Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why power over Ethernet makes sense

Imagine a world where every country would have its own Ethernet connector. In this world mean that every switch would have a version for each country, possibly its own pin assignment, maybe even different speeds for the data. Vendors would have to produce for each country, keep inventory for each country and possibly also get certified with the Ethernet watch for each country. There are some people who see positive things with this, but at the end of the day it would mean that mediocre companies could lock competition out and I just can’t spot anything positive in this.

This world is a reality in the world of power plugs. There are plug for the USA, for Australia, for the UK, for Germany, for Switzerland, for France, and possibly even more countries in the world and they are all incompatible. Isn’t that crazy? I guess the standards were done at times when politicians thought that locking down their country would be a good thing.

There are other areas today where the industry purposefully introduced such country specific localization. Remember the last time you bought a DVD on your trip to far-away-country and wanted to play it back at home. Didn’t work! The DVD companies don’t like it when you purchase your DVD in China and play in back in Germany. This happened even without politicians I believe. It was just a way to maximize the turnover with countries where people are willing to pay more and countries where people on average are willing to pay only less.

What does that all have to do with the m9? There are two things here as well.

The first is the power plug. The m9 also has to deal with the problem that different regions have different power plugs. So far we have three regions: USA, Australia and the rest of the world. For USA, the m9 comes with the two-bar power plug that we all know. Australia comes with the old UK-style power plug (also known from your last trip to Hong Kong) and some special certifications if you want to sell the device in Australia (like the lower ring tone). The rest of the world comes with a number of plugs that you can use in your specific country. snom also uses this to differentiate the price (like everyone in this industry does). So next time when you buy an m9 in the USA, don’t be surprised if it does not fit into the power plug in Europe.

The second thing is the frequency. USA could not allocate the same spectrum like most of the other countries. I am not sure if that was really a technical problem, or the USA wanted to make sure that there would be a different price level possible in the USA area. Anyway, that’s why there are two versions of the m9 handset today. snom had no choice, just follow the industry.

What happened in the cell phone industry might also soon happen in the VoIP world. Like practically all cell phones today use USB for charging the device, vendors will stop sullying power supplies and instead point to Power over Ethernet. This will make the global supply easier; actually it will enforce more global competition, it will be more difficult to lock devices to a specific region, and at the end of the day customers will benefit from a global standard with a huge volume behind it.

PoE can not only be used for powering DECT base stations, it can actually be used for a lot more devices. I think they are working on powering laptops on PoE, of course desktop phones and video camers. But even things like LED lights start to use PoE. When you build a new house, consider running an CAT5 cable to the ceiling instead of a regular power cable. It might all help to get the volume up and the prices down.

I was personally never a fan of PoE. But thinking about it, I might actually become a fan these days.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The year of the hosted PBX

So I have Verizon FiOS at home for more than half a year now. For those who are not familiar with that offering: This is a triple-play solution with TV, Internet and phone which comes to my home over a fiber. TV works beautifully, we can enjoy video on demand and the phone includes a flat rate for domestic (US) calls.

The phone service comes “of course” in the form of a analog telephone line. That part is disappointing. So they dig a fiber to my home, all just to convert everything into analog and then back to digital (practically all phones are digital today anyway)? That’s stupid. Anyway, still understandable because my home has an analog telephone line in each room, and typical Verizon customers don’t like to rip this out of the wall and replace it with Ethernet. So do I. What I did was getting a cheap analog DECT handset and connected to the line in the basement. All the telephone lines are useless in my house. DECT goes through walls.

But of course that’s not all. Guess what, I also have a couple of m9 handsets in my house.

They are registered to various locations. Practically for all snom offices, I have a registration. Some of the registrations are even using Lync; others are using snom ONE. My home deployment even stands the “wife test”: She actually uses it. If I would count the minutes, I would actually say that she uses the m9 more than the analog DECT line. Number one on her telephone usage list is the cell phone, no surprises here.

Anyway, the surprising thing is that the voice quality for our VoIP at home service is out of question rock solid. I should have started measuring the QoS reports, but it feels like we never missed a single packet. FiOS has a large upload capacity (a few MBit per second), which is a problem in other installations where uploading data has only very limited bandwidth. I think that is the difference to the situation a few years ago. People were dreaming about hosted PBX, and the concept hade a lot of sense; but the bandwidth was simply not widely available. That has the Apple folks would say “the times, they are changing”.

Essentially I am a user of hosted PBX with the snom m9. It works great, and it makes a lot of sense. This is something people will find out this year.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Happy New Year 2012!

Time is racing, especially in the IT industry. 2011 was what it was, there were a lot of innovation but the overall economic environment wasn’t that great. Here are my predictions for 2012.

My first prediction is that the m9 will finally have a repeater that you can buy. Seems like the repeater had to go more than just the whole 9 nine yards and there are still eleven months to go in 2012. My hope is that it would not take so long.

My other prediction is that IPv6 will become a topic for VoIP. IPv6 had to go probably a hundred yards and back and forward and back again. But the pressure to move leave IPv4 behind is getting so big that people don’t have a choice any more. Check out, they have made some neat applications that show you the current picture. Hopefully people will realize that the m9 had IPv6 from day one and it is a great toy to try VoIP over IPv6.

Any my third prediction is that Microsoft Lync will take off on voice. I don’t know how many yards it did go, but for sure it was also a lot. When we started using it a couple of years ago (then known as LCS and OCS), there were many features missing to the degree of not being usable. Today, it is a different picture and people are realizing it. Certified or not, I am using my m9 on Lync every day and I am a happy user. Maybe the m9 even gets certified or tested or whatever the right description for that is. I am sure there are potentially more out there, and amid some dark projections for the business in 2012, I am sure that 2012 will be a good year for Lync and also for the snom m9.

I wish you all a happy new year 2012!