, the RTP sometimes drops them if they have not arrived quickly enough to be sequenced. If it didn't there would be long delays in speech. That is why it is essential to have a fast internet connection. If you do not you will hear cut offs in the conversation.

Once the voice data has arrived, it is reorganized and converted from digital to analogue so that your call is comprehensible.

Pretty amazing huh?

Google VoIP comes to the Middle East

Google VoIP is coming to the Middle East. The call phones feature for Gmail which was released last week will soon make its way to countries such as Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait. However it will not be available in the United Arab Emirates due to governmental restrictions.

Call phones uses Voice over Internet Protocol so that Gmail customers can make cheap or free calls to their contacts. The service was released in America last week, but there is no fixed timeline for release in the Middle East.

The news appeared on the Emirates 24/7 website which published a Google statement.

The Internet search engine giant said: “Google VoIP is currently being rolled out in the United States but this is only our first step. Google will be rolling out additional localised versions but we have nothing specific to announce at the moment.”

Currently Gmail users in America can make a phone call directly from their Gmail to the Saudi Arabia  for a low rate of just 11 cents per minute.

For Oman it costs 15 cents, 19 cents for the United Arab Emirates, 17 cents for Bahrain. Qatar is the most pensive calling destination at 26 cents while Kuwait is the cheapest at 9 cents a minute.

VoIP Rackets Targeted in Nepal

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) fraud will be targeted by the Central Investigation Bureau of Nepal Police.

Police in Kathmandu said that criminals are using the anonymity provided by VoIP to make money at the expense of the country. They have busted four such rackets in the last month.

Deputy Inspector General Bigyan Raj Sharma of the Nepali Police said: “Our investigations found that illegal VoIP rackets can result in criminal activities and revenue deficit.”
“We have decided that now is the time to crack down and bring the guilty to justice. As per the Telecommunications Act of 1997, we will take action against Internet Service Providers and all those operating, or helping to operate, VoIP for criminal usage.”

The hard-line taken by Nepali Police  means that even people who are providing a residence for criminal VoIP usage will be prosecuted. The Telecommunications Act states that a person intentionally causing adverse effect, damage or any other loss to the telecommunication structure will be fined an amount equal to the loss or damage, sentenced to five years imprisonment or both.

Anyone with information to give can contact the toll free number 141-516-1113.

The Future of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

With Skype selling out and Gmail making a foray into the world of free Internet calling, now is a good time to ask what the future of Voice over Internet Protocol holds.
A Network World article I read made a very good point:

“When will we ask at what point are public switched telephone network (PSTN) going to be phased out so that everything can be changed over to SIP addresses?

My response would be at about the same time we get rid of the Post Office and switch everything over to e-mail addresses. In other words, never.

There will always be a PSTN. My mom will always have a phone in her house and yes, one of those phones is still a rotary dial. But as she does now, everyone in the near future will have a SIP address for placing and receiving VoIP phone calls. That is the future of VoIP."

There are certainly markets fears that the entry of Skype into the corporate world could be bad news for phone system providers. Yet that is only in free market economies like the United States.

In places such as Lebanon and India, governments are resistant to VoIP because of the pressure put on them by local telecommunications companies. For example in India all of VoIP services must provide written transcriptions of the information that goes through them, ostensibly for security purposes. It is unlikely that this will happen and it is interesting to see how Google will respond concerning their new Gmail Voice product.

It is no wonder that governments are shifty. Telsyte research director Foad Fadaghi said that Skype Connect for enterprise will hurt phone system providers.

"Skype is essentially providing a way for your PBX system to be connected to Skype, rather than a traditional phone system. Therefore phone system and network providers are right to feel threatened.”

He added: “Yet businesses will certainly be attracted to the significant cost savings, particularly those that need to make international calls.”

This could be part of the reasoning why rumours suggest that Cisco will try to buy Skype before the company completes an IPO.

Skype Connect charges costs $7.78 per month per line. It offers outbound calls from desktop phones to mobiles and landlines at normal Skype rates, while you can receive inbound calls through a "click and call" button on a business website.

Skype incorporates traditional PBX features such as automatic call distribution, call routing, conferencing, voicemail, auto-attendant, call recording and more. There are also plans for a videoconferencing feature.

It could be that we are looking at the future of VoIP.