Saturday, July 09, 2005

Summer time musings

During the Summer I tend not to do much in the way of electronics or computers. That's because I prefer to be outside and enjoy the wonderful weather (it's been very nice here). But I did come across two things that I found interesting. The first is Asterisk with speech recognition. I haven't tried it yet but I will in the next few months. Then I'll be putting together and making sure the entire Asterisk setup works (the difference being that I must get everything to work ;-). While I won't need the Speech Recognition it will have have high geek value and sometimes that's the point. :-)

The second item is a Broadband Reports discussion about Next-gen Broadband. I always find these discussions interesting, usually they're wrong, but they're always interesting. Here's the summary: ADSL2+, VDSL2, Fiber to the Curb, Fiber to the Home, DOCSIS 3.0. Verizon has Fiber to the home, SBC has fiber to the node/copper to the home, Bell South has copper (I think) and cable is cable. Verizon looks to be the technical best and directly competing with cable. SBC in second but they may be able to cut costs and that might be their edge. Bell South is next.

First let me state I have Comcast Cable (3M/384K usually much less. BTW, why does my cable bill keep climbing a few dollars every month?). I work for AT&T Labs in managed network service (layer 2 & 3 (IP) type networks the very thing I'll be talking about in a minute but for Business customers), so my opinions are a bit biased but knowledgeable. I think DSL has a better chance of winning than cable but it's more because of what the Bells are doing and what the cable companies are not doing than anything technical. I like SBC's design, fiber to the neighborhood and copper to the home (that makes it less expensive). Every time I look up the speeds and distances over copper are rising and fiber to the home is problematic (fiber breaks easily). But all of this is just the technology and the best technology doesn't always win (Microsoft vs MAC OS, 68000 vs 8086).

What's really important is service. My opinion of consumer broadband is that nobody really takes the service portion too serious. The stuff I hear on BBR from all quarters is that customer service is an after thought by most providers. I will say that my recent dealings with Comcast have been pretty good (I've been with them since the last 90's) and the connectivity has been very reliable. But we still get long waits on the phone and people who barely understand anything other than the script that is before them. They hinder any attempts to escalate to the next tier Even with Comcast I attempt to send emails of complicated problems such as having problems with email being sent to this Blog. I've since resorted to sending my email though my hosting site, there it works. I'm not sure the problem isn't my own but I can't even get them to communicate with me properly to fin out. It's easier to come up with a work around than to work with them.

Bandwidth isn't the real problem That's right, it's not bandwidth. Currently I have 3M/384k (I never get 384, maybe 276) and I hear rumors of higher bandwidth speeds. Great but I don't need more bandwidth to download with. I need more to upload with. If I try to have 2 VoIP calls running using G711 I need about ~200k for both calls. That doesn't leave me with much for everything else. If I could really get 384 on a consistent basis that would be great. So all this new bandwidth is nice but I doubt I'll actually ever seen it.What I need is Quality of Service (QoS) and traffic shaping. I can traffic shape on my WRT54G so I've got that licked and I can mark the packets for QoS. Unfortunately the broadband network will just ignore it so it doesn't do me much good. Right now QoS is lacking and for now it may not be too important but in the future it will be. That is what the broadband providers need to offer. A way of guaranteeing bandwidth and/or latency for different types of IP traffic to the general public. The hard part is that the general public doesn't even know what it is or why they need it. The reason for it is so that services such as VoIP (voice and soon video over IP), gaming and other uses of broadband can work properly. This is one place where the Bells have the advantage as they have real business services. They deal with small through very large companies with voice and data networks. It is their bread and butter so they understand a thing or two about networking. Currently we hear that some providers are blocking connectivity to VoIP providers such as AT&T Call Vantage or Vonage. Well the FCC isn't going to permit this and for a very good reason it's where the future of communications is (actually it will be VoIP, IPTV and other services {XoIP]). To allow the providers to block these service would be the worst thing for our economy.


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