Olongapo Telecom & Information Technology

Monday, February 20, 2006

Calls made through cellular, wi-fi convergence

By Leo Magno, INQ7.net

BARCELONA, Spain--The emergence of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) as an alternative to traditional phone networks has long been discussed, but at the 3GSM World Congress held here, a compromise has been struck between the cellular network and wireless fidelity (wi-fi).

Word has been spreading that wireless voice calls may, in the future, be routed through Internet traffic instead of the cellular network. Through wireless local area networks (WLANS) or wi-fi, people are able to make calls via their computers. But since you cannot carry your PC around the mall or place your notebook next to your ear, wouldn’t it be good make VoIP calls using a mobile phone?

A mobile way of making calls using a converged cellular and IP network was shown at the 3GSM World Congress. A live demonstration was made by Nokia using unlicensed mobile access (UMA), where a call from a GSM network switched over to a wi-fi connection seamlessly. The hybrid GSM-WLAN phone used was the Nokia 6136.

Imagine you’re at a mall or at home with a wi-fi connection. You can use the hybrid phone to make calls using VoIP. Then, when you move away from the wi-fi range, the call would be handed over, without dropping, to the GSM network used by your cell phone.

The call cost would drop dramatically since you do not pay extra minutes while in range of the wi-fi access (which, we are assuming, is already paid for). You would only pay for the minutes used when you move out of range of the wi-fi hotspot. This increases mobile service availability, decreases subscriber call cost and, for the operator, decreases the costs related to network deployment.

Hybrid or converged devices like the Nokia 6136 shows a complementary way of using VoIP and cellular, whereas before VoIP was seen as a threat to both cellular and landline. Here, we see the cellular side and the Internet side meshed together into a core network.

On the user end, you’d have an expanded range of mobility, according to Kai Oistamo, executive vice president and general manager for mobile phones at Nokia.

“You can use wi-fi where the GSM signal is weak because each wi-fi access point or base station acts as a connecting tower as if it were a cell site,” he said.

If the user already has access to a wi-fi network at home or outside, wi-fi is used to include voice calls, bringing down the total call cost and optimizing the use of the hotspot.

On the operator end, said Oistamo, operators can introduce new service plans with competitive prices when the phone is used at home or at wi-fi hotspots.

“This means less cost and less congestion for operators,” said Oistamo, as the traffic is rerouted through the Internet instead of through the cellular network.

This is made possible by Nokia’s Unified Core Network solution for converging Internet and cellular networks, of which UMA is a key part. UMA technology enables the use of broadband and unlicensed access technologies such as wi-fi to expand mobility for users of voice and data services. It can also be an alternative approach to extending cellular indoor coverage (where signal is weak indoors) and to areas unserviced by the cellular network but have wi-fi coverage.

In the Philippines, mobile operators Smart Communications and Globe Telecom have both cellular and wireless Internet networks and could theoretically deploy such a converged GSM/wi-fi service.

“That innovation is inevitable, thus telcos have to make the most out of them for the benefit of the consumers,” said Jones Campos, assistant vice president for public relations at Globe. “Affordability and superior service is also crucial. It should be easy to use.”

Ramon Isberto, public affairs head of Smart, had the same concerns.

“This will be rolled out in the country but to really catch on, the technology should be easy to use,” he said.

And, since wi-fi would soon allow people to use hybrid handsets to make VoIP calls, the “right business model” would help it fare better in the country, Isberto said. He added that American operator Vonage, which has been commercially offering VoIP services via mobile, has not reported significant revenues from the service.

Vonage is offering mobile calls via Internet for 14.99 dollars a month.

“How to make money is the issue with VoIP,” said Isberto.

Smart currently offers its own wi-fi service with Smart WiFi, coupled with broadband wireless networks through Meridian Telekom and the Internet services of its parent company, the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co.

Globe, on the other hand, offers Internet and data services via GlobeQuest. GlobeQuest head Jesus Romero said that hybrid GSM/wi-fi phones and converged services are promising.

“We think this is good because it will expand the base of those who can use VoIP over wi-fi,” said Romero.

But will the number of hotspots in the Philippines and the technology itself become an issue, bearing in mind that wi-fi was not designed to carry voice?

“The technology will not be an issue,” Romero said. “If they launch that phone, operators should provide the services around it. The services should leverage on the technology.”

Romero added that such a technology may actually spur the growth of wi-fi in the country.

“Wi-fi is now used mainly for browsing,” he said. “With voice, it will increase the usage and the number of hotspots.”

Is Globe looking at deploying such converged services?

“Definitely we will introduce it when it comes to the market,” Romero said.

Elsewhere, European operator Orange has announced that it will be using the Nokia 6136 to offer a converged GSM/wi-fi service.

With a report from Erwin G. Oliva

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Google rejects Justice Dept. bid for search info

SAN FRANCISCO - Google Inc. on Friday formally rejected the US Justice Department's subpoena of data from the Web search leader, arguing the demand violated the privacy of users' Web searches and its own trade secrets.

Responding to a motion by US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Google also said in a filing in US District Court for the Northern District of California the government demand to disclose Web search data was impractical.

The Bush administration is seeking to compel Google to hand over Web search data as part of a bid by the Justice Department to appeal a 2004 Supreme Court injunction of a law to penalize Web site operators who allow children to view pornography.

Google is going it alone in opposing the US government request. Rivals Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc. are among the companies that have complied with the Justice Department demand for data to be used to make its case.

Google's lawyers said the company shares the government's concern with materials harmful to minors but argued that the request for its data was irrelevant. They offered a series of technical arguments why this data was not useful.

The Mountain View, California-based company said that complying with the US government's request for "untold millions of search queries" would put an undue burden on the company, including a "week of engineer time to complete."

"Algorithms regularly change. The identical search query submitted today may yield a different result than the identical search conducted yesterday," attorneys from Perkins Coie LLP, the company's external legal counsel, argue in the filing.

Complying with the Justice Department request would also force Google to reveal how its Web search technology works -- something it jealously guards as a trade secret, the company argued. It refuses to disclose even the total number of searches conducted each day.

Google's resistance contrasts with a deal the company has struck with the Chinese government to censor some searches on a new site in China, a move that has drawn sharp criticism from members of the US Congress and human rights activists.

"Google users trust that when they enter a search query into a Google search box ... that Google will keep private whatever information users communicate absent a compelling reason," attorneys for Google said in the filing.

The legal spat also comes amid heightened sensitivity to privacy issues by the company as it recently began offering a new version of its Google Desktop service that vacuums up data stored on user PCs and makes it accessible on the users' other computers. For customers who consent to the service, copies of their data are stored on Google's central computers.

Privacy activists have rallied to the defense of Google for fighting the US government request while some conservative and religious organizations have criticized the company for failing to help the government combat child pornography.

The American Civil Liberties Union, with other civil rights groups, bookstores and alternative media outlets filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of Google.

The hearing on the Justice Department motion to compel Google to divulge the search data is scheduled to take place on March 13 in San Jose before US District Judge James Ware.

"The government must show that this request is the most relevant way to accomplish its goal," said Perry Aftab, an attorney, privacy activist and executive director of WiredSafety.org, a popular online child safety site.

"Why would Google or anyone else turn over data that might create further risks for their customers? The public policy gains don't outweigh the risks," she said.

Call center jobs provide long-term careers — exec

By Marianne V. Go - The Philippine Star

Call center jobs are not short-term or limited careers, according to Dell International Services vice president Bert Quintana.

In an interview with The STAR, Quintana stressed the need to change the perception that there is limited growth in call center jobs.

On the contrary, Quintana pointed out that "call center careers require skills in problem solving which is the basis of most management jobs."

Call center careers eventually lead to other opportunities in the field of management, he said.

Quintana himself was trained as an electrical engineer and previously worked with the Florida Power and Light Co. for 10 years before moving on to MCI Telemarketers and then to Dell. He has been connected with Dell since 1991.

Dell, which started operations of its call center facility in the country just this month, is investing in training its staff and developing their management skills.

"We want to be the employer of choice," Quintana stressed.

The call center industry started in the 1980s and has been around for almost 25 years and "is still going to be around for some amount of time," he added.

Dell itself has recognized the continuing need for call/contact centers and has made it part of its core strategy, which is to take care of its customers.

In fact, Dell continues to expand its global footprint with call centers in the United States, Europe, India and several other countries around the globe.

Quintana said Dell continues to look for qualified and talented call center agents.

However, Quintana admitted that "getting qualified people is the biggest challenge."

Like most other investors in the call center industry, Quintana stressed the need for the Philippine government to ensure the English proficiency of Filipino students.

Dell’s call center facility in the Philippines will provide technical and customer support for its customers.

Dell has similar facilities in Penang, Malaysia and in Xiamen and Dalian, China.

Dell plans to hire up to 700 Filipino technical support and customer service agents.

Dell is currently the leading provider of phone-based personal computer technical support services for customers, expanding customer services capabilities from hardware to include software and applications services such as assistance with virus and spyware issues.

Its customer services also includes on-line support through chat and e-mail.

Dell Inc. is a trusted and diversified information-technology supplier and partner, and sells a comprehensive portfolio of products and services directly to customers worldwide.

It has been recognized by Fortune Magazine as America’s most admired company and third globally.

In the Asia Pacific region, Dell maintains sales operations in Australia, Brunei, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, Macau, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. The company manufactures in Penang, Malaysia and in Xiamen, China for customers in the region.

Quintana said Dell has not plans for manufacturing operations in the Philippines and will just stick to call center operations.