VoIP Fraud is now Microsoft's Problem

An interesting article here describes the problems that large companies face as they try to diversify – specifically the move of Microsoft from software towards IP telephony.

While both areas are highly regulated, moving into the world of Voice over Internet Protocol through their highly publicized purchase of Skype certainly presents new challenges.

Hence the slew of articles about Microsoft enabling the ability to eavesdrop on VoIP conversations. While this was initially interpreted by some as a sort of Orwellian invasion of privacy, in fact this is a legal requirement.

Law enforcement needs to be able to have access to VoIP call transcripts for the purposes of terrorism prevention. VoIP solutions have many good aspects but they can also be used for nefarious purposes as it is much harder to track the original of a VoIP call. This is in danger of making the infamous wiretapping way of police work (as depicted in the excellent drama series The Wire) obsolete.

IP telephony calls are so hard to trace that India, which has seen a boom in VoIP used by criminals and terrorists, made efforts to ban some smartphones last year.

While Microsoft is now facing the same challenges, it will have to come up with a very innovative solution to the problem.

3CX and Grandstream Announce Strategic Partnership

Tighter Integration Between Products to Deliver Best in Class SME Phone System

3CX, the international developer of the award-winning 3CX Phone System for Windows and Grandstream, a leading designer and manufacturer of next generation IP Voice and Video products for broadband networks, recently announced a strategic partnership. Under the terms of the agreement, 3CX will become one of the preferred PBX partners of Grandstream, and 3CX will fully certify and integrate Grandstream’s broad portfolio of IP phones, gateways and multimedia phones, allowing for customers to easily provision and manage Grandstream phones from the 3CX Management console. With the integration, initial configuration and setup of a complete phone system will be much easier and ongoing management will be reduced. 3CX and Grandstream will also commit to advanced feature development and providing end-to-end support to customers, giving companies peace of mind that the complete solution is supported by both companies.

“We are pleased to establish a partnership with 3CX to promote the combination of the market leading software-based 3CX Phone System and the award-winning Grandstream IP phones and multimedia phones. This best-in-class product combination creates an excellent value and innovative solution for the SME market,” said David Li, CEO of Grandstream Networks.

“The combined 3CX & Grandstream solution is very easy to install and manage for customers, and is a great replacement for outdated proprietary phone systems. Because both products are standards-based, customers do not get tied in with one particular vendor and companies can buy best of breed, with full confidence in the complete solution,” said Nick Galea, CEO at 3CX.

The partnership has already resulted in benefits for customers and resellers: 3CX has shipped enhanced Grandstream phone support in Service Pack 4 of 3CX Phone System 9. It is now possible to provision and manage Grandstream phones from the 3CX management console, including the ability to upgrade the firmware network wide via the 3CX management console.

Grandstream has also launched a special reseller program which allows resellers and distributors to get rebates for selling Grandstream phones with 3CX solutions. 3CX was hereby one of the first suppliers to sign on with Grandstream’s reseller program as a result of the completion of extensive testing and 3CX getting full certification to Grandstream’s entire endpoints product line.

About 3CX

3CX is the developer of 3CX Phone System – an open standard unified communications platform for Windows that works with standard SIP phones and replaces a proprietary PBX. 3CX is more manageable and can deliver substantial cost savings besides increasing productivity. 3CX Phone System has earned numerous awards; Windows Server Certification, Windowsnetworking.com Gold Award, Windows IT Pro magazine 2008 and a Best Buy Award by Computer Shopper Magazine. For more information visit: http://www.3cx.com.

About Grandstream

Grandstream Networks is an award-winning designer and manufacturer of next generation IP voice & video products for broadband networks. Grandstream’s products deliver superb sound and picture quality, rich telephony features, full compliance with industry standards, and broad interoperability with most service providers and 3rd party SIP based VoIP products. Grandstream is consistently recognized in the VoIP industry for their innovation, affordability and superior value in their products. Grandstream Networks is a private company headquartered in Brookline, MA with offices in Los Angeles, Dallas and China. For more information, please visit www.grandstream.com.

Why VoIP is Changing the Way We Work

Voice over Internet Protocol is changing the way we work, and I am living proof of that.

An interesting article in the BBC finance section a while ago highlighted how more and more businesses are running virtual offices with employees all around the world collaborating through unified communications.

So even though I am freelance I can talk to clients in the Caribbean via Skype, and work on a project with them at the same time via Google Docs.

Although there will always be important aspects to face to face contact, in truth this new way of working can benefit everyone. There is no need to waste huge amounts of time and money hopping on trains or planes all the time, to say nothing of the negative effect that all those carbon emissions have on the planet.

Businesses benefit hugely because they get rid of the massive amount of costs and responsibilities that come about with employing someone full time, especially all those extra taxes and employer contributions.

Studies have also shown that remote workers are in fact more productive. They get to manage their own time and in doing so are more efficient with it on the whole. Many feel that they have something extra to prove by not being in an office and so work doubly hard.

VoIP and unified communications are definitely changing the way we work and it is time for everyone to embrace it or face being left behind.

Mobile VoIP - Skype coming to iPad

Skype is now being worked on as an application for the iPad2 and iPad. The news will make remote communication even easier and is a huge boost for the world of mobile VoIP.

Skype is already available on most smartphones so that if you have used up your contract minutes allowance, but still have some internet credit you can make free calls. It is, of course, especially useful for calling people who live abroad at an affordable rate.

The news was confirmed by Skype Vice President Rick Osterloh. The new app will have everything you normally expect from Skype, including video chat, except for the file sharing feature – because of a conflict with the Apple system.

So it seems that Microsoft is not going to hog Skype for itself. It is also a nice move from Apple because in theory Skype is a direct competitor to their new Facetime video chat product.

Meanwhile Microsoft has a new patent which allows for the eavesdropping on Skype calls. It’s all very confusing so I will leave it to Kurt Bakke to explain it.
The Skype app should be out by the end of June.

Lightyear Network Solutions Offers VoIP in the Cloud

Hosted VoIP and cloud computing are the two standards which business service provider Lightyear Network Solutions has chosen to take it into the future.

The company is on the verge of rolling out VoIP in the cloud to small and medium sized businesses.

That will allow their customers to keep and integrate their existing traditional PBX (if preferred) with VoIP solutions for business.
Despite losing company founder Sherman Henderson recently the company is determined to plough on by increasing its portfolio and expanding its network services.

The new CEO Stephen M. Lochmueller told Fiercevoip: "We are pleased to announce the launch of our new product, which further enhances our extensive portfolio. Hosted VoIP is part of our strategic plan to make the cloud valuable and affordable for SMBs.”

Lightyear Network Solutions already has a strong customer base in the USA.
Hosted VoIP allows them to increasingly offer flexible and scalable solutions which can save companies costs and deliver fixed mobile convergence.

O2 Secure Wireless enters the Mobile VoIP Market

O2 Secure Wireless is entering the mobile VoIP Market with an unlimited VoIP service to provide talk, text and data at low prices.

Now that the VoIP market is worth an estimated $50 billion per year (and rapidly expanding), O2 Secure Wireless has sensed an opportunity in the market and created the O2USA brand.

The website and product is still in its rudimentary stages but you can visit it for an idea of the plans that they offer. However having tried to look for shops in locations (I entered 90210 as it was the only American postcode I could think of having grown up on the TV series) the search facility returned no results.

Once the glitches are ironed out, O2USA will work on both the Sprint and Verizon networks, two of the most popular mobile VoIP networks in America. O2 already has a strong infrastructure in the USA and other regions nearby such as the Caribbean.

Val Kazia, the Chief Executive Officer of O2 Secure Wireless, said: "O2 Secure Wireless is clearly in a highly desirable position to enter this sector. The potential to make the O2 trademark a nationally recognized name is unlimited.”

Nevertheless O2 had to put a warning about future looking statements under the Safe Harbour Act, presumably because the necessary regulation for this product is still being undertaken.

Google Paints VoIP IP Telephony Chrome

The news that Google is working to install VoIP IP Telephony into its Chrome browser has passed relatively unnoticed this week but it could be one of the most seismic shifts to hit the way we work and communicate.

Currently using VoIP services requires pulling up a piece of hardware or software, or just clicking on your preinstalled Skype button.
Imagine the amount of time that could be saved by just accessing VoIP numbers directly through your browser?

Not only does that benefit users, but it fits into Google’s idea of personalized search. Having access to your call information as well as your search information will give Google even more targeted information about you.

There are two ways to look at that. Firstly it will either be useful as searching for exactly what you want will become quicker and more efficient. On the other hand it is quite scary to think about quite how much information Google now has about us, everything from when we were born to where we like to shop.

Yet the search giant will not mull over these important concerns and instead is plowing ahead with its open source VoIP IP Telephony project which will incorporate audio and video. Known as WebRTC, Chrome VoIP will now give access to real-time chat on our browser thanks to the collaboration of Google and their VoIP acquisition GIPS.

Speaking to TMCnet, Google programmer Henrik Andreasson said: "Our goal is to enable Chrome with Real-Time Communications capabilities via simple Javascript application programming interfaces.”

There is no word as yet as to when the project will be completed for roll out.

VoIP Charges are a case of ‘tail wagging dog’

The Federal Communications Committee (FCC) in America is letting the tail wag the dog, according to search giant Google.

Proposed plans to charge Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) on a per minute basis in the same way as regular telephony could be a huge blow to the industry says Google.

The have accused the USA telecoms regulator of trying to stifle what is a rapidly expanding industry with possible call termination charges.

Currently one of the factors which makes VoIP so appealing is that information can be routed over the internet free of charge (once the internet subscription has been set up).

Up until now an ESP exemption has meant that VoIP traffic is free of charge. While telecommunications companies have railed against this disadvantage, VoIP providers have claimed that information, and this is basically what is being sent over the VoIP lines, should be free on the internet.

The Google lawyer Donna N. Lampert wrote to the FCC to persuade them to see the bigger picture – VoIP traffic is a very small part of the overall IP traffic which Google deals with.

Yet VoIP services like Skype have long been trying to monetise what is essentially a free service. Although Skype has millions of users only a small fraction of them are paying subscribers.

The Google figures show that VoIP calls now account for 21,000 terabytes a month compared to the 36,000 terabytes used for conventional calls.

Regular telephone traffic is certainly declining and it is clear that there will have to be a shift in the way it is administered as a result.

BNS Appointed as 3CX UK Distributor

3CX, the award winning maker of the 3CX phone system for Windows, has now partnered with a UK business phone system distributor.

BNS has a track record of success in the industry as it is the main distributor for Grandstream IP telephony products in the United Kingdom.

Together with 3CX they will offer affordable VoIP solutions to the small and medium sized business market in the UK.

Now BNS will offer the complete range of 3CX and Grandstream products. 3CX recently selected Grandstream as the preferred business phone system for 3CX phone version 10 after successful interoperability testing.

By offering 3CX products, BNS can now offer a business phone system with high call quality and a local Total Cost of Ownership. Many of them rely on a SIP Trunking solution to deliver optimum quality. BNS will also offer full support and training on usage of the 3CX products that they are selling.

Lee Sinclair, the Sales Director of BNS Distribution Ltd, UK, said: “We are delighted to have been selected as a 3CX distributor in the UK.

"Due to the recent strategic partnership between 3CX and Grandstream we are now able to provide a feature rich SIP solution to our reseller channel. With PnP provisioning, resellers are able to take advantage of seamless integration with 3CX and Grandstream.

"Regardless of your business telephony requirements, BNS, together with a 3CX and Grandstream bundle, will ensure the highest quality.”

OneStream Networks Releases SIP Trunking

OneStream Networks has now released a SIP Trunking Service which is compatible with Avaya VoIP solutions.

Onestream provides IP telephony to Value Added Resellers (VARs) and small and medium sized emterprises.

OneStream Networks is a gold member of the Avaya DevConnect program which develops, markets and sells third-party products which are Avaya interoperable.

The president of OneStream Networks Trey Smith said: “The partnership between OneStream Networks and Avaya can help enterprise customers unlock the full potential of their Avaya unified communications and network investment.”

“Our joint commitment to flexible, standards-based platforms enables the reliable integration of unified communications, call processing, instant messaging, presence detection and mobility in one platform. These elements combine to enhance the enterprise communications experience, regardless of location or device."

OneStream will now be able to offer such features as number portability through the Avaya Aura Session Manager core.

Skype Account Hacked

Right, I know a lot of people hate Microsoft but this is getting ridiculous.

Today my Skype account was hacked and the malicious party rinsed that and my paypal account of nearly 100 Euros.

Every time I log into Skype it shows that someone is making calls to weird looking numbers that start +20169 and +996504 (anyone with info on these numnbers please do tell). So far about 30 calls ahve been made to these numbers even though I have changed my password.

Paypal stopped the unauthorised Skype payment agreement that had been set up. I have since had emails from Skype saying that they are looking into it and have charged back the payments. Yet my account is still appearing empty.

Then I received the following email which looks suspicious:

Hello Robert,

Thank you for contacting Skype Customer Service.
We understand your concerns regarding the charges on your account. We are happy to help you with that.

Upon checking ou records, we can seen that your order on Jun 16, 2011 with Order Number: , is €25,000 Skype credit. Also, the status of this order is charged_back not delivered.

You can review all your orders and their status in the My Account section of our store:
Also, according to the information provided to us by the payment provider, one of the orders has been charged back, credits reversed and your account blocked in order to verify the payment.

We automatically block users with a charge back status to protect the assets of our customers. A charge back may indicate unauthorized use of a Skype account. In most cases, this is a result of an error in the payment process and the issue should be resolved with the payment provider.

If the chargedback order was placed via Click and Buy or Paypal
Please contact their customer support to review the payment and account detail on their side. In most cases the error in payment process (for example, insufficient funds on your Paypal account) can be corrected and the chargeback status reversed.

When the issues are resolved on the side of the payment provider, your Skype account will become active again without needing any further action on our behalf.

If the credits were ordered with a credit card
Please contact the financial institution to learn why a payment dispute was initiated.

We also need to verify the credit card details before we can re-activate the Skype account. We request the following information from you:
the first six and the last four digits of the credit card used to make your Skype purchase (NOTE: Please do NOT send your full credit card number)
the name of the cardholder written on the card
the issuing country of the card
If you believe that your Skype account has been accessed by a third party and the payments have been placed without your authorization
Please reply to this email and we will start an investigation into this matter.
Should you need more assistance, feel free to contact us again.
Best regards,

Pauline Ann R.
Skype Customer Service

I have blanked out the order number for safety. So this email is asking for credit card details and mentions a chargeback of 25,000 Euros. Very dodgy! Of course phoning Skype and speaking to a real person is nigh on impossible. Please comment if anyone has had a similar experience. Skype is now officially dead to me!

Polycom Keeps VoIP Solutions Waiting

While Polycom has updated its UC Intelligent Core platform to include high definition video and telepresence, the VoIP options on the new product will not be released until the end of the fourth quarter.

The platform has massive capacity with the ability to support 25,000 calls at one time and as many as 75,000 end point devices.

To see the immersive telepresence equipment you can go to Orlando, Florida, for the Infocomm 2011 conference. There the product, which Polycom claims is five times more powerful that its nearest competitor, will be demonstrated.

Although excited customer will have to wait to the end of 2011 for the VoIP installations, the price is already known and they are expected to cost $879.

Another exciting development is Polycom’s cloud-based video content management solutions - the Accordent Capture Station (ACS) v 5.1 and the Accordent Media Management System (AMMS) v 4.5 which make video solutions easy.

It is even possible to integrate HTML5 on the Accordent Capture Station to get rich media on the latest smartphones which can include affordable VoIP calling.

This is all part of the Polycom UC Everywhere campaign to bring the benefits of unified communications to SMBs and SMEs.

John Antanaitis, the VP of product marketing at Polycom, said: "The crux of it is using visual collaboration to allow organizations to make faster decisions and be more productive.”

Knowing your VoIP Solutions

It is often taken for granted that installing VoIP solutions will save customers time and money, but in actual fact getting Return on Investment depends on a number of factors.

Firstly if you are planning to install a business VoIP phone, think about how it will integrate into your existing Public Switched Telephone Network.

Sure using VoIP to VoIP calling is a low cost option but in cases where you may have to call a regular landline it might not work out cheaper. Therefore you should work out what you want your Phone Branch Exchange to do before ripping out all the existing cabling.

However daunting the installation and management of your phone system can seem it is actually possible to use bundled VoIP to customise your experience. Many VoIP companies offer 24 hour support and there is no need to waste hours on training for what is an easy to use interface.

The real key with VoIP is having a fast and reliable internet connection. With really fast broadband VoIP can actually deliver BETTER call quality than traditional analogue phones, but conversely a poor connection can create all sorts of problems.

Importantly whether you actually save money on VoIP depends on how expensive your broadband is. Normally it should save you money because you are getting two services (calling and surfing) for the price of one but it all depends on the package so shop around.

iCloud Communications Sues Apple

The VoIP provider iCloud Communications is suing the technology giant Apple for trademark infringement.

iCloud Communications claims that Apple is taking its name for its cloud computing service that allows you to store your content online and then wirelessly transmit it to devices.

iCloud Communications is also contending that there is a broader theft of intellectual property as iCloud Communications streams content through the internet to allow Voice over Internet Protocol. Apple iCloud also works by streaming internet data through cloud computing.

At least in respect of the first claim it seems that iCloud Communications has a claim. Their VoIP Solution existed long before the Apple product (which was announced at the Worldwide Developers Conference) and iCloud Communications has said that the release of Apple iCloud has affected their business negatively.

The second claim will be a difficult one to prove in court. Essentially they are very different products with one being used to stream and store music and the other used to make low cost Voice over Internet Phone calls.

Amsterdam Internet Exchange Prepares for 4G VoIP

The Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX) is boosting bandwidth to drive Voice over Internet Protocol by providing Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

AMS-IX is a public peering company and sees the SLAs as the roadmap to guaranteed better service during the transition to VoIP on 4G networks.

While Mobile network operators have IP connections with each other, 4G networks will use IP packets for everything, which will produce a huge amount of data which needs to be dealt with.

Therefore AMS-IX has brought out the Inter-IPX IP Packet Exchange which allows mobile network operators to conform to GSMA standards. Data transmission of the customer packets will start next month.

It is somewhat unchartered territory and many companies which have their own peering agreements will look to see how the AMS-IX experiment goes.

What is certain is that they will have to deal with a huge volume of traffic once the world switches to 4G.

Skype VoIP Service Goes Down Again

VoIP service Skype is once again experiencing problems after users saw the software crash on their computers on Tuesday, June 7.

Skype, which is now owned by technology giant Microsoft, was quick to downplay the problem, saying that it was a configuration issue. They have now released an automatic update to fix the glitch.

It is only ten days since Skype last went down. That time the VoIP service issued advice on how to fix the problem by deleting a "shared.xml" file which had been corrupted. Automated Mac and Windows updates soon followed.

However quick the problems are getting fixed this will hardly inspire confidence in Skype. While problems in a free VoIP service may be tolerated, Skype clearly has some way to go before offering the reliability required by enterprise VoIP.

Furthermore Skype has just been threatened by a Russian computer programmer who unravelled its coding secrets to create an open source version of Skype which he is offering for free.

Right now Microsoft must be wondering where it will be getting Return On Investment from.

Russian Genius Creates Open Source Skype

A Russian computer programmer has just reverse-engineered Skype’s proprietary VoIP protocols.

Claiming that good products cannot remain hidden forever, Efim Bushmanov has taken the time to unravel the code with makes multi-billion dollar Skype service tick.

The computer genius denies any malicious intent and instead invites Microsoft, which recently bought Skype for $8.5 billion, to work with him rather than against him.

Rather than being party to copyright violations he says that he sees an open source future for VoIP. That involved making Skype compatible for Linux users who have been waiting patiently for Skype to do that for some time now.

Mr Bushmanov told Eweek Europe “Skype presents a lot of security challenges I was simply curious to see what was inside.”

The Russian, who lives in a remote part of the country north of Moscow, has become a hot topic on the worldwide web after releasing the Skype protocols on his blog.

Nevertheless he praises Skype as a good product which has more polish than open source software.

Hosted VoIP Users made Nervous by Skype Failure

Enterprise managers who want to use Voice over Internet Protocol as a hosted solution may look nervously at the recent problems faced by Skype, according to Information Week.

Despite being bought out by technology giant Microsoft in a vast $8.5 billion deal, a recent outage meant many Skype users were unable to log into their accounts or make phone calls.

Although the rapidly resolved problem was put down to a software glitch, it will make enterprises think twice about using the commercial version of Skype for VoIP calls and video conferencing.

Whatever the size of business, companies can ill afford communications breakdowns such as this one and dropped calls and poor service can lead to a decrease in revenue, or even worse an altoghether failure to land a big contract.

Customers need confidence in the enterprise and that can only be gained through a secure and reliable unified communications infrastructure.

Darrel Bowman, the CEO of mynetworkcompany.com, said: "As we become more reliant on overall basic business functions, cloud-based applications, and storage, IT service providers need to vet cloud partners more thoroughly. This is done to ensure that they actually have the necessary redundancy for a cloud offering to be successful in the long-term."

It is therefore unlikely that Microsoft will let Skype fail and it has big plans for the service, giving it its own division within Microsoft and hoping to use it with devices such as the Windows Phone 7.

While Skype outages may be accepted on a free service that it used by consumers, they certainly will not be tolerated in a business capacity.

Pervasip VoIP Solutions Receive Boost

Pervasip, a provider of flexible back-office capabilities, high quality VoIP services and automated provisioning systems, has arranged a deal to clear its debt.

Despite having an estimated 300 million mobile VoIP users over the next three years, Pervasip needs help to foreclose on its assets.

The Pervasip CEO Paul Riss said: “We are pleased to have a friendly investor who wants to work with us to build value for our shareholders.”

The wholesale VoIP provider for SMBs is working with strategic investor NetCapital.com which has agreed to purchase all outstanding debt.

NetCapital said in a statement that it had been following Pervasip for years and waiting for the right time to invest.

Chairman John Fanning said: “Pervasip technology is a true example of how game-changing vision can be forged into a paradigm-breaking commercial product.”

Netcapital aims to help Pervasip grow through the introduction of additional technologies. These include wireless networks to fully take advantage of the boom in mobile VoIP.

Pervasip has also experienced high demand for video VoIP lines and offers Lomb and Bausch video phones.

Is VoIP Worth Paying For?

Voice over Internet Protocol has many attractions to small businesses and consumers but chief among these is the option to make cheap or free internet calls.

The big test of VoIP will be whether people are actually willing to pay for the service. One of the reasons why Skype is so popular is because it allows to you make free worldwide calls from PC to PC between Skype users. Now that Microsoft has bought Skype there is every chance that they will try to monetise the service.

But it is not only the big corporations that are looking to get their money's worth. The Federal communications Commission of America is eyeing the chance to levy a connection fee on VoIP.

So far VoIP has been free of the traditional charges that are levied on companies like Verizon, which allows VoIP companies such as Vonage to undercut their rates.

Verizon is obviously not happy with this state of affairs as reflected by its filing to the FCC: “The top priority remains the urgent need to decide the proper compensation rate for VoIP traffic. The commission should immediately set a single, low national default rate of $0.0007 per minute for this traffic.”

They have seen the decreasing use of Public Switched Telephone Networks, and with it a huge decrease in revenue.

As the FCC looks at moving toward a broadband-based network it has to focus on the return on investment.

Dale Hatfield, a former chief of the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology, told Politico: “You’ve got an antiquated telephone network out there. It should be gotten rid of, but there’s an awful lot of money being made on that network.”

On the other hand VoIP suppliers say that they provide information rather than communications and should not be subject to the same charges and rates as traditional communications companies.

4G Roll Out Boosts Mobile VoIP

A 4G network which will make VoIP calling faster and easier is due to roll out in the UK in 2012.

Already industry regulator Ofcom has been auctioning off network space to Mobile VoIP companies.

Right now many companies use the 3G network to give internet access to their range of popular smartphones such as the Android and iPhone OS.

4G is expected to cover 95% of the UK’s mobile VoIP service and provide fast speeds, efficient service and low cost calls. It will offer a secure IP telephony solution for all mobile devices including smartphones and laptops.

The news is not so good for fixed line telecommunications companies which are fighting against the tide – last year saw one million less fixed line users. The way this trend is going the landline could be completely obsolete in two decades.

Although 4G phones will be expensive to start with they will gradually become more affordable. And even though fixed line calls may remain cheaper the convenience of mobiles makes then a preferable option for many consumers.

Expect a worldwide movement to 4G next year as even countries as far afield as Sri Lanka have discussed the possibility of a total roll out. Wherever in the world they are based the opportunities for mobile VoIP providers are endless.