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Do-It-Yourself VOIP Telco

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the some-hacking-required dept.

Wireless Networking 246

DamnYankee writes "Robert X. Cringley predicts the coming demise of the landline telco monopolies from the grassroots encroachment of VoIP and Linux on the latest generation of Wifi routers. According to Bob, 'The result is a system with economics with which a traditional local phone company simply can't compete'. With Linux capabilities and builtin VoIP any Mom and Pop can become the local equivalent of a cellular phone company for the price of $79 Wifi router. Now how is Verizon going to compete with that? Get the full scoop from the man himself."

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in case the site starts to slow down (0)

gee308 (167706) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276482)

or if your lazy to click on the link:
The Little Engine That Could

How Linux is Inadvertently Poised to Remake the Telephone and Internet Markets

By Robert X. Cringely

One of the cheapest Linux computers you can buy brand new (not at a garage sale) is the Linksys WRT54G, an 802.11g wireless access point and router that includes a four-port 10/100 Ethernet switch and can be bought for as little as $69.99 according to Froogle. That's a heck of a deal for a little box that performs all those functions, but a look inside is even more amazing. There you'll find a 200 MHz Intel processor and either 16 or 32 megs of DRAM and four or eight megs of flash RAM -- more computing power than I needed 10 years ago to run a local Internet Service Provider with several hundred customers. But since the operating system is Linux and since Linksys has respected the Linux GPL by publishing all the source code for anyone to download for free, the WRT54G is a lot more than just a wireless router. It is a disruptive technology.

A disruptive technology is any new gizmo that puts an end to the good life for technologies that preceded it. Personal computers were disruptive, toppling mainframes from their throne. Yes, mainframe computers are still being sold, but IBM today sells about $4 billion worth of them per year compared to more than three times that amount a decade ago. Take inflation into account, and mainframe sales look even worse. Cellular telephones are a disruptive technology, putting a serious hurt on the 125 year-old hard-wired phone system. For the first time in telephone history, the U.S. is each year using fewer telephone numbers than it did the year before as people scrap their fixed phones for mobile ones and give up their fax lines in favor of Internet file attachments. Ah yes, the Internet is itself a disruptive technology, and where we'll see the WRT54G and its brethren shortly begin to have startling impact.

You see, it isn't what the WRT54G does that matters, but what it CAN do when reprogrammed with a different version of Linux with different capabilities.

Yes, smartypants, I know that other wireless access points and routers run Linux or can be made to run Linux. It didn't take long for hackers to figure out that Apple's original AirPort access point used a version of the 486 processor and could be convinced to speak Linux. But the WRT54G is different. This is a $70, not a $299 box and its use of Linux is no secret. Linksys, now owned by Cisco, not only doesn't mind your hacking the box, they are including some of those hacks in their revised firmware.

We're not in Kansas anymore.

Probably the most popular third-party firmware you can get for the WRT54G comes from Sveasoft, a Swedish mobile phone software company. Actually, Sveasoft is only kinda-sorta Swedish since the head techie (and for all I know the company's only employee) is James Ewing, a former contract programmer from California. Ewing took time off to visit Honduras where he met a woman from Sweden, and a decade ago moved with her back to Scandinavia, where they live three kilometers from the mainland on an island without broadband Internet service. Looking for a cheap wireless connection much like the one I had a few years ago in Santa Rosa, Ewing discovered through the Seattle Wireless Group web site the amazingly adaptable WRT54G, and has devoted much of his time since to improving the little box's firmware.

If you have a WRT54G, here's what you can use it for after less than an hour's work. You get all the original Linksys functions plus SSH, Wonder Shaper, L7 regexp iptables filtering, frottle, parprouted, the latest Busybox utilities, several custom modifications to DHCP and dnsmasq, a PPTP server, static DHCP address mapping, OSPF routing, external logging, as well as support for client, ad hoc, AP, and WDS wireless modes.

If that last paragraph meant nothing at all to you, look at it this way: the WRT54G with Sveasoft firmware is all you need to become your cul de sac's wireless ISP. Going further, if a bunch of your friends in town had similarly configured WRT54Gs, they could seamlessly work together and put out of business your local telephone company.

That's what I mean by a disruptive technology.

The parts of this package I like best are Wonder Shaper and Frottle. Wonder Shaper is a traffic-shaping utility that does a very intelligent job of prioritizing packets to dramatically improve the usability of almost any broadband connection. If you supposedly have all this bandwidth, but uploading slows your downloading to a crawl or web surfing makes your VoIP phone calls break up, you need Wonder Shaper. At the expense of the top 10 percent of upstream and downstream bandwidth, Wonder Shaper makes brilliant use of what's left over. The result is that not only are phone calls and web serving unaffected by each other but your wireless ISP customers won't have a measurable effect on your surfing, either.

Frottle is another Open Source product, this one coming from a network of wireless networks in Western Australia. Frottle's job is to cure the hidden node problem that was left unsolved in the original Wireless Distribution System (WDS) 802.11 specification from 1999. Hidden nodes are wireless clients or access points that are out of range from one party in a client-AP data transfer. 802.11's CSMA/CD technology assumes that all parties can listen on the line and avoid collisions. But on a wireless network this isn't always possible, so Frottle uses a token-passing scheme (yes, just like Arcnet or Token Ring) to make sure only one node at a time can talk whether the clients can hear each other or not. Maximum bandwidth is limited but maximum throughput is increased, which is why IBM used to argue that Token ring's four megabits-per-second was more bandwidth than Ethernet's 10 megabits.

Neither Wonder Shaper nor Frottle are the most elegant solutions, but they work well and they work together on the Sveasoft firmware.

The result is a box you connect to power, to a DSL or cable modem and MAYBE to your PC (if all you want to be is a service provider the PC isn't needed) and it automatically attaches itself to an OSPF mesh network that is self-configuring. In practical terms, this mesh network, which allows distant clients to reach edge nodes by hopping through other clients en route, is limited to a maximum of three hops as the WiFi radios switch madly back and forth between sending and repeating modes. If you need to go further, switch to higher-gain antennas or gang two WRT54Gs together. Either way, according to Ewing, his tests in Sweden indicate that if 16 percent of the nodes are edge nodes (wireless routers with DSL or cable modem Internet connections), they can provide comparable broadband service to the other 84 percent who aren't otherwise connected to the Net.

There is an obvious business opportunity here, especially for VoIP providers like Vonage, Packet8 and their growing number of competitors. If I was running a VoIP company ,I'd find a way to sell my service through all these new Wireless ISPs. The typical neighborhood WISP doesn't really want to DO anything beyond keeping the router plugged-in and the bills paid, so I as a VoIP vendor would offer a bundled phone-Internet service for, say, $30 per month. I handle the phone part, do all the billing and split the gross sales with the WISP based the traffic on his router or routers. If one of my users walks around with a WiFi cordless phone, roaming from router to router, it doesn't matter since my IP-based accounting system will simply adjust the payments as needed.

The result is a system with economics with which a traditional local phone company simply can't compete.

That's just one idea how these little routers might be used. The actual killer app will probably be something altogether different, but I am convinced this is the platform that will enable it. And that's because what we are talking about here isn't just what you can do with a WRT54G, but what you will soon be able to do with almost any wireless access point.

The cat is out of the bag. This same firmware runs on Belkin, ASUS, and Buffalotech routers today. The source code comes from Broadcom, not Linksys. Linksys paid a Taiwanese company called Cybertan to customize the Broadcom standard Linux distribution that is given to all manufacturers. Two years from now, the current crop of name-brand routers will give way to dirt cheap generics from China and Taiwan with exactly the same hardware and chips. If you look inside the current 802.11g crop from the big names you have basically two routers -- Broadcom and Atheros. They are all based on reference designs and are essentially identical internally.

A well-funded VoIP company like Vonage could today start WISP-based deployment one city at a time. With newspaper ads and direct mail, they could recruit what would be essentially micro-franchisees, each of which would get at cost a pre-configured router (or my preference -- a pair of routers) and a DSL or cable broadband account. Since each node costs the VoIP provider exactly nothing, the problem of flaky franchisees is eliminated by over-building the network and conscientious franchisees make more money as a result. For $50 down and $30 per month the franchisee makes $93.75 per month (provided they keep the connection up and running). Want more revenue? Put routers in all your stores or delivery trucks or in the homes of your friends in exchange for giving them free Internet and/or phone service. Your take per router drops to $78.75 but your gross profit margins are still more than 70 percent.

Or imagine a school or a church distributing routers among parents or parishioners as a fund-raiser. Let's see how long SBC or Verizon lasts against the Baptists. Now THAT's disruptive.

Do-it-yourself-bird (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9276491)


(o>
( )
8=="==D

I tried this as a child (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9276497)

A carton full of dixie cups and a spool of thread. No one wanted to pay my rates sadly enuff :(

Because we all deep down.. (2, Interesting)

clifgriffin (676199) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276498)

..want to replace the telephone company with our own VoIP solutions?

Or am I reading that wrong.

not gonna happen, the lobbies are too powerful (5, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276499)

Unfortunately the people that control the bandwith that we could use to support this "grassroots" VOIP campaign have very powerful government lobbies. We aren't going to get very far before the government oversteps its bounds and protects the large conglomerates.

He mentions that the mobile phone markets were a "disruptive technology" against the 125 year old wired telephone business. The single thing he fails to recognize is that the wired phone companies have the largest stakes in the best wireless networks out there (AT&T/Cingular, Verizon, etc).

He then glazes over the billing possibilities as you jump from router to router. We aren't talking about a cell phone here. We are talking about the possibility of a wireless card in a pocketPC to be used as a phone. It's a bit harder for Joe Blow to get a hacked/stolen SIM card for his phone. It's not quite as hard to get a software program that doesn't give billing information that is tracked back to that "phone" user.

Re:not gonna happen, the lobbies are too powerful (5, Insightful)

swordboy (472941) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276574)

It won't happen - but not because the lobbies are too powerful. It won't happen because its gonna take a long time before we can get five nines reliability and an organized E911 service for VoIP.

Right now, Intel, TI and Motorola (among others) are working furiously on WiFi/VoIP roaming for their cellular chips. Once such a device is developed and, most importantly, perfected, it is only a matter of time before the PSTN falls into a state of unsustainability. The PSTN (public, switched telephone network) is bulky - requiring about 40 - 60 percent more cost to operate than a typical packet-switching network like the internet.

However, I shudder when I say "perfected". Like many other technologies, the *theory* will always seem great while everyone will count on someone else for the execution. Currently, there is no system in place for VoIP users to adequately call each other using non-PSTN based dialing. Certainly, we could all start using dynamic DNS based services but without a centralized, non-greedy institution for creation and allocation, it will be a big fat mess that nobody will want to touch.

I agree that VoIP should be charged telecom taxes BUT ONLY WHEN THE USER INTERFACES WITH THE PSTN. Right now, that is just about every call, aside from the few geeks who are dialing with IP. And that brings up another problem - who's gonna stop spammers from dialing my VoIP phone from China for the sake of playing a pre-recorded advertisement in my ear?

Re:not gonna happen, the lobbies are too powerful (5, Interesting)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276597)

And that brings up another problem - who's gonna stop spammers from dialing my VoIP phone from China for the sake of playing a pre-recorded advertisement in my ear?

Ahh, the one good thing about VoIP. Full control over what comes in. I get software that is custom. I get to decide who/what/where gets to call me.

Don't want China ads coming in? Block everything from China. Only want whitelisted people to call you? So be it. Want the phone to ask you if you want to accept a call or block the IP/range?

All doable.

Re:not gonna happen, the lobbies are too powerful (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9276740)

So you're basically saying that VoIP makes your phone calls as controllable as your spam email?

FanTAStic!

Your brother is in China on business (1)

musiholic (94408) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276743)

he gets hurt, or in a bind, and need to call you in an emergency. Ooops.

What are you going to do for the very many not-routine phone calls that so many of us get? You can't pre-emptively white-list everyone in every situation that might need to get ahold of you. I've had too many calls that in your scenario, would have been blocked.

It sounds wonderful, except that its not practical. You can't know who/what/where is going to need to call you.

Re:Your brother is in China on business (4, Interesting)

The Salamander (56587) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276921)

I already effectively have a whitelist on my phone.

If the number is not in my address book, the phone does not ring, and goes straight
to voicemail.

If it is someone I wanted to talk to, and they left a voicemail, I can return the call at my leisure and perhaps add their number to the whitelist.

Re:not gonna happen, the lobbies are too powerful (2, Insightful)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276763)

It won't happen - but not because the lobbies are too powerful. It won't happen because its gonna take a long time before we can get five nines reliability and an organized E911 service for VoIP.

Damn straight. Ever had someone's life depending on a 911 call getting through? It'll be a long time before I rely on VoIP for that.

The PSTN (public, switched telephone network) is bulky - requiring about 40 - 60 percent more cost to operate than a typical packet-switching network like the internet.

The PSTN is bulky because it's reliable and backward-compible. It stays up when the power goes down, and you can make a call from your new VoIP service to some guy with a tin can at the end of a string in the middle of the desert. It's amazing. Don't knock it.

five WHATS? Re:not gonna happen (1)

swschrad (312009) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276795)

my friend, you don't have 99.999% availiability with cell phones, and they are eating the telcos' lunch. VoIP moved the same thought patterns to wireline -- if it's cheap enough, you can afford to say "WHAT? Bill, can't hear -- BILL! HELLO ?!?!?" a couple times. that's what big business is saying by changing internal calling to VoIP, and there is a boatfull of that now and more every day.

surprised some MBA hasn't proposed this to solve the drug price crisis. "Ask your doctor if PILL is right for you." you go to the pharmacy, and there is a big horse trough full of, uh, PILLS. all kinds and all colors, all mixed up. You need 40, they scoop up 40. Whatever they scoop, you get. if God's on your side, there might be two of the ones that are specific to your disease.

that's where comms is going. it's up to your software to sort out the little shield-shaped pink/beige 20 mg jobs you need from the box of PILL. it's a smart scoop that gets your RIGHT pills from the pile of PILL. since computers are cheap and fast and can recognize the SNAP header, it all works out. that is why VoIP has a hundred-to-one cost advantage over traditional telco, even without the tax issues, and why it eventually will rule.

Re:not gonna happen, the lobbies are too powerful (1, Informative)

Twirlip of the Mists (615030) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276856)

The PSTN (public, switched telephone network) is bulky - requiring about 40 - 60 percent more cost to operate than a typical packet-switching network like the internet.

Um? The telephone network has been packet-switched for decades. Do you own or work for a small business? You don't have phone lines. You have a T-1. At your home, your phone line goes to a box down the block where it gets muxed into a T-1 or something equivalent.

Re:not gonna happen, the lobbies are too powerful (3, Interesting)

femto (459605) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276977)

> ... its gonna take a long time before we can get five nines reliability ...

Each individual link doesn't have to be 99.999% reliable. Instead, rely on a mesh topology and have parallel (ie. redundant) paths between each node. Say we have 5 alternate routes between two nodes and each route is 90% reliable. The probability of an outage (all routes down) is (1-0.9)^5 = 0.00001. Hence, the network reliability is 99.999%. Each additional parallel route adds a '9'.

Re:not gonna happen, the lobbies are too powerful (2, Interesting)

cavemanf16 (303184) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276585)

Although I haven't read the Cringley article, I agree more or less with your assessment of the situation. SecurityFocus.com had a story on VoIP security issues [securityfocus.com] and whether it was worth it for a business to take on the increased responsibility of not only securing their data network, but also their voice network. (Because in essence that responsibility shifts from the Baby Bell to you when you go to VoIP.) The general findings of that article was that VoIP was great, but not without some big risks and time and money spent maintaining such a phone network.

I don't think the Baby Bells will ever disappear, just like the RIAA won't ever disappear. Let's just vote for Congress critters that will be balanced in their voting and not swing wildly to one special interest or the other.

Voice networks are overlooked already. (4, Insightful)

Trigun (685027) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276662)

Voice network hacking has gone overlooked by both hackers and security professionals alike. With enough know-how, one can hack a PBX and make long distance calls, copy voice mail, do all kinds of evil stuff. The stakes were raised when they (the voicemail companies) tied voicemail and e-mail together.

I would hazard to say that many companies voice networks are just as vulnerable as their data networks, or even moreso, but they are not targetted as much, so they do not get as much attention.

Re:not gonna happen, the lobbies are too powerful (4, Interesting)

nahdude812 (88157) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276641)

Exactly. The way they'll compete is legislation. Imposing huge fees for operating a telco. This'll come under the guise of protecting national security. You see, if every mom and pop can offer secure voip (public/private key encryption generated per-call), the feds can't wire tap. If you want to offer phone service, you'll have to support some proprietary infrastructure that Verizon or other big bells will be happy to develop for the government free of charge. They'll then be happy to license it to Mom & Pop for $500,000/year for up to 10,000 users, as the base (cheapest) license, then it gets more expensive after that.

But there's only one version of the softare, so unless you're running VerizonOS, you can't run it. Reversing the encryption (which is actually just an XOR against 0x00) will be illegal under the DMCA, and so there will not be any Linux/FOSS versions of the software, because to get there you have to have violated the DMCA.

This software will spring up out of Russia as FOSS, but its use within the U.S. will result in jail time.

Now the nation is protected, you see.

Following this, you'll see a group of FOSSers who decide that such things really should be free, and you'll find an underground network flying right through the radio waves in the air. Users who rebel against federal legislation and establish VoIP networks across the Internet using 802.11 or whatever the broad range wireless standard is at the time. They'll go on in relative anonymity for a while, but they'll all be struck with how very very cool this technology is, and they'll build steam and momentum, attracting other users to the technology until all of the sudden, someone pays attention, and legislation comes in that starts to restrict the use of such things.

Users will cry foul, people will claim this violates their first ammendment rights, and then Apple will release iPhone, with pretty colors, in hardware that looks edible, and whose color scheme wouldn't offend a conservative grandmother on a bad LSD trip. People will flock to this "new technology" and sell their souls to it before they realize that it's the same thing as what they had before, only it's got more restrictions.

Soon Microsoft and Sony will realize that they've been behind the times on this stuff, and they'll release their own alternatives which offer extra features that no one wants or needs. The physical design of the hardware will look like a high school sophomore sketching doodles in the edges of his notebook paper, compared against Apple's Mona Lisa level design. Micorosoft and Sony will have invested several million dollars in to this before they realize that they're always playing catchup, and have never reached the black, financially speaking, on these products, when they discontinue the line, completely stranding those who *had* bought in to it.

Later, Apple will announce a deal where they buy Verizon and several other major telco's, who are now on the financial rocks, and every time you answer your phone, you'll hear a "Bong" and your phone will smile at you to let you know everything is ok.

Soon after this, you'll see Apple G7's booting up with a picture of Steve Wozniak with borg implants badly photoshopped over his face.

Re:not gonna happen, the lobbies are too powerful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9276733)

...I wouldn't mind getting a bong every time I reached for my phone...

Lobbies can't stop it (1)

Julian Morrison (5575) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276841)

The telcos will have no easier a job monopolizing the IP phones, or the government tapping them, than the RIAA is having banning pirated music, and for exactly the same reasons. You can't tax air.

Re:not gonna happen, the lobbies are too powerful (2, Interesting)

Chanc_Gorkon (94133) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276846)

By the way, your NOT talking about a PPC running VOIP software ONLY. Your also talking about WiFi handsets. Cisco already makes these. Here's [cisco.com] the model I saw at hamvention. This is a PHONE that does VOIP over WiFi. Ritron(I think) can also hook a transciever directly into Cisco routers making Nextels obsolete. You just install a transciver at either end and it coverts the radio to a VOIP stream and sends it to everyone on your network. VOIP is going to make not just telcos obsolete but many campuses can switch to IP telephony very easily now....not 5 years from now. You jsut about have it down to only having to run Ethernet and power. That's it.

Re:not gonna happen, the lobbies are too powerful (1)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276979)

Jesus,
Try signed logons, and a centralised key database.
Abusers get there key removed.

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9276502)

fourth post

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9276504)

first post?

Verizon will compete... (5, Insightful)

jgabby (158126) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276505)

The phone companies will compete by lobbying making sure that any startup VOIP phone company has to pay the same taxes and fees, and has to provide 911 and wiretapping, etc.

Re:Verizon will compete... (4, Insightful)

KarmaOverDogma (681451) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276718)

not only that but if these types of services ever involve people paying ANY fee for VOIP (I.E., if it is not free) then regulation, IMO is inevitable.

Also, when any of the following issues occur to the FREE or modest fee VOIP/WIFI provider, well meaning people/small businesses of modest means will give pause when considering wehter to provide these services:

* someone cant be reached in an "emergency" so the provider is sued
* a "service disruption" is deemed unaceptable and the provider is sued
* the VOIP/WIFI is hacked for phun
* someone and/or some business/organization, (ab)uses the VOIP/WIFI to spam/troll/hack a major telco/consumer/business/gov't agency and gets sued.
* insert your ignorant/money-grubbing/just plain wierd lawsuit here.

Like that old saying goes: No Good deed Goes unpunished.

Re:Verizon will compete... (1)

thedillybar (677116) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276729)

Maybe not all the same taxes and fees, but why should VoIP not have to provide the same 911 and wiretapping as PSTN?

Re:Verizon will compete... (4, Informative)

gmack (197796) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276898)

I'd settle for forcing VOIP companies to provide the same reliability.

This all reminds me of a Grou Telecom outage a couple years ago. They lost a core IP router. Guess what happened to all of their VOIP stuff? That's right.. all down.. We had to contact our sales rep by her cell phone because their helpdesk was dead.

Right now I'm not seeing VOIP as anything more than a way to cut down on my long distace bills.

Ahem... (5, Insightful)

Noryungi (70322) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276506)

Don't you need an ADSL/Cable connection to that little router? Yes, I know you can have your packets hop over to the next router and so on, but the article is still pretty optimistic.

(and, yes, I did RTFA)

Let's face it: if the big telcos aren't dead by now, this means they are not going to die anytime soon. I doubt Verizon is quaking in its boots right now...

Re:Ahem... (2, Informative)

rusty0101 (565565) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276612)

It depends upon the design.

At the moment the design is that somewhere the connection has to have a broadband connection to interface to the Internet. The software upgrades to these routers allow that connection to be as many as three "hops" away. The possibility is there to reach longer, and even cross more hops, however such a connection requires added cost for improved antenas.

In the future, (how long is obviously a subject for debate) it is possible that a large enough population of the Internet will be attached to wifi connected equipment that people very well may be able to perform most, if not all, of their day to day network usage without actually sending any packets over the existing Internet structure.

Note that I am not saying this will be a large portion of the Internet population. I am not saying that it will be infinately secure, or even that it will happen. Just that it is a possiblity.

-Rusty

Re:Ahem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9276982)

I guess no one has seen the AT&T add for their new VoIP service. They already are in the market, and will son regulate it to the point that they're still the only players.

Interesting but is it ready for Prime Time? (4, Informative)

erick99 (743982) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276509)

The author gets pretty excited by the opportunities that the router provides. However, it sounded a bit complicated to me and I wonder how well this would work if a lot of people did it. Is there sufficient capacity within the Internet to handle thousands and thousands of little phone companies? And, can you imagine the customer service issues which you would be handling from home...in your spare time. Still, it is a very cool idea the early adopters and the innovators will have fun with it.

Take care!

Erick

Re:Interesting but is it ready for Prime Time? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276681)

no it isn't(ready for prime time).

What do people NEED from a cellular telco? the system must work, at all times, regardless of where they are, automatically, without worries.

That's how the cellular telcos around here work and it certainly is affordable(12-14 eurocents / minute, no monthly payments..) enough(having thousands and thousands of little phone companies is ineffective and as consequence, not very cheap either except if there are some very stupid decisions made in the 'other way').

Now, voip+wifi arriving to phones for the occasional usage I can see(hell, it has already arrived..), but just occasional and definetely not for the 'whole family'. There are advantages in having big operators(and deals between them) tha allows one in theory to travel through the world without the call, or data, connection dropping once. If the cellular phone network operators over there are so lousy, that one even considers having thousands of small wifi operators for phoning a good thing... well, just ask them nicely to build a proper network.

not to mention the fact that the fellow operating the wifi connection needs to buy some kind of network connection from *somebody*, namely one telco or another.

**if you intend to mention that "easy to say in europe, with all that population density", take a hard look at Finlands population density and the fact that even Lapland is throughly covered(where you may need to drive 70-100km just to get to buy hard booze).

Re:Interesting but is it ready for Prime Time? (1)

mini me (132455) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276761)

What do people NEED from a cellular telco? the system must work, at all times

Bell's cellular network never works and they seem to be doing okay.

Re:Interesting but is it ready for Prime Time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9276789)

Some of the infrastructural requirements are not quite there yet, but they're already on the horizon.

You have to have quality of service. Right now the internet satisfies this requirement simply by providing plenty of spare capacity. Wifi is not a good transport for VoIP but with advances in technology, it may well overcome the current reliability problems.

Then there's signalling: The net needs to know where you are when someone calls you. SIP gives you an address, but you have to use another mechanism to keep it up-to-date. IPv6 will fill the gap with Mobile IP, but DynDNS or SIP proxy solutions can be used in the meantime.

I think we've got the technological side covered. The real threat to VoIP will be SPAM. VoIP works because it is P2P: The signal isn't routed through special central phone offices, it just takes the way of normal IP packets. This means you can be called by anyone, with any IP address, and you'll have a hard time finding out who called you if they don't want to tell you.

VoIP needs an authorization scheme, and that's where centralism usually enters the picture and concentrates cost and profit in one place.

The gov't will screw 'em... (3, Interesting)

nev4 (721804) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276511)

Soon enough they'll regulate the hell out of VoIP and similar to save the phone companies. Next thing you know AIM will be ruled a telephone company because of the "talk" feature.

Re:The gov't will screw 'em... (4, Insightful)

thedillybar (677116) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276786)

The gov't is already regulating the hell out of the old PSTN networks. Why wouldn't the same regulations apply to VoIP?

Sure VoIP looks cheaper to us right now, but PSTN would be cheaper if they weren't regulated so much too. VoIP has an unfair advantage right now because it's not being regulated. It's not a matter of regulating the hell out of VoIP because PSTN has friends in the gov't, it's a matter of applying the same regulations to VoIP that PSTN has seen for years.

Next thing you know AIM will be ruled a telephone company because of the "talk" feature.

Are you suggesting that VoIP companies shouldn't be considered telephone companies?

Those poor Telco's (1, Funny)

MrRTFM (740877) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276518)

Damnit, the government should stop this sort of thing - it could reduce the Telco's profits.

I say we, as a group, should not support this in any way, shape or form.

big companies CAN change (5, Interesting)

magarity (164372) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276523)

a system with economics with which a traditional local phone company simply can't compete'

How many times have we heard that (insert some innovation here) will lead to the demise of (insert traditional provider here). Look, the only times when large established providers of a given good or service are eliminated by something new is when entrenched management gets hubris and thinks the new thing is not worth their bother. If/when the existing telcos realise they need to get on this bandwagon they will, and with a vengance. You can't count out the resources they can bring to bear until they don't and are truly out.

Re:big companies CAN change (2, Insightful)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276603)

It can happen both ways. Many of the manufacturers of horse drawn carriages saw the horseless carriage as a fad, but only a relative few realised the truth in time to start making coachware for early cars. Even so, very few of those survive today and most of those that do have long since been swallowed whole by auto manufacturers. On the other side of the coin, you need look no further than the Road to Damascus style revelation experienced about the Internet by Bill Gates. One huge cash infusion later and MS all but owns the Internet facing desktop.

But having realised its oversight, even Microsoft relied on getting a product out of the door instead of running to the lawyers to protect it. The entrenched telcos seem far more like the RIAA/MPAA to me; they have this new fangled competitor looming on the horizon and instead of pouring money into R&D are pouring it into the legal department and campaign contributions instead. Only time will tell of course, but I'm not betting on either set of dinosaurs.

Re:big companies CAN change (5, Interesting)

Big_Al_B (743369) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276936)

The entrenched telcos seem far more like the RIAA/MPAA to me; they have this new fangled competitor looming on the horizon and instead of pouring money into R&D are pouring it into the legal department and campaign contributions instead.

The company I work for is a "traditional" regional IXC/CLEC. We've poured mucho dinero into R&D on packetizing and "converging" our network. After much blood, sweat, and tears, we've been able to provide a converged IP service that really doesn't suck. But, packets and Wi-Fi are not the magic bullets that some would believe.

Sure, anyone with a strong Wi-Fi antenna and a few IADs strewn about can make real-time interactive audio work. That's not the challenge. The challenge really lies in providing carrier-class services over IP. People expect phones to work, 100% of the time, between any two handsets worldwide. And they want audio quality and precision clarity.

In that regard solutions are still expensive to provide, and expensive to purchase. IP savvy switches are still buggy, feature-sparse, and prone to audio quality issues. Your average DMS and 5ESS may use Model T technology and take up a whole lot of bays, but for making plain old phone calls, it'll outperform the Ferrari's of the IP world.

Add up consumer broadband transport, untamed Internet ebbs and flows, Wi-Fi frequencies that compete moment-to-moment with cordless phones and microwaves, and you've got a lot of unsatisfied neighbors dropping your shiny new home telco for an old princess phone and an RBOC.

Disruptive Technology (-1, Offtopic)

elwell642 (754833) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276532)

A disruptive technology is any new gizmo that puts an end to the good life for technologies that preceded it.

I guess that makes /. a disruptive technology for getting work done =)

I see this (2, Insightful)

thebra (707939) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276538)

happening about the same time that cars use an alternative to gasoline. Big business makes the decesions, not us, not the govt. Its a shame...

so whats stopping the big guys? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9276539)

so, whats stopping the big guys from buying these in bulk for under $79 (after bulk discount)

if they get it cheap then they can setup quickly, and still gouge you for the profit.

Re:so whats stopping the big guys? (1)

njfuzzy (734116) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276680)

I agree. That's basically what I was going to say. If Mom and Pop can do it for $79, then BigTelCo can do it for $65. Nothing is stopping the big telcos from also cutting their costs by using the same technology... and they have marketing muscle, experience, infrastructure, bandwidth, etc.

Mesh? (2, Interesting)

MaestroSartori (146297) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276554)

Perhaps the prevalence of wireless networking equipment will eventually lead to huge mesh networks, so that instead of going from me to an ISP to the destination, my voip calls could go from me to my neighbour to the guy down the road. Obviously there are security and privacy issues, but the and even the Internet aren't really needed all of the time for voip to work, and potentially this could work well. It would also mean we could bypass regulation by simply doing it :)

Re:Mesh? (1)

MaestroSartori (146297) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276570)

Hmm, I meant to say: ...there are security and privacy issues, but the ISPs and even the Internet aren't really needed all of the time for voip to work

Re:Mesh? (1)

swb (14022) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276720)

What's always the missing element is bridging to the POTS world. I've often wondered if you could get a mesh network going where each mesh entity provides a POTS bridge for calls local to their calling area, allowing for "free" long distance calls and connectivity to the POTS world.

It's not clear how you'd enable bridging POTS to VoIP; perhaps a calling-card type setup where you would call a local access number that would round-robin try various local mesh POTS bridges that would route calls to the respective VoIP termination point.

The whole thing needs most everyone to provide POTS bridging capability to their system. However, routing inbound calls to VoIP nodes requires an identifier, and if you make a phone number the indentifier it might encourage membership in the mesh. Outbound VoIP to POTS wouldn't need a phone number, but you could increase the priority of them for those providing POTS bridging.

Re:Mesh? (1)

sadler121 (735320) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276983)

Well, at first a POTS bridge wouldn't be needed, as the infrastructure is in its infancy people will still use land line/cell phones for a majority of there tel com means.

As there are more Mesh networks put up, (which would, atleast IMO would like to see, would be as easy as buying an access point and plugging it in, and then your on the mesh network), local goverments would establish 911 centers THROUGH the local mesh network. For a time there would be POTS AND mesh network 911 service but as the mesh networks get bigger, and are used more often there would be a gradual shift toward the mesh network away from the traditional POTS infrastructure.

If its as easy as pluging in a router, (don't know the logistics of how to make that work, perhaps evey router would be assigned a group of IPv6 address based on the routers man address??) then it would be hard to tax, seeing that you own the equipment. 911 service would probably just be taxed through other sources of income, (sales, property, God there are way too many taxes as it is!)

The man is insightful, but (1)

Progman3K (515744) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276556)

He wrote this particular column WAY too technically.
I mean I'm very computer-savvy, but he lost me.

I picked the wrong day to stop snorting glue.

Re:The man is insightful, but (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9276828)

Every day is the wrong day to stop snorting glue.

MOD PARENT UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9276957)

Read it, it's funny.

Questions... (2, Insightful)

hwestiii (11787) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276559)

I'm never quite sure just how this is supposed to work. Aren't VOIP carriers actually piggy backing on resources provided by the voice carriers in the first place?

Are we just talking about a segment of the market or what? I don't know all that much about the telco industry, but it has always been my impression that data lines shadow voice lines and are owned and maintained by the same parties. Is that not the case, or is my info wrong? Are there significant data networks in this country that are not in some way owned by or related to major telcos?

To this extent are we talking about big players really going out of business, or there simply being a shift in the market whereby the telcos morph into the owners and maintainers of the backbone and little VoIP carriers pop up at the edges. Then how long will it take for consolidation to cull these little ones to the point where we once again have new telco monopoly, but over a different style of infrastructure.

Re:Questions... (3, Insightful)

grub (11606) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276721)


Aren't VOIP carriers actually piggy backing on resources provided by the voice carriers in the first place?

If you're using DSL from your phoneco then sure. You have to remember that VoIP goes all over IP. You don't need expensive (and proprietary) TelCo analog switching equipment, just the bandwidth capacity to carry the voice traffic.

If I worked for a manufacturer of the old POTS switching equipment, I'd be getting ready to look for a new job in a few years. Unless moving to the third world to support their legacy stuff is your cup of tea.

Re:Questions... (1)

burtman007 (771587) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276780)

VoIP carriers may or may not be using resources provided by the voice carriers. It all depends on the endpoint. If you are making a VoIP call to another person using IP, it is quite possible that you never touch the public phone infrastructure. On the flipside, if you call a standard 10-digit public phone number, then you most likely are going to hit the phone infrastructure, at least for the last mile.

Data lines and Voice lines were once one in the same. The major players are starting to build up data lines that are independant of their voice infrastructure. Sprint, for instance, has a major fiber backbone that is purely IP based. MCI/UUNet has similar plans to build this sort of IP dichotomy.

The point is the big players are not going to be gone. They may be forced to change, but they are NOT going to fade away...

Re:Questions... (1)

rusty0101 (565565) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276889)

Some network connections use telco circuits, some do not.

My cable modem does not directly connect to a phone company circuit. The Vonage TA hanging off my router does not use phone company resources until after it goes through my cable companies' routers. Asside from the call management traffic, it is even possible that if I call a neighbor, none of my voice traffic will ever cross the phone company's resources.

As far as data lines shadowing voice circuits, the reverse is actually closer to the truth. In fact for well over 95% of all phone calls that you place, and over 99% of all long distance calls you place, your voice call is converted to a digital data stream that is then carried over a data line of some sort. (Sonet/ATM rings are used in nearly every major city to interconnect the telephone switches. Most telephone switches are digital switches internally as well.)

Currently "phone" companies actually pass more data for computer communications than they do voice call traffic. Remember without compression, voice calls are 56kbps data streams. Once you add compression, that drops to between 8k and 24k, depending upon what compression system they use. A single 1.544 mbps data connection uses as much data bandwidth as 24 uncompressed voice calls. If you have a DSL connection, and live on a standard city block, you are probably using more bandwidth for your computer than your entire city block is using for voice. You are probably not using as much data bandwidth as your average car parts distributor, much less any of the local representatives of various chain businesses.

-Rusty

Re:Questions... (1)

Featureless (599963) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276965)

I don't think this is going to happen, but I _think_ the idea is, when the calls are all carried by the data network (even at the prices we pay for symetrical connectivity today) it'll be cheaper and lower-margin than the voice network. So the backbone providers would need enormous across-the-board price increases for data connectivity to recover.

Of course, what's stopping them from doing exactly that? Then the dreaming really starts. These people, if you get them drunk enough, will admit they believe wireless meshes could eventually replace the backbone. Who knows? But it doesn't seem likely anytime in the near future.

I prefer telephones that work (5, Insightful)

Detritus (11846) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276576)

You can always do it cheaper if reliability and availability are not important. My wireline telephone just works. I've had one outage in the past 15 years. I've never had a dropped call. The switch never crashes, get infected with viruses, or demands that I upgrade to MS Telephone 2.0. It provides battery power to my telephone, ensuring that it still works even during blackouts and storms. It provides enhanced 911 service if I need it.

Re:I prefer telephones that work (1)

Prince Vegeta SSJ4 (718736) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276803)

I've had one outage in the past 15 years.

Lucky you!, in my current residence (1 year), I had one outage that lasted 2.5 weeks, had to spend several hours on the damn automated phone/customer service.

The problem, idiots had my connection plugged into the wrong jack (IDSN or something), compound this with the fact that I told them several Times that I had NO dial tone at the customer port on the back of my house - several times (should have made the problem obvious, or at least verify the proper jack).

Add to that, they tried to tell me it was an inside wiring problem, because they assured me there was dial tone coming into the house. Mind you there was light snow on the ground for the time period and no tracks in the snow, how did they check? FLY?

Re:I prefer telephones that work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9276959)

You're certainly the exception.

If you take a broad sample base you would see how reliable the phone system is, most of the time. Hugely beyond what you can currently do with an Internet phone or somesuch.

Just a reminder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9276579)

There has never been any grassroots effort in the U.S. that has successfully toppled - let alone replaced - any entrenched body, corporate or government. After the revolution, the first thing the Feds did is make sure it could never happen again.

It's fun to play with though... (4, Interesting)

gozar (39392) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276590)

I've setup a Linux box and Asterisk [asterisk.org] along with a couple Grandstream IP phones. The quality was as good as a landline phone, and we'll probably be rolling out a test next year sometime, putting phones in all the classrooms (we're a public school). One card in the server to get us an outside line and we're set....

As soon as wireless VOIP phones come down in price, I'll be running my own wireless service for myself. I plan on setting up an Asterix server at home plugged into my landline. I can then use my VOIP phone anywhere in the world to call!

Being able to cheaply setup VOIP using your existing landline at home will decimate cell service as soon as more WIFI hotspots get out. IDT is already looking at this as a replacement for cell services [idt.net] .

VoIP isn't that easy (or: You need more bandwidth) (4, Informative)

parc (25467) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276592)

You need more bandwidth than you think.
Remember, ADSL and cable are asymmetric. That upstream bandwith is usually 256-384k. Each VoIP call is going to take anywhere between 24 and 64k of that just for the audio. Add on to that the administration overhead (UDP/IP and whatever stream management protocol you're using), and it starts to chew away at your bandwidth.
Additionally, the connection you've got is designed for bursty traffic. VoIP is most definitely NOT bursty (unless you use silence suppression, which I've yet to see a vendor get right). If you packet delay gets over 150ms, you're going to be upset. Jitter larger than about 50-80ms is going to screw with your call quality. I've done VoIP networks, and can attest to the catestrophic effects of just a small amount of jitter when you start to get near your 150ms limit.

Don't get me wrong: VoIP is here and going strong. But it's doing so in high-quality networks that can afford to supply fixed-bandwidth reservation, , not commodity broadband products.

quality of service (3, Interesting)

martin (1336) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276601)

note there's no QoS with VoIP suppliers...

if they've not got a highly resilient route onto the 'net then they are at the mercy of their uplink ISP(s).

Think 911 (or equiv) service going down for days on end as the DSL line driving the VoIP was down.......not good.

Re:quality of service (1)

a_ghostwheel (699776) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276686)

Isn't 802.11e spec already includes QoS? Or was it 802.11i - i dont remember which one does QoS and which does WPA2.

Re:quality of service (1)

martin (1336) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276810)

I was point to the QoS after the wireless point. HOW do they provide resilience/QoS after that...

yes getting a $79 wifi router gets you a potential voip provider, but what happens when ISP's connectivity dies???

do it yourself detox/tonic (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9276604)


some knowledge of heating (water) required.
strange brew [kombucha.org] , that's good for you.

VoIP to Where? (2, Insightful)

lachlan76 (770870) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276610)

Where do you plan to get enough bandwidth to run a public VoIP service? With one or two calls at a time it would be possible, or if a whole group of people combined the routers to make a mesh over the town/city/suburb. But with this king of VoIP implementation, only a few people can make phone calls at a time to areas not covered by the network.
Perhaps if everyone had a 1500Mbps SDSL line and the whole network was load balanced, it would work, but this will never be able to beat the convenience of my 100g polycarbonate phone in my pocket, which can call anyone, anywhere, without any bandwidth limits.

Re:VoIP to Where? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9276913)

my 100g polycarbonate phone in my pocket, which can call anyone, anywhere, without any bandwidth limits.

Unlimited bandwidth? Spare a man a Gbps? Puleeasse...

No Bandwidth Limits? (1)

Krashed (264119) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276985)

Cell phone are subject to bandwidth limits too. Each of their towers can only handle so many calls before it is saturated. During certain parts of the day, my phone constantly gives "Network busy. Try Call Later."
I do agree with the bandwidth problem with VoIP networks. Cringley didn't write about the issue of where are you going to get this much bandwidth. Or what about the issue of reselling your bandwidth and your customer service agreement from your providers? Before you start getting all excited about Linux routers and VoIP, think about the bigger issues.

Like with the ISPs... (1)

Wudbaer (48473) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276614)

Oh yeah, I see it right before me. It will work right like with the Internet, all those numerous prospering small local Mom and Pop ISPs, no large corporations to be seen. Right ?

They will be subject to rules, taxation & phys (3, Insightful)

ac7xc (686042) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276628)

They will have to collect 911 taxes, Federal Taxes and buy business licenses. While VOIP may be nice if there is a power failure everyone with a desktop will be offline and the cell phones will become quickly over loaded. Even during the recent black out in the NE USA the local telephone service worked flawlessly. ISP's will need to have reliable backup genarators which are not cheap to buy and maintain.

I use VoIP today. This doesn't seem likely. (4, Interesting)

mjh (57755) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276631)

I'm a vonage customer. I shed my dependance on the local telco with great pleasure, and a bit of egotisitcal pride. Still, having used it for about 8 months, I've come to this conclusion: it ain't for everyone.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not going back. But I can't imagine my neighbors buying into what RXC suggests. First of all, there's a reliability issue. Folks need to have 911 service available. They need to be able to call the power company in the event of an outage. They need the phone to be a *LOT* more reliable than current VOIP is.

For me, when the power goes out in our neighborhood, it doesn't matter that I've got my VOIP device connected to a UPS. When the neighborhood loses power, my broadband internet loses connectivity. No internet, no phone. No phone, no way to call the power company to report an outage. It gets worse if you imagine someone needing emergency services (e.g. 911) during a power outage.

It's a nice theory, but it doesn't scale. And reliability is the limitation. Right now, I (personally) can put up with the lack of reliability because I know that my neighbors have nice reliable land line based phones, and in a pinch, I can pester one of them to make a phone call. (I've got good neighbors, all of whom are willing to help each other out in a pinch.) But if the entire neighborhood were on VOIP, we'd all suffer. VOIP today just doesn't have the reliability to scale. Some of us who are willing to put up with the occasional echoes, inconsistent quality, and lower reliability (in exchange for much lower cost). But we can't all do that. We rely on some of the neighborhood to have a real and reliable phone service. VOIP isn't there yet. So it won't scale as far as a neighborhood. Much less become a "disruptive technology".

$.02

Two Words... (1)

Observador (224372) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276911)

Public Payphone

But really, I don't envision myself not having a multifunction gadget / cellphone / camera / oggplayer / moblogserver / egobooster (that will let me call 911) even if I have VoIP...

Time will tell

Won't happen; the Infra support is not there (3, Insightful)

twehrle (580963) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276634)

Just as an example. Comcast, the very company that is talking about larger VOIP rollouts since it has "millions" of customers on its broadband service, can't even keep the broadband service running this morning. They are having nation wide outages. Broadband is not considered by the government to be an Infrastructure service yet, like electricity, natural gas, telco. Thus it does not get the same level of guaranteed uptime. When broadband goes down, so will your VOIP. My telco phone just always works. That is what people expect.

802.11b/g is powerful enough? (2, Interesting)

Featureless (599963) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276655)

I don't know about anyone else - frankly I would love to hear other points of view on this! - but in my experience this technology is about an order of magnitude short on range and power. My hardware (top of the line DLink as of two months ago) barely penetrates two walls in my home. It can't go 50 feet.

I looked at antennas and amplifiers and wireless geek sites. I discovered two things:
  • I couldn't find any clear, authoritative, useful sites dealing with building and tuning Wifi networks...
  • Amplifiers and antennas cost hundreds, or thousands of dollars. Oh, I sprang for two less expensive "range extender" antennas from major suppliers, but they were useless - 10% observable difference.

At this point, I would frankly love to hear, "hey idiot, you're doing it all wrong! here's a url, here's what you're missing, etc etc." But I have a sinking feeling I wont.

This leaves me with the impression that Wifi is entirely not powerful or reliable enough to get anywhere near the neighborhood/citywide meshes that people (even Cringley, apparently) imagine. Like I said, based on my experiences so far, it's off by an order of magnitude. Even if you can fix that by upgrading your gear, it's not cheap, or easy.

One thing I will say is that I'm impressed with Linksys for going with Linux, and now I understand why I should have bought them, even though they're half as fast as what I bought, and don't support WPA. My DLink router, although it's overcome its notorious problems with 5-minute interval spontaneous reboots, still needs to be rebooted daily, otherwise traffic slows to a crawl. DLink, of course, like most vendors, finds only benign amusement with the fact that their product's firmware is totally boned. It's too late now, but if I could, I would bring everything back and switch to anything that ran linux in the router.

Re:802.11b/g is powerful enough? (1)

sirgoran (221190) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276900)

I have the DLink DI-624 router at home. It offers both Hard wired access and 54G wireless access. I don't have any problem with it going through walls or around corners.

The router is in my basement, just under the floors between the joists. My sons room is more than 50 feet away and doesn't have a problem, nor do my two laptops with one in the livingroom and one in the den.

The only troubles I've had is that my G4 Mac failed to connect using the airport and I was forced to hardwire the connection. (Darn, 100Mb instead of 56Mb speeds)

Perhaps you should look to the cards used to connect to the router. Then look to see if the router is placed where it makes the most sense with the fewest walls etc.

Frankly, the city has a wifi network set-up in the Huber facility across the street and a block away from me. Sometimes I get their network showing up in my possible zones. A quick phone call to their IT guys gets them to turn off Broadcasting their ID. I don't have any of the home cooked antennas, and from what I've been told by the city, they're only running regular store bought equipment as well. So from my standpoint, wifi is both powerful and has great range.

-Goran

Re:802.11b/g is powerful enough? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9276956)

You bought D-Link, aka 'Doesn't Link'. It is almost the cheapest crap you can buy at Fry's electronics.

Giving D-Link the benefit of the doubt, how much interfeerence are you getting? Have you tried other channels?

If you want wireless that'll easily cover your house, the Netgear WGT624 will do it. I can go four houses down the street on my laptop with a WG511T PCMCIA apaptor (no external ant) and browse like I'm sitting on the couch at my house. Whatever you do, don't buy the D-Link Client cards - they are complete crap!

Whatever you buy, get 802.11g if you are having signal issues.

IMZombie, too lazy to login

Re:802.11b/g is powerful enough? (1)

phayes (202222) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276969)

FYI, recent SVEA firmware versions supports WPA. I've been using it for over 6 months. As for the speed, yeah it's only 200Mhz, but that's more than sufficient for the load the WRT54G has.

What about emergency services? (5, Insightful)

Lodragandraoidh (639696) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276663)

What about critical services, such as 911 service? Are going to equip all of your customers with backup generators to power their VOIP phones and other network devices (router) during a power outage?

You might say to me, "well, people today use cellphones as their primary means of communications - and they are responsible to ensure it is charged up in the event of an emergency". That may be true. However, everyone does not have cell phone service - or wants cell phone service for that matter. As a common carrier, phone companies have a responsibility to provide dialtone for everyone who wants it - and as a result provide emergency services.

It is also prohibitively costly to provide fibre to every location - particularly in rural areas. Given that, broadband service will not be available to drive VOIP solutions.

If we decide to drop copper as an alternative, then we will lose big when some event occurs that prevents a VOIP user from getting a critical emergency call through - and the resulting lawsuits and regulations will stifle growth and acceptance of VOIP as a viable universal solution.

How profitable can this possibly be? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9276670)

What will Mom & Pop charge?
How will they afford the bandwidth.

How many subscribers will they need?

How will it be cheaper for me to go through them rather than a telco which can provide the same service for much less.

Coinsidering that cell phones have only been commercially available 20 years, the costs are pretty low. in a few years we'll be getting unlimited minutes (including peak time) on cell phones. Most plans practially already have unlimited minutes off peak.

I'm sorry I dont see how this will be profitable considering that Mom & Pop need their cut and setill depend on a big telco to piggyback on.

The initial (and perhaps operating) costs will be too high and too complicated. VOIP is already available DIRT cheap. Free londg distance is already virtually ubiquitous. I dont believe Mom & Pop can compete with that.

Patented? (2, Funny)

Frit Mock (708952) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276683)


Wasn't there some patent, protecting the process to press some buttons on a device without wires and beeing comunicativly connected to some other persons device without wires, enabling both parties to talk with each other?

Thanks, but no thanks (5, Insightful)

Etyenne (4915) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276693)

Would I trade the reliability of my landline (I can't remember losing service in the past ... 15 years ?) for some ghetto rig built on consummer-level equipement running over best-effort protocol to shave a few $ from my monthly telephone bill of 25$ ? Thanks, but no thanks.

disruption or revolution? (1)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276696)

that guy's article almost reads like a "they're coming to steal our jobs and our women!!!1" rant.

while the dinosaurs were undoubtedly alarmed to see a huge meteor ending their way of life, all the smaller mammals were crying with joy to see their predators massively die.

Deja Vu ? (4, Insightful)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276706)


Umm does anyone else here remember the Sears/Gap/Borders are dead stories from around 1998/99 because the Mom and Pop stores would beat them thanks to ".com".

I've read the article and I'm not seeing anything different, and certainly nothing that thinks about the realities of providing secure 911 access and QoS over a WiFi router and ADSL.

Do-It-Yourself Velcro (-1, Offtopic)

gik (256327) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276708)

I thought the title was
"Do-It-Yourself Velcro" for a second. Must remember to sleep earlier...

Strangely though, the thought of DIY Velcro got me kinda excited... Who knew?

Baptists? (2, Insightful)

chickenrob (696532) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276722)

Or imagine a school or a church distributing routers among parents or parishioners as a fund-raiser. Let's see how long SBC or Verizon lasts against the Baptists. Now THAT's disruptive.

This guy dosen't know his baptists! Baptists are resistant to change. If this technology takes off huge, the baptists will be the LAST to adopt this heathen technology of the devil...

VOIP? (2, Insightful)

bobej1977 (580278) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276730)

Er, this article is talking about replacing the Telco as your ISP, and only touches on VOIP briefly.

The problem with this is that a big ISP buys $500,000 Cisco routers to keep the internet flowing. If you think a bunch of $70 wireless routers (even $500,000 worth) is going to replace a mega-router, you're kidding yourself.

Our goal here should be to create reliable grassroots networks. I have phone service because if I need to call 911, I NEED to call 911, whether my neighbor accidentally kicked the wall blister of his router out of the wall socket or not. I've got no love for Telcos, but I do like their reliability.

The telcos are the upstream ISP???? (1)

brainchill (611679) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276736)

In most cases around here the ILEC telcos are the closest Tier1 ISPs so they are making money both ways.

Comcast doesn't like a mailsever running... (2, Insightful)

jpellino (202698) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276750)

Cable broadband customers get yelled at for running servers, downloading big things, too much traffic...
A few things have to change - Comcast and their ilk have to change what they allow or else they'll have more traffic than they can dream of.
I believe they don't like people actually using the bandwidth they paid for, so that needs rethinking.

Correct me if I am wrong ... (2, Insightful)

supersnail (106701) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276773)


But surely one of the major fuctions of a phone is that people can wring you.

How is anyone going to find my phone with a roaming v/ip setup?

Are all those little 400 mz processors with no disks going to implement a CDMA/GSM type roaming protocol? (Phone contacts local base station, via several hops contacts your CDMA/GSM provider and tells it, plus the FBI CIA etc., where your phone is so your calls can be routed to the right base station).

Re:Correct me if I am wrong ... (3, Informative)

sinrakin (782827) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276981)

Yes, that's exactly what they're going to do; that's what SIP is for. Every time you establish your presence on a new network, whether it's wifi, GSM, work, home, or whatever, your phone will contact your registrar and add this location to the list of places you might possibly be reached. Ideally you'll have a single number that will try to find you at all of your currently registered locations, possibly modified by preferences or priorities you set up. If the network thinks you're reachable on your cell, it will ring it. If you're out of range or in a bad coverage area (inside your office say), but registered on a wifi network, it will ring you via the wifi instead. There's not that much to a SIP user agent; a 400 MHz processor wouldn't even notice the effort of sending the handful of messages that it takes to keep your location updated.

damn (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9276808)

that ddos is killing the voice mail system, you cant have vm on a wifi router with only 16 mb of flash memory. mr k is a moron if he thinks that. you still need a machine with some guts behind it to run a phone system. foolish jourlists.

Who owns the copper? (2, Interesting)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276858)

Mom and Pop can become the local equivalent of a cellular phone company for the price of $79 Wifi router. Now how is Verizon going to compete with that?

What a silly question. Verizon owns the copper. The ISP you're getting your DSL from is leasing the pair and a slot in the DSLAM from Verizon. It's not like they're totally cut out of the action by VOIP. If POTS dies out (which I doubt it will), they'll simply shift their business model to one of "last mile broadband provider".

It's not an either/or choice (Cellular vs. Wifi) (2, Insightful)

DamnYankee (18417) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276901)

Even the mobile phone manufacturers are picking up [cnn.com] on this trend. By building Wifi into mobile phones we can set the device to use the lowest cost method to make our calls. When a hotpsot is available, use VoIP and drop the cost to next to nothing. Simple economics.

This is not to say the technical hurdles aren't formidable. But hey, my Grandpa publishes web pages and who could've sold me on that concept in 1994?

What about the TOS? (1)

halbert (714394) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276906)

The article was very informative, and something that I might like to try in my spare time, but one major obstacle stands in my way- the terms of use that I have to agree to with my cable company to get high-speed access. And before you say "get ADSL", I would love to, but the POP is too far away, and the phone company says they are not planning any new ones in the near future. I would love to supply my area with wireless access, but it would violate my TOS, and I am sure Comcast would LOVE to sue me if too many people started dropping their high-speed access for mine. Just my 2cents...

Too Optimistic (1)

njcoder (657816) | more than 9 years ago | (#9276951)

Maybe I don't know enough about Robert X Cringely, but it seems he's just a popular columnist and writer.

He focusses too much on the technology and not the logistics of doing something like this. To me, it would have been more effective if such an article came from someone that had success in building a business that had to focuss on customers as much as such efforts would.

You need to worry about billing, customer service, accounting, marketting, reliability, security, the staff to support all that, etc, etc, etc.

What you're more likely to see is a bunch of 69.95 boxes collecting dust and people trying to figure out why they aren't making moeny like their friend down the block is.

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