Monday, March 21, 2005

Texas Attorney General Takes Action Against Vonage over 9-1-1

The state of Texas filed a lawsuit against Vonage, the country's largest Internet-based telephone service provider, for failing to make clear to consumers that the company's current service does not include access to traditional emergency 9-1-1 service. The
story was widely reported in newspapers across the country.

In a press statement, Abbott said the dangers posed by Vonage's failure "to clearly disclose the lack of traditional 9-1-1 access" have resulted in tragedy. Last month, a Houston family that subscribed to Vonage's service tried to call 9-1-1 during a home invasion. Two victims were shot multiple times, but the victims' daughter was never able to get through to 9-1-1.

"This Houston family's moment of crisis signals a dire need for Vonage to clearly communicate to its Internet telephone customers that 9-1-1 access may not be available to them," said Attorney General Abbott. "This is not just about bad customer service; it's a matter of life and death."

Abbott posted an audio file of a 9-1-1 call from Vonage on the state's website.

The lawsuit, filed under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, requests injunctive measures to stop Vonage "from misrepresenting the type of emergency telephone service it offers, and the fact that the "911 dialing" feature is not automatically included when a customer signs up for telephone service. The suit seeks $20,000 per violation.

On its website, Vonage says it offers 911 Dialing to all customers. 911 calls are routed from the Vonage network to the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) for the physical area that the subscriber designates. However, 911 dialing is not automatically set-up for use and subscribers have the option to decline 911 dialing. Email reminders are sent to subscribers about 911 calls. The Vonage website also warns that 911 dialing and Vonage Service do not function during an electrical power or broadband provider outage.
  • Vonage is currently supporting E911 in Rhode Island in partnership with Intrado. With E-911 in Rhode Island, Vonage is able to deliver both caller's location and call back number to 9-1-1 emergency services personnel. Emergency call are routed over Vonage's 9-1-1 server using SIP. The Vonage server then queries Intrado for routing instructions. The call is then directed to the selective router that serves the Rhode Island Public Safety Answering Point ("PSAP"). Simultaneously, Intrado places the customer's address and telephone number into the Automatic Location Information (ALI) server. The supplementary special key unique to the call is included in signaling, and allows the PSAP 9-1-1 operator to pull the customer's address and phone number from the ALI database. Vonage and Intrado are working with other states to provide similar solutions and intend to roll them out market by market.

Nominum Secures $16 Million for IP Address Management

Nominum, a start-up based in Redwood City, California, raised $16 million in new funding for its IP address infrastructure solutions for Global 2000 companies. Nominum's Foundation product family includes scalable, reliable and secure DNS and DHCP servers and IP address management (IPAM) systems.

The new funding round was led by Advanced Technology Ventures (ATV). Existing Nominum investors Bessemer Venture Partners, Morgenthaler Ventures, Globespan Capital Partners, Presidio Venture Partners, Silicon Valley Bank and other strategic investors also participated in the funding round. With the new funds, the total equity investment in Nominum is now $45 million.

Former FCC Chair Hundt Proposes Regulatory Overhaul

Reed E. Hundt, who served as FCC Chairman from 1993 to 1997, and Gregory L. Rosston, deputy director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) and former deputy chief economist of the FCC, published a paper online urging Congress and the Bush Administration to undertake a complete overhaul of the law and policy for communications, and to do so by mid-2005.

Key points of the proposal include:

  • A neutral tax policy that does not distort consumer choice or

  • Availability of public property as an input to service at cost.

  • Increased availability of spectrum and commitments to future releases of spectrum

  • A decision about maintaining or disbanding unbundling

  • Application of Title 2 regulation and forbearance unless competitive problems arise

  • Wholesale revamping of universal service programs

  • Clear division of federal, state and local jurisdictions

  • Federal regulatory authorities should set interconnection and openness policies, should deregulate retail pricing, and should assure pro-competitive market structures.

  • Local jurisdictions should assure that rights of way and other public property rights are available to all service providers, consistent with a general federal mandate.

  • The Trinko decision notwithstanding, Congress should make it clear that the telecommunications Act and other subsequent legislation does not give a free pass to companies that violate the laws that protect consumers from anticompetitive practices.

Iridium Satellite Plans Enhancements, Forecasts Availability through 2014

Iridium Satellite announced plans to deploy a group call push-to-talk voice and data service, enabling multi-user communication "nets" from Iridium mobile satphones from anywhere worldwide. It is designed for public and private sector first responders and ideal for crisis applications where rapid deployment, reliability and security are key. Users will require constant and global service from an extremely portable device.

The group call push-to-talk communications service will allow one user to talk (or transmit data) to many users simultaneously. Dispatch centers will be able to set up multi-user communication nets on Iridium satellite channels. The service will be scalable to meet user requirements. It will enable over- the-air group management where dispatch centers can add users to groups as needed. In addition, users will be able to access voice and data communications at the same time when immediate access to critical systems and information from any location is required. The new Iridium service will incorporate end-to-end encryption for secure communications.

Iridium Satellite is also planning to launch a 9600 data transceiver this year based on the company's Short Burst Data (SBD) technology. The 9600 data transceiver could be used for asset tracking, remote monitoring and telemetry reporting from remote locations worldwide. Examples include supply chain management, field force automation, and even maintenance repair and overhaul systems.

Iridium Satellite, which launched the first of its 66 low-Earth-orbit satellites in 1997-1998, announced that it now expects its in-orbit constellation to remain viable through 2014 without additional launches. Iridium placed seven additional spares into orbit in 2002 to ensure long-term uninterrupted service. The company cited a number of operational enhancements that remove dependency on high-wear components, thus increasing the satellite lifespan.

The Boeing Company operates the satellite network under a long-term contract with Iridium Satellite.

Nokia Supplies MMS in Saudi Arabia

ALJAWAL, the GSM operator of the Saudi Telecom Company, has selected the Nokia Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) solution. Deliveries have already begun and the service is expected to be launched nationwide during first half 2005 - making it the first MMS service in Saudi Arabia.

ALJAWAL currently serves 9.6 million mobile subscribers.

MCI Expands Wi-Fi Coverage with Boingo

MCI is nearly doubling its Wireless Internet Access footprint by expanding its hotspot coverage in the U.S., Europe and Asia-Pacific, building on its existing 6,200 global hotspots, including hotels, major airports, restaurants and convention centers in 23 countries. The expanded Wi-Fi network is the result of enhanced coverage agreement through Boingo Wireless. MCI's new hotspots will primarily be located in the U.S., U.K. Switzerland, France, Belgium, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Greece, Singapore and the Philippines. Businesses will have immediate access to more than 1,300 European and Asia-Pacific hotspots with an additional 3,400 U.S. Wi-Fi hotspots coming online in May.

Alcatel to Resell Aruba's Enterprise Mobility Solutions

Aruba Networks announced a worldwide distribution agreement with Alcatel focused on the enterprise mobility market. Under terms of the agreement, Aruba's products and technology will be integrated into Alcatel's CrystalSec security framework for delivering converged enterprise mobility solutions. Alcatel's data networking business and Aruba will deliver a comprehensive set of mobile LAN products that automatically identify and authenticate users as they connect to the network. The joint solution establishes the mobile user's identity and subsequently enables "follow-me" user privileges, security and services. Financial terms were not disclosed.
  • Aruba has received over $59 million in three rounds of venture funding from top-tier venture firms -- Matrix Partners, Sequoia Capital, Trinity Ventures and WK Technology Fund. The company is based in Sunnyvale, California.

  • In January, 2005, Cisco Systems agreed to acquire Airespace, a provider of wireless LAN systems, for approximately $450 million in stock and assumed options. Airespace's product portfolio includes WLAN controllers, Access Points, WLAN Management and Location Software, and Security capabilities, including IDS. Airespace had previously announced global OEM agreements with Alcatel, NEC, and Nortel. In addition, Airespace has also established partnerships with D-Link .

Loral Files Consensual Plan of Reorganization

Loral Space & Communications filed a new reorganization plan with the bankruptcy court. The Plan, which revises the terms of a plan previously filed on December 5, 2004, reflects an agreement among the company, the Creditors' Committee and the Ad-Hoc Committee of Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) trade creditors on the elements of a consensual plan of reorganization. Some key points include:

  • Loral's two businesses, satellite manufacturing (New SS/L) and satellite services (New Skynet), will emerge intact as separate subsidiaries of reorganized Loral (New Loral).

  • New SS/L will emerge debt-free and continue its current activities,
    including completion of all satellites under construction or on order,
    and active pursuit of additional new awards.

  • New Skynet will continue to provide transponder leasing, network and professional services to current and prospective customers.

  • New Loral will emerge as a public company under current management and will seek listing on a major stock exchange.

  • Holders of allowed claims against SS/L and Loral SpaceCom will be paid in full in cash, including interest from the petition date to the
    effective date of the Plan.

  • Loral Orion unsecured creditors will receive approximately 80 percent of New Loral common stock and their pro rata share of $200 million of preferred stock to be issued by New Skynet. These creditors also will be offered the right to subscribe to purchase their pro-rata share of $120 million in new senior secured notes of New Skynet. This rights offering will be underwritten by certain Loral Orion creditors who will receive a fee which may be payable in additional New Skynet notes.

  • Loral bondholders and certain other unsecured creditors will receive approximately 20 percent of the common stock of New Loral.

  • Loral's existing common and preferred stock will be cancelled and no distribution will be made to the holders of such stock.

Choice One Selects Juniper/Lucent

Choice One Communications, an integrated communications provider based in Rochester, New York, will upgrade its IP backbone using Juniper Networks' M-series routing platforms. Lucent Technologies will provide integration.

Choice One offers facilities-based voice and data telecommunications services, including Internet solutions, to clients in 29 Northeast and Midwest markets. Choice One offers DSL directly to its enterprise customers and through wholesale arrangements to other carriers. The Juniper Networks M-series routing platforms will consolidate broadband traffic from multiple users, apply QoS for value added services and provide predictable, secure and highly available transport across the network.

Level 3 Withdraws its VoIP Forbearance Petition

On the day before an expected FCC ruling, Level 3 Communications withdrew its VoIP forbearance petition. In the petition, which was filed in December 2003, Level 3 asked the FCC to reaffirm that legacy interconnection fees (access charges) do not apply to a certain class of VoIP traffic. By statute, the agency was required to issue a decision in the matter by March 22, 2005.

James Q. Crowe, chief executive officer of Level 3 Communications, said "Level 3 has withdrawn the petition in deference to the Commission. Given the appointment of new leadership only three business days before the statutory deadline for ruling on the petition, we determined it was inappropriate to ask the agency to resolve this important issue in the timeframe required by law. However, there remains a pressing need in the industry for clarity in this area, and Level 3 may elect to refile the petition or take other appropriate regulatory actions in the future."

In the absence of an FCC ruling, Level 3 expects the regulatory status quo to remain in effect. Level 3 and other VoIP service providers continue to maintain that voice calls between the legacy telephone network and the Internet should be exchanged using reciprocal compensation rates, which are lower than access charges.
  • Since filing its petition in December 2003, Level 3 has maintained that under current rules, VoIP should be generally classified as an "information service." As such, it is exempted from the access charges imposed on traditional long distance telecommunications services. Some industry participants have argued that access charges should be imposed on VoIP traffic when traffic is exchanged between carriers. Level 3 maintains that such a move would be ill conceived and not in the public interest.

Sony Launches IPELA IP Products

Sony Electronics launched a new line of "IPELA" IP communications products for the U.S. market.

"IPELA," which Sony derives from the combination of IP and "bella," (Italian for beautiful), will include a line-up of business communications equipment featuring Sony's high-resolution imaging and audio technology. Sony is installing interactive product showrooms in select U.S. cities to support the IPELA product line and is dedicating $10 million in global marketing resources to support the new line.

The first products to be labeled IPELA include the PCS-G70 large room videoconferencing system and the PCS-TL50 desktop videoconferencing system. Also included are network video monitoring cameras including the SNC-RZ25N and P-Series MPEG-4 enabled models and the DF40 and DF70 mini-dome cameras.

Expected later this summer are the new XIS Series of IP video monitoring cameras. This series includes the XIS-5100 wide area monitoring camera, which will cover a 160 degree x 15 degree area, and the XIS-10DC, a unique surveillance system for the industrial, government and aviation sectors with a 360-degree view and 100 megapixel resolution.

Bahrain's Light Speed Selects NetCentrex for VoIP

Light Speed Communications, which has received an ISP License from Bahrain's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and is aiming to become the first alternative fixed-line telecommunications operator in the country, will deploy NetCentrex' MyCall solution to offer IP-based residential telephony services. Light Speed Communications will initially introduce IP voice and video telephony services and high speed internet access. Further developments will include new converged fixed-mobile services in alliance with a leading regional 3G mobile operator.


Network Centric Operations Consortium Gains Momentum

The Network Centric Operations Industry Consortium (NCOIC) has doubled its membership to include 62 companies since its launch six months ago. The mission of the NCOIC is to accelerate interoperability in systems that serve military, homeland security, civil and commercial users.

The group will work to identify the enabling technology approaches that enable the network-centric transformation of the U.S. Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, as well as the Ministries of Defense of allied governments.

The NCOIC is Chaired by Dr. Paul Kaminski, who served as U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology from 1994 to 1997. The other members of the NCOIC Advisory Council include senior military, intelligence and Homeland Security officials.

The newest NCOIC members are: AeroVironment, Inc.; Alcatel Government Solutions; Argon ST; Ball Solutions Group; Bay Microsystems; Camber Corporation; Ciena Government Solutions; Cryptek, Inc.; EDISOFT S.A; EFW Inc.; Engenio Information Technologies; FlightSafety International; Harris Corporation; Innovative Concepts, Inc.; Israel Aircraft Industries; ITT Industries; Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory; Marconi Communications Federal, Inc.; MBL International, Ltd.; McDonald Bradley, Inc.; MITRE; Motorola, PTC; Real-time Innovations, Inc.; Rheinmetall Defence Electronics GmbH; RUAG Electronics; Sikorsky Aircraft; Software Engineering Institute/Carnegie Mellon University; SPARTA, Inc.; SuprTEK; Terma A/S; Wakelight Technologies; West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation; and Wind River Systems.

TelASIC Raises $26 Million for 3G Silicon

TelASIC Communications, a start-up based in El Segundo, California, raised $26 million in Series D funding for its high-performance analog and mixed-signal integrated circuits (ICs) and sub-systems for the 3G wireless infrastructure market. TelASIC's offers analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converters and proprietary digital pre-distortion (DPD) linearization technology, and a complete RF-to-baseband solution. TelASIC's technology accommodates a wide range of wireless protocols, such as W-CDMA, CDMA2000, WiMAX, and WiBRO, on a single platform, and is already being incorporated into next-generation base station equipment deployments by several customers.

ComVentures, a leading venture capital firm focused on communications technologies, led the round. Existing investors Mission Ventures, The IPO Group, Agilent Technologies, and Redpoint Ventures participated as well.
  • TelASIC was spun out of Raytheon in 2002. The company's ASICs incorporate Raytheon's radio frequency (RF) technology used in defense applications.

  • TelASIC is headed by Prabhat K. Dubey, who previously founded Force10 Networks. Before that, he was President and CEO of MMC Networks, a company that created the "Network Processor" category for switching/routing infrastructure equipment and was acquired by AMCC for $4.5 billion.

Firetide Announces Deployments of its HotPort Mesh

Firetide announced three Beta customers for their new HotPort high performance mesh network, which is designed especially for high-bandwidth/low latency applications such as video surveillance networks, voice over IP services, and metro-scale Wi-Fi HotZones.. Culver City California is installing Wi-Fi and video surveillance in city offices, St. Augustine's College in Raleigh North Carolina is extending their LAN network between buildings, and the State Fair of Texas is creating an outdoor video surveillance network. The HotPort system includes both indoor and outdoor mesh nodes, HotView mesh management software, and advanced networking features including VLAN capability, traffic prioritization, network gateway interconnects, and remote management.

Visual Networks Helps Enterprises Limit Streaming Media and Video

Visual Networks' flagship Visual UpTime Select application is helping enterprises optimize network performance by identifying authorized users who are utilizing bandwidth-intensive network resources for recreational purposes, such as streaming video or audio of the March Madness college basketball tournaments.

UpTime Select identifies over-utilized circuits, monitors application usage and auto-discovers applications that are being utilized at every site in the network. This can be used to pinpoint bandwidth hogs. Enterprises can thereby identify whether applications are business-critical, such as SAP or Siebel, non-work-related, such as streaming video or music file sharing, or unauthorized, such as a virus.