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FRIDAY - SEPTEMBER 23, 2005 - ISSUE NO. 181

Dear friends of Wireless Messaging and Paging,

There is naturally a lot of news related to disaster communications and public safety warnings this week as our unfortunate citizens along the Gulf coast get hit by a second powerful and deadly hurricane. After we pray and send money or supplies to help, I recommend that we then all get involved in promoting a national public safety warning system. I am not saying that it has to be only Paging, I am just saying that Paging is being largely ignored and it is still the best way to get the job done. If it is fast, economical, efficient. and the infrastructure is already deployed coast to coast, then what is the problem with using it? Not just to warn of impending danger—but to inform the public about what to do after disaster strikes as well.

The length of this newsletter is about the same as it usually is, but there are three clickable links in this introduction section that will take you to much more in-depth discussions of this topic. Including the links makes the newsletter twice as long as usual. You can skip them if you are in a hurry, but you will miss some valuable information.

MORE ABOUT PUBLIC WARNINGS
I am fortunate to be receiving guidance on this important topic from one of the country's leading experts. If you are interested in more than just a casual reading of the Wireless Messaging News, and want to really understand many of the issues related to emergency public safety alerting, I am pleased to reprint the following articles by Kendall E. Post of ALERT Systems Inc. in Madison, Wisconsin:

Zachary Wozich, an RF Field Technician/Engineer who changed careers from Paging to Cell Phones last year—and a subscriber to this newsletter since 2002—has taken a position against my recent promotion of Paging as the best solution for alerting the American Public about danger. Since this newsletter is an open public forum for all opinions about Wireless Messaging, I am entering into a friendly debate with Zach about his new-found love of cellphone technology. I don't believe we have ever met in person, so there is nothing personal in this discussion. I have heard that he is a nice fellow, and quite sharp. Zach has the advantage of youth and enthusiasm, while I have the advantage of a few more years of experience. I think I was probably working in radio communications before his father was born—but that is just a guess. If you would like to read my response to his criticism, click here. I promise to be gentle—just like he was one of my former students or even one of my grandsons. We may both learn from this exercise.

The rest of the responses to my proposal to use one-way Paging for large-scale emergency alerting, and two-way Paging to coordinate the activities of early responders, have been very positive. People are forwarding the newsletter for others to read, and one subscriber faxed copies of the lead article to several Congressmen in Washington DC. I even received a message from a colleague in Sweden. See READER'S COMMENTS below.

Now on to the rest of the news and views.

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This is my weekly newsletter about Wireless Data and Radio Paging. You are receiving this message because you have either communicated with me in the past about a wireless topic, or your address was included in another e-mail that I received on the same subject. This is not a SPAM. If you have received this message in error, or you are not interested in these topics, please click here, then click on "send" and you will be promptly removed from the mailing list with my apology.

iland internet sulutionsThis newsletter is brought to you by the generous support of our advertisers and the courtesy of iland Internet Solutions Corporation. For more information about the web-hosting services available from iland Internet Solutions Corporation, please click on their logo to the left.

A new issue of The Wireless Messaging Newsletter gets posted on the web each week. A notification goes out by e-mail to subscribers on most Fridays around noon central US time. The notification message has a link to the actual newsletter on the Internet. That way it doesn't fill up your incoming e-mail account.

There is no charge for subscription and there are no membership restrictions. Readers are a very select group of wireless industry professionals, and include the senior managers of many of the world's major Paging and Wireless Data companies. There is an even mix of operations managers, marketing people, and engineers—so I try to include items of interest to all three groups. It's all about staying up-to-date with business trends and technology. I regularly get reader's comments, so this newsletter has become a community forum for the Paging, and Wireless Data communities. You are welcome to contribute your ideas and opinions. Unless otherwise requested, all correspondence addressed to me is subject to publication in the newsletter and on my website. I am very careful to protect the anonymity of those who request it.

NOTE: This newsletter is best viewed at screen resolutions of 800x600 (good) or 1024x768 (better). Any current revision of web browser should work fine. Please notify me of any problems with viewing. This site is compliant with XHTML 1.0 transitional coding for easy access from wireless devices. (XML 1.0/ISO 8859-1.)



AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF PAGING CARRIERS

aapc logoAAPC Bulletin
www.pagingcarriers.org • 866-301-2272
The Voice of US Paging Carriers

ISSUE NO. 26— FRIDAY — SEPTEMBER 23, 2005

AAPC Emerging Technologies Symposium
November 3–4, 2005
Scottsdale Resort & Conference Center
Scottsdale, Arizona

Planning to attend and haven’t registered yet—registration rates increase on October 5!

Don’t delay any longer—register today at www.pagingcarriers.org!

Isn't your business worth spending two days learning how to grow your revenue streams and networking with your colleagues? Symposium sessions include:

“Paging things . . . more than people. There are more of them.”

This panel discussion will focus on reasons why paging should be used along with other technologies to meet the customer’s requirements. 

“Paging in emergencies—it WORKS!”

This session will provide an open dialogue regarding the excellent reliability of paging systems in critical situations and how the paging industry can and should promote itself. —by Brad Dye, Wireless Data Consultant

“VOIP—How do you transfer a paging carrier to a VOIP carrier?
  
—by Dean Parker, Allpage, Inc.

This session will review the equipment, personnel, strategy, profit margin, and vendors needed to make the transition from a paging carrier to a VOIP company.  We will give insight to how we have built a successful VOIP company and what exit strategy is for a small VOIP/CLEC. 

Vendor presentations from the following companies:

  • Aquis Communications
  • BIT Statement
  • Commtech Wireless
  • Comverge
  • Nighthawk Systems, Inc.
  • Trace Technologies

thank you

Prism Systems International

For your help in sponsoring this conference.

prism logo
PRISM Systems International, Inc.


Only 1 open vendor presentation time slot left!  For sponsorship and vendor information,
please e-mail Linda at info@pagingcarriers.org.

GO TO www.pagingcarriers.org for REGISTRATION and the AGENDA.


AAPC Executive Director
441 N. Crestwood Drive
Wilmington, NC 28405
Tel: 866-301-2272
E-mail: info@pagingcarriers.org
Web: www.pagingcarriers.org
AAPC Regulatory Affairs Office
Suite 800
1015 - 18th Street N.W.
Washington DC 20036-5204

Thanks to the Gold Vendors!
prism logo
PRISM Systems International, Inc.
recurrent2 logo
Recurrent Software Solutions, Inc.

Thanks to the Silver Vendor!
isc technologies
ISC Technologies, Inc.

Thanks to the Bronze Vendors!
  • BLP Components, Ltd.
  • Canyon Ridge Communications, Inc.
  • Commtech Wireless
  • Critical Response Systems, Inc.
  • Global Technical Engineering Solutions (GTES)
  • Hark Systems, Inc.
  • Motorola Inc.
  • Minilec Service, Inc.
  • RMS Communications
  • Trace Technologies LLC
  • Unication USA
  • United Communications Corporation
  • VCP International
  • Zetron, Inc.

AAPC BULLETIN

FEATURED ADVERTISERS SUPPORTING THE NEWSLETTER

Advertiser Index

AAPC—American Association of Paging Carriers Multitone Electronics
Advantra International  Northeast Paging
Ayrewave Corporation  NotePage Inc.
Bay Star Communications   Outr.net
CONTEL Costa Rica  Heartland Communications
CPR Technology  Ira Wiesenfeld
Daniels Electronics  Payment Guardian
Daviscomms USA   Preferred Wireless
ERF Wireless   Prism Systems International
Global Fax Network Services   Ron Mercer
GTES LLC   Selective Communications
HMCE, Inc. Sun Telecom International
Hark Systems  Texas Association of Paging Services
InfoRad, Inc.   UCOM Paging
Minilec Service, Inc.   Zetron Inc.

assist star logo
When every second counts, manage them effectively.

Messaging Business Opportunity

Supplement your existing business by launching this new AssistSTAR message distribution management system. Increase your revenue without purchasing a lot of new infrastructure, by starting out with a subscription service on existing equipment.

What is AssistSTAR?
The AssistSTAR System allows you to manage and track the distribution of text and voice messages to individuals and groups. It also allows you to easily manage those groups (also called Distribution Lists), reassigning personnel to response teams with only a few clicks, all via the internet. AssistSTAR also
provides a Scripted Interactive Voice Response menu system that can interact with callers to determine the nature of the call and it’s appropriate processing. It will handle automated distribution of messages based on interaction with the caller, or patch callers to a live operator. It can even provide a name-dialed directory. The most unique aspect of AssistSTAR is that it is available as a monthly service. No costly servers or software licenses needed.

Subscription-based AssistSTAR to start
For a nominal setup fee and a reasonable monthly service fee, AssistSTAR can provide you with the most sophisticated communications management available today. This is ideal for the current business climate - you can add or withdraw from services as your business requires. There is no capital investment required to take advantage of advanced call handling and IVR processing. The IVR can be customized to meet any needs for caller interaction.

Server-based solutions when you are ready
When you are ready to invest in a system to eliminate recurring service fees, we will be ready to build a system for you, including custom features developed to meet your special requirements. The system can be customized to provide all of your voice mail, communication management, automated front-desk, inbound and outbound telemarketing, and campus paging needs.

Time-critical response
It may not be every day that you have a crisis that requires fast, closed-loop communications, but with AssistSTAR managing your teams, you can be prepared to respond at a moment’s notice.

When every second counts, manage them effectively.

You are invited to view our emerging case study presentation by clicking here. left arrow

Brought to you by:
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Bay Star Communications
11500 N.W. Freeway, #170
Houston, TX 77092
1-800-BAYSTAR
1-877-612-1040 (fax)
www.baystar.com

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EQUIPMENT FOR SALE
(12)Glenayre RL70XC Midband Link RXs$250 each
(3)Glenayre Hot Standby Panels$300 each
(1)Glenayre QT6994, 150W, 900 MHz Link TX.$900
(2)Glenayre QT5994, 45W, 900 MHz Link Tx, Hot Standby$1300 both
(1)Glenayre QT4201, 25W Midband Link TX.$500 each
(1)Glenayre QT6201, 100W Midband Link TX.$900 each
(2)Motorola Midband Link TX. 30W$250 each
(6)QT-7795 900 MHz, 250W, TX.$500 each
(5)Quintron QT-6772, 90W, UHF TX.$400 each
(14)Glenayre GLT5340, 125W UHF TX., DSP Exciter$2500 each
(50)Motorola PURC 5000, UHF, 110W, Advanced Control$1000 each
(1)Glenayre GLT 8600, 500W, 900 MHz$1300
(20)Motorola PURC 5000, 300/150W, 900 MHz$600 each
(15)Motorola ACB Control Shelf, 3.69 software$400 each
(1)Zetron DAPT 1000B$250
(11) Skydata 8411B Satellite Receivers$450 each
(15)Battery Backup for C2000$100 each

GL3000 Cards - UOE, Memory, CPU’s, QVSB’s, T1’s, DID’s, SIO, Drives…

TOO MUCH TO LIST • CALL OR E-MAIL
Preferred Wireless
Rick McMichael
888-429-4171

rmcm@preferredwireless.com left arrow
CLICK HERE
THREE TERM SUPPORTER


GTES LLC

gtes logo
GTES Corporate
Russ Allen
2736 Stein Hill Lane
Custer, WA 98240
Tel: 360-366-3888
Cel: 360-820-3888
russ.allen@gtesinc.com
GTES Sales
Brooks Marsden
340 Bethany Bend
Alpharetta, GA 30004
Tel: 770-754-1666
Cell: 404-518-6632
brooks.marsden@gtesinc.com

sherloc

www.sherlocgps.com

GTES has recently made the strategic decision to expanding its development activities to include wireless location technologies; a market that researchers forecast could reach $3.6 billion by 2010. In support of this new strategic direction, GTES has developed SHERLOC™ a complete one-stop wireless location service, providing the flexibility of being protocol neutral and network agnostic. Targeted at business customers who need to track their high-value shipments or better manage their service or delivery fleets, SHERLOC™ is a hosted application that combines configuration flexibility with ease of use.

GTES is offering SHERLOC™ services both directly and through authorized resellers. If your company has an interest in finding out how location services can enhance your revenue stream, and has the contacts and expertise to make you successful in the location marketplace, please contact us for further information at www.sherlocgps.com and select “Reseller Opportunities,” or call us at 770-754-1666 for more information.


www.gtesinc.com
Your Professional Services Partner


GTES is the only Glenayre authorized software support provider in the Paging industry. With over 200 years of combined experience in Glenayre hardware and software support, GTES offers the industry the most professional support and engineering development staff available.


Continued Support Programs
GTES Partner Program
Product Sales
On-Site Services
Software Development
Product Training


CALL US TODAY FOR YOUR SUPPORT NEEDS
THREE TERM SUPPORTER


HARK TECHNOLOGIES

hark logo
Wireless Communication Solutions

isi image

ISI-LX Internet Serial Interface with Protocol Conversion


  • Converts Serial TAP message to SNPP, SMTP, or WCTP
  • Pass through Serial Data to TCP/IP and TCP/IP back to Serial
  • Supports Ethernet or PPP Connection to Internet w/Dial Backup
  • Includes 4 Serial Ports for Multiplexing Traffic

isi image

IPG Internet Paging Gateway


  • No Moving Parts Such as Hard Drives or Fans to Fail
  • Supports 10Base-T Network Connection to Internet
  • Accepts HTTP, SMTP, SNPP, and WCTP from Internet
  • Sends TAP or TNPP to Your Paging Terminal

tsc image

TNPP inline stats capture


  • Inserts Inline With Your Existing TNPP Cable
  • Easy-to-use Windows Based Reporting Program w/Search by Date Range

omega image

Omega Unified Messaging Server


  • Full Featured Internet Messaging Gateway
  • TAP Concentrator and TNPP Routing Functions w/TNPP over Internet
  • Serial Protocols Supported: GCP, SMDI, SMS, TAP, TNPP
  • Internet Protocols Supported: AIM, HTTP, SMPP (out only), SMTP, SNPP, and WCTP
  • Full Featured, Easy-to-use Voice/Fax/Numeric Mail Interface
  • One Number For All Your Messaging
  • Optional Hot-swap Hard Drives and Power Supplies Available

Please see our website for even more products designed specifically for Personal Messaging carriers. For example, the Omega Messaging Gateway and Email Throttling Gateway (anti-spam).


CONTACT
Hark Technologies
2675 Lake Park Drive
N. Charleston, SC 29406
Tel: +1 843-764-1560
Fax: +1 843-764-3692
E-mail: sales@harksystems.com left arrow CLICK
Web: http://www.harksystems.com left arrow CLICK
THREE TERM SUPPORTER

join aapc

daviscomms usa

www.daviscommsusa.com

  • Contract Design, Engineering, & Manufacturing
  • Telemetry Devices
  • Bravo Pagers—Numeric/Alphanumeric
  • ISO9001-2000 Certified Facility
  • Low Cost-High Volume solutions
  • Maximize Time-To-Market Objectives
  • Minimize procurement materials management
  • FLEX-POCSAG-ReFLEX
  • Receiver Boards-FLEX-POCSAG
  • Integrate our RF Technologies into your product

daviscomms

State-of-the-art Manufacturing Facilities

wireless messaging

Wireless Messaging

oem telemetry board

FLEX Telemetry Module

reflex telemetry

ReFLEX Telemetry Module

Daviscomms—Product Examples

For information about our Contract Manufacturing services or our Pager or Telemetry line, please call Bob Popow at 480-515-2344, bob@daviscommsusa.com or visit our website www.daviscommsusa.com


FOUR TERM SUPPORTER

prism logo

Prism Message Gateway Systems
Modular and Configurable

Your Choice of Options

  • Radio Paging Terminals
  • Voicemail Systems
  • E-mail and Network Text Messaging Systems
  • Digital Trunk Switching Systems
  • Digital Trunk and Voicemail Concentrators
  • Remote Network Encoders
  • TNPP Network Routers

Popular Choice for Domestic and International

  • Commercial Paging Carriers
  • Private Paging Systems
  • Hospitals
  • Public Safety
  • Federal, State and Local Government
  • Industrial Paging
  • Energy Companies – Load Management

Logical Choice

  • Replace Outdated, UNLICENSED Paging Terminals
  • Eliminate Outrageously High Support Costs
  • Add New Paging System with ALL THE FEATURES
  • Provide Your Customers With Features They Want
  • Designed and Supported by Industry Experts

Go ahead . . . be choosy . . . choose Prism Systems International


CONTACT
Prism Systems International, Inc.
300 Colonial Center Parkway,
Suite 100
Roswell, Georgia 30076 USA
Telephone: 678-353-3366
Internet: www.prismpaging.com left CLICK HERE
E-mail: info@prismpaging.com left arrow CLICK HERE
THREE TERM SUPPORTER

eRF Wireless
Paging Hardware
End-to-End Solutions for Wireless Personal Communications and Messaging Productsbase stations
Base Stations & Link Transmitters
power amplifiers
Power Amplifiers
Exceptional quality. Unmatched sales and service support.

redundant switches
Redundant Switches

As a worldwide supplier of telecommunications equipment eRF Wireless designs, manufactures and markets transmitters, receivers, controllers, software and other equipment used in personal communications systems, as well as radio and telephone systems. eRF Wireless also provides service and support for its products, as well as consulting and research development on a contract basis.

If you'd like a single-source provider that's committed to competitive prices and fast delivery, call us today at 1-800-538-9050 or visit our website at:
www.erfwireless.com left arrow CLICK HERE

erf logo
1-800-538-9050
www.erfwireless.com
2911 South Shore Blvd., Suite 100 • League City, TX 77573

www.erfwireless.com
multitone graphic

multitone graphic

Multitone North America Inc.
2300 M Street NW
Suite 800
Washington, DC 20037
Tel: (202) 973-2827
Fax: (202) 293-3083

multitone logo

Launches...

NEW state-of-the-art PowerPage 750 with Advanced Reliability offering Digital Voice Storage Technology and a range of other exciting new features and benefits...

multitone pager group

Multitone also has a range of PowerPage & FuturePhone Wireless Communication Solutions to suit your individual communication needs.

For information on our product range and how Multitone can help enhance your communications, please e-mail info@multitone.com or telephone (202) 973-2827.

www.multitone-usa.com

WIRELESS NEWS

CRS report calls for overhaul of Emergency Alert System

09/15/05

By Alice Lipowicz
Contributing Staff Writer

The nation’s Emergency Alert System is inadequate and woefully outdated, according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service, the research arm of Congress.

The current system, originally designed for 1950s technologies such as radio and broadcast television, badly needs to be updated with capabilities to send alerts over the Internet and such other modern IT systems and devices as e-mail, text messages, cell phones, BlackBerrys and pagers, said the report, dated Sept. 2. It has not been released publicly.

“Much has been accomplished in recent years, but the current hodgepodge of warning and alert systems is inadequate for fully alerting the public about terrorist attacks or natural disasters, or for providing information on how to respond,” the CRS report stated.

The system was established in 1951 under the Control of Electromagnetic Radiation Act as a response to the threat of nuclear attack. Since 1963, it has been known as the Emergency Broadcast System. The system of mostly radio and TV stations is required to transmit presidential emergency messages and is used voluntarily by state and local authorities.

Several initiatives are under way to improve federal warning systems. The National Weather Service, for example, has expanded to include warnings for all hazards, and Amber Alert systems for reporting missing children operate in most states. Many communities operate sirens and other local alert systems. The Homeland Security Department is testing a digitized alert system in the National Capital Region.

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 required a study of using telecommunications networks as part of an all-hazards warning system. That study has not yet been completed, the report said.

Following last year’s devastating tsunami in Asia, Congress is considering several pieces of legislation to upgrade tsunami warning systems globally. Several other bills would improve emergency alerts domestically and internationally.

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer for Government Computer News’ sister publication, Washington Technology.

Source: Government Computer News


Ready for Disaster?

City leaders question whether Alexandria is prepared for an emergency.

By Michael Lee Pope
September 22, 2005

Imagine the scenario: The power suddenly goes off. The cell phone isn't working. In the distance, thick plumes of black smoke are on the horizon. Sirens wail in the distance. There's no access to television or the Internet. The air smells funny, and it may not be safe to be outside.

Time to evacuate or stay?

With the ever-present threat of terrorism haunting the region and the specter of natural disaster freshly replenished by Hurricane Katrina, city leaders are questioning whether Alexandria is prepared for an emergency. But solutions are difficult to find, and officials seem to have more questions than answers.

EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS did not fare well in the budget season earlier this year. The city manager denied a $242,916 request from the Fire Department to add emergency communications technicians. Then the City Council voted to reduce the city manager's proposed expenditure for fire and emergency services by $347,504.

The Office of Emergency Management, which would coordinate the city's resources in the event of an emergency, saw its budget increase — but not without a fight. The city manager's proposed budget suggested reducing expenditures for the office by $16,583. The City Council eventually voted to increase the budget of the Office of Emergency Management by $14,509, and the money comes with a difficult goal: The office expects to reach 100 percent of businesses and residents in the city with "emergency preparedness materials."

City leaders are eager to learn lessons from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the biggest lesson officials want residents to know is that they need to be prepared. Every citizen of the city should be supplied to live without assistance for three days. This means stocking the house or office with water, food, medicine, blankets, flashlights, weather-alert radios and batteries.

"Beyond communicating that we are prepared, I think the most important thing coming out of this is that people are taking their own responsibility in being prepared for something," said Councilman Paul Smedberg. "I don't even know that I'm prepared at home."

COMMUNICATING DURING an emergency is critical to saving lives, but communications systems may be disabled or destroyed. Emergency plans call for the city to communicate with residents by using public address systems that have been installed on all public safety vehicles. But language barriers could create problems with non-English speaking residents of the city.

"It's not acceptable to say that residents of the city who don't speak English aren't gong to know what to do," said Councilman Rob Krupicka.

Nevertheless, emergency managers admit that they would not be able to communicate to all of the city's non-English speaking residents. Even communications in English might be imperiled if telephone and cell phone coverage is disabled. "We have gone out and recently purchased some satellite phones," said Mayor Bill Euille, adding that the purchase came after Hurricane Katrina. "That's a lesson learned."

One of the biggest lessons learned is that many plans don't exist. In a special session of the City Council to explore the city's level of preparation, Emergency Management Coordinator Mark Penn told council members that the city did not have evacuation plans for those without transportation or emergency supplies for those with limited means.

"These are lessons that we are now seeing from Katrina," Penn said. "We haven't responded to those lessons yet."

EVACUATING ALEXANDRIA in the event of a disaster could be a nightmare. Existing regional evacuation plans call for using major routes out of the city: Duke Street, King Street, Route 1, Interstate 495 and Interstate 395.

"We will use these major routes for small evacuations," Penn said.

"Let's not kid ourselves. There may be a chemical or biological situation that would cause us to have to evacuate the whole city," said Euille, adding that the major routes would be unusable. "The real problem for us in this region is going to be able to get across the street — it's not going to be to get out of the city."

Evacuating Northern Virginia poses major problems. In the event of a regional evacuation, existing congestion would combine with a traffic gridlock as people try to flee the area.

"If we can't get people home at night in a reasonable amount of time, I'm not sure how — in a state of panic — we're going to get to Roanoke," said Councilwoman Joyce Woodson.

In the city, schools and recreation centers have been designated as shelters in the event of an emergency, but those buildings are not equipped with food, water and blankets to supply a city-wide evacuation. Sheltering Alexandria residents in the event of a partial evacuation would be a problem for recreation centers that are not connected to schools because they do not have stockpiles of food and water. Furthermore, notifying residents of an evacuation poses its own problems.

"It's important to remember that our first step, before evacuation, is shelter in place," Penn said. "In a quick event, an unannounced event, such as a chemical attack, evacuation is not the course of action. Shelter in place is the most appropriate course of action."

THE CITY HAS PARTICIPATED in two large-scale "disaster exercises." Last September, the city participated in a mock disaster involving multiple explosions at Metro stations throughout the region. The exercise revealed several weaknesses, especially transporting people through the city while avoiding evacuated areas. In addition, local hospitals were not prepared for a high volume of serious injuries.

Another disaster exercise conducted earlier this year tested the city's ability to distribute medicine in the event of an emergency. Lessons from this exercise will be employed in January, when another exercise is planned to move actual stockpiles of medicine from one location to another.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the city has acquired several major pieces of equipment to prepare for emergencies. In the event Washington were attacked with a weapon of mass destruction, the city of Alexandria would use two special trailers that are equipped with protective suits, gloves, boots, re-breathers and decontamination equipment. In the event of mass casualties in Alexandria, the city would use a special trailer that is equipped with triage tags, backboards, oxygen, IV bags, and bandages. This trailer is supplied to treat 300 stable patients and 50 critical patients.

Early warning is the hallmark of preparedness, and city leaders are using technology to act quickly in the case of an attack. The city owns a portable radiological monitor, which is a walk-through unit similar to airport screening units. The city government also owns 40 personal dosimeters, which detect unhealthy levels of radiation in the air.

Several public education efforts are working to get the word out about emergency preparedness. The "Be Ready" campaign is distributing literature bags that include preparedness facts sheets, disaster planning information and a magnet with emergency phone numbers in Alexandria. The campaign has already distributed packets to 12,000 of the 66,562 households in the city.

When communications are disabled, the city hopes to rely on a network of trained citizens who can organize a relief effort through Community Emergency Response Teams. They are trained in assessing damage after a disaster, extinguishing small fires, providing first aid and performing search and rescue.

Source: The Connection


Radio Beat: Emergency Alert System is prepared

Thursday, September 1, 2005

By BILL VIRGIN
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

Washington may not have to deal with hurricanes like Katrina, but it's got plenty of other potential disasters, and their aftermaths, to worry about—earthquakes, volcanoes, wildfires and tsunamis.

When those calamities threaten or strike, radio is one of the prime methods of delivering warnings and advisories to the broad population, via what's known as the Emergency Alert System.

Listeners may be vaguely aware that such a warning system exists, having heard the periodic tests by stations.

The Emergency Alert System was adapted in 1997, says Mark Allen, president of the Washington State Association of Broadcasters, replacing an older version known as the Emergency Broadcast System. "It was a complete revamping," designed to introduce the latest technology to distributing alerts.

Allen says Washington broadcasters had their own experience with shortcomings of an older system that used what was known as a daisy chain to distribute alerts. One station in each region was designated as the contact point for authorities; other stations would monitor it for alerts and relay those messages.

"When Mount St. Helens erupted, we were still using the daisy chain," Allen says. "It completely broke down; it was less than useless."

The daisy-chain system was phased out in the early 1980s in favor of a microwave relay system that can be used to send messages directly to radio stations statewide, or to specific regions for more local events (such as a fire near Wenatchee or a flood on the lower Columbia). State and local emergency-management authorities as well as the National Weather Service are tied into the system.

Each station has its own unit to receive those messages, so alerts go out at the same time. There are a series of codes related to 50 types of alerts, including blizzards, dust storms, severe thunderstorms, wind storms, avalanches, radiation releases and a recent addition, the Amber child-abduction warnings. (Washington has its own alert for lahars, a mud and debris flow that could follow a volcanic eruption.) Allen says stations can program the system to automatically break into broadcasts or to store or delay those notices, depending on the type of alert.

The tests listeners hear are part of an FCC requirement that stations regularly test the ability to receive and send messages.

The Emergency Broadcast System was itself a successor to an earlier warning system called CONELRAD (control of electromagnetic radiations), designed to warn people of nuclear attacks. Radios of that era had small triangular symbols at 640 and 1240 on the AM dial, which were the frequencies on which alerts were to be broadcast. All other stations were to go off the air; the theory was that way enemy bombers couldn't use radio transmitters to home in on targets.

Source: SeattlePI.com


Program Would Call Residents In Case Of City Emergency

By Kurt Helin
Editor

In the event of an emergency, the city of Long Beach may be calling you.

New software coming to Long Beach will allow the city to call residents — either from a specific area or the entire city — using “Reverse 911” technology and software that uses the 911 phone data base to make calls.

This Tuesday, the City Council unanimously approved the purchase of Reverse 911 software from Sigma Communications for $85,000. There was no discussion of the program, although the council had been briefed on the concept back in March.

Getting emergency information to residents has been a challenge for Long Beach, city officials have complained for years. Most of the major television and radio in the city is based up in Los Angeles and focus on that area, not Long Beach or other surrounding communities.

Currently, in the event of an emergency Long Beach uses radio station KKJZ (88.1 FM) and local cable television channel 8 to get out information.

City officials said being able to call people with a recorded message would be a better way to let people know about emergency information. It would only be used in those cases.

There are two call systems, with the primary capable of making up to 3,000 calls an hour, officials said.

That would likely be enough for most situations the city faces, where only a portion of the city would need to get the information, officials said in their report to the council.

In the event of a major emergency, the software comes with a mass call technology that could make about 33,000 calls an hour, officials said.

In Baldwin County, Ala., this software was used in September 2004 to help alert residents to evacuate before hurricane Ivan struck the area. Long Beach officials spoke with their counterparts in the South before recommending this purchase.

One other feature is that the software could be set up to call city employees in the event of an emergency to get them to respond to an area they would be needed.

The system should be up and running in about 10 weeks.

Source: Gazettes.com

Editor's note: Can you believe this? Using their "mass call technology" they can make 33,000 calls per hour! Just think they could warn a large city about a major emergency in about 10 hours. Why not just send everyone a letter in the US mail? This is ridiculous!


Emergency-alert bill set for introduction, integrates wireless technology

By Jeffrey Silva
Sep 21, 2005

WASHINGTON-Key GOP and Democratic senators said they are close to introducing legislation to overhaul the nation's emergency-alert system to take advantage of cell phones, the Internet and other widely used digital communications technologies.

The lead sponsor, according to lawmakers, will be Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), whose Senate Commerce subcommittee on disaster prevention and prediction held a hearing Tuesday on the government's handling of Hurricane Katrina even as another major hurricane-Rita-was gathering force in the Gulf of Mexico.

Panel members appeared satisfied with the National Weather Service's tracking and warning of Hurricane Katrina, but were unanimous in their views that preparation, warning and response were sorely lacking.

"Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and I have been working very closely with Sen. DeMint and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) getting ready to put in a bill that deals with a new national alert system. We hope that we'll get bipartisan support and active support from the whole Congress on that," said Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), chairman of the parent Senate Commerce Committee.

Later, Stevens told RCR Wireless News-which first reported on cellular-industry efforts to help draft the "National Alert System Act of 2005"-the legislation could be introduced this week.

"It's [the bill] more than general alerting; it's specific alerting," said Nelson, referring to how a modernized alert system would exploit new technologies to deliver targeted warnings in connection with emergencies such as natural disasters and terrors.

The current emergency-alert system-largely unchanged since its development during the Cold War-depends significantly on voluntary efforts of radio stations, television broadcasters and cable TV operators. Some lawmakers have voiced anger about why improvements to the nation's emergency alert have not been made during the four years since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The Federal Communications Commission launched a rulemaking last year on possible changes to the emergency-alert system, but the agency has yet to issue a ruling. Meantime, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is working with public TV operators, cell-phone carriers and others to develop a national digital emergency warning platform.

A recent draft of the DeMint bill tends to incorporate several of the wireless industry's recommendations.

While the new bill likely will incorporate cellular, landline telephone satellite and Internet distribution channels into a revamped national alert system, participation still would be mostly voluntary. Wireless carriers, vendors and company personnel would be free of any liability due to any failure or malfunction in delivering emergency warnings.

The federal government-which could end up spending $200 billion to repair Katrina's destruction-would provide millions of dollars, via the Department of Homeland Security, for research, development and deployment of a modern public-warning system, according to the recent draft bill. Moreover, federal, state and local officials would be precluded from mandating technical specifications and system design of the next-generation emergency-alert system. There is a lack of consensus over an optimal wireless solution, with some in industry backing short message service and others touting cell-broadcast technology.

Wireless carrier Airadigm Communications, which has been testing a cell-broadcast system, plans to begin offering the capability to subscribers in Appleton, Wis., as early as next week.

One version of the DeMint draft calls for a working group to oversee planning and establishment of a new national alert system. The group would include heads of the FCC, FEMA and the National Communications System. The group also would have representation from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and state and local governments. Membership would be open to telecom carriers, manufacturers and other industry players.

CTIA, the cell-phone trade group, previously said it made a strategic decision to remove from a previous version of the draft bill a notice provision. The provision would have required telecom carriers choosing not to participate in the national alert system to inform potential subscribers of that factor prior to entering into service contracts. Also crossed out was additional language requiring nonparticipating service providers to notify existing subscribers they would not be linked the national alert system.

It is unclear to what extent the wireless industry's recommendations will be reflected in the bill that ultimately is introduced.

"The majority of states and counties do not have an operational EAS tied to their governor, county management, or any state or local emergency operations center. It is time to do so," said Mr. C. Patrick Roberts, president of the Florida Association of Broadcasters.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) was even more direct: "This [Hurricane Katrina] was not only predictable. It was predicted," he said.

Source: RCR Wireless News (thanks John deBoer for sending me this article.)


READER'S COMMENTS

William Spies Takes Action (We need more of this!)

From: ws7927@sbc.com
Subject: Homeland Security article
Date: September 19, 2005 8:13:21 AM CDT
To: brad@braddye.com

Mr. Dye,

I regularly receive your newsletter, and today's article regarding Homeland Security and the image of the receiving device were interesting. I called my Senator's office in D.C. asking if they were interested in a copy. They were, but attachments cannot be sent via email. Would it be possible for you to send me a copy of the lead article and the photo of the proposed device only? Faxing the entire newsletter would be difficult.

Thanks

W. Spies
Engineering
SBC Paging
ws7927@sbc.com


Hello William,

Thank you very much for your support of my newsletter and the Paging Industry. Please find attached, a "pdf" file of the lead article in Friday's issue. Let me know if this works for you. Good luck. If I may be of any assistance, please let me know.

Best regards,

Brad Dye


Mr.Dye,

Copies of your pdf file have been faxed to Sen. Coburn on the Homeland Security Committee and to Sen. Kit Bond. Additional copies will be faxed to other members of the H.S. committee as I obtain their fax numbers. Your personal page was included. I hope someone contacts you regarding this matter.

Thanks again,

W. Spies


Johan Ågren Writes from Sweden

From: johan.agren@generic.se
Subject: Re: Wireless Messaging Newsletter for Johan Ågren
Date: September 19, 2005 2:42:53 AM CDT
To: brad@braddye.com

Hi Brad,

Thanks for an excellent newsletter.

I can only agree with your thoughts on using paging for alerting the public. Paging is the best technology for this today - however the penetration is too low. One way to increase the penetration is to use the InfoLink receiver. Another way which I have not seen you mentioning is to integrate a paging receiver into a mobile phone. Siemens have loosely stated that the cost for doing this should be a mere $5 per telephone, given a large volume. The paging operator E-Message in Germany/France is lobbying for this in Europe.

There are several advantages to this. You can rapidly reach a very high penetration of paging devices for public alerting. You can even start in a small scale with only one or two models - preferably the rugged ones that rescue services, police etc use. But I also beleive there will be an interest in the consumer market. Imagine receiving alerts of voicemail via paging message when the phone is turned off. [. . .]

Still there is a need for someone demanding a very large volume of paging telephones. It seems like a tough case convincing the mobile telephone operators to demand this. It is probably easier to make the authorities require, or support the blue light agencies (rescue service, police, etc) in purchasing such telephones, and thereby get the ball start rolling.

Best Regards,

Johan Ågren
VP Marketing and Sales


Tel: +46 8 601 3854
Mobil: +46 70 635 2660
Minicall: +46 746 501 860
Fax: +46 8 716 0103

Generic Mobile Systems Sweden AB
Box 4023
SE-131 04 Nacka
Besöksadress: Augustendalstorget 3

Generic Mobile is the national paging operator in Sweden. The company is privately held and acquired the paging business from the incumbent operator Telia in 2002.

E-mail: johan.agren@generic.se
Web: www.minicall.se generic.se


Jonathan Brickman Writes

From: jbrickman@joshuacorps.org
Subject: InfoLink equivalent already exists in USA!
Date: September 9, 2005 1:35:46 PM CDT
To: brad@braddye.com

You mentioned InfoLink. There is such a system nationwide in the U.S.A. right now, though it is not well publicized. It is the current generation of the technology common in the old Radio Shack 'Weatheradio', but it warns of really everything, including weather (tornado is big here in Topeka, Kansas), earthquake, and even the Amber Alerts. The following link is to the manufacturer's page of the device my wife and I have been keeping running since last December.

http://www.midlandradio.com/comersus/store/comersus_viewItem.asp?idProduct=3105

It works very well indeed, although it is not very easy to set up. It is both digital and analogue in transmission, so the old radios still work (I think), but these things are far more intelligent. It uses digital for location specificity (by county!) and the type of trouble (tornado, Amber, storm, etc., reported in a very few words on its simple LCD display), and it uses analogue for the details by recorded (usually synthesized) voice. It gives us a distinctive and loud audible warning when there is something new applicable to us. We have it set to report only issues relevant to our county and the county to the east of ours, which is where my wife's parents live, cutting false alarms way down. The only thing missing on this unit is that its batteries are not auto-rechargeable, it uses ordinary disposables. We do keep it plugged into the AC power, with good batteries installed.


Jonathan E. Brickman
http://joshuacorps.org


Then I sent him the Weather Radio Alerting article by Ken Post, and he replied with the following:


From: jbrickman@joshuacorps.org
Subject: Re: InfoLink equivalent already exists in USA!
Date: September 19, 2005 8:07:53 PM CDT
To: brad@braddye.com

Hi, Brad. Thanks for writing.

I certainly agree with most of the limitations of the current all-hazards radio system cited in the document. Another big problem it has is the fact that configuring one's home unit for SAME is rather difficult, significantly more difficult than programming a 1995-era VCR. If someone comes out with an auto-self-configuring unit which sets itself via its own GPS receiver, I'm sure it will sell, especially if the user can override the setting.

But there is one huge upside to the existing system: microscopic price at the bargain basement. I can buy a weatheradio for $15 easily, and probably $5 if I look carefully. I cannot buy or build any digital wireless receiver with text readout and text-to-speech capability (or digital audio capability) for $15, and much of the utility of such units is through the ears. Of course, with targeted mass production, this would not be a problem, I think. But I really do wonder if the poorer residents of Israel have access to InfoLink.

I certainly agree that it might well be possible to motivate the feds to spring however many billions would be needed for digital wireless receivers for all with the needed specs. Given that there is a wave in government towards such activity, I do think it good for us to encourage such things be done as simply and easily as possible, with minimal chaos (evil done) to all. And so, I strongly suggest that you will find it much more profitable to describe the national warning system as "a very significant upgrade to the current all hazards radio system", instead of stating that the current system is no solution at all. In the deep dark past I worked at a major government agency (the National Bureau of Standards, now NIST), and I know that you can make strong allies of many of the current all-hazards agency people if you encourage something new as a tremendously beneficial upgrade, rather than a junk-out-and-replacement. But if you couch it as a junk-out-and-replacement, if you say things like:

The strategic messaging limitations of weather radio actually discourage development and general usage of new information technology tools and methods needed for catastrophic terrorism and other major situations.

You make enemies of many of the very people you really need to help, the people who have been struggling to improve the system for decades. Instead, I think you need to be saying something like:

The existing all hazards system has served, but with today's digital technology, we can do much better. And we should do much better, since we now can, given the new issues of today's world.

There are also some limitations cited in the document which are not really true at this writing. Most of all, machine speech is now most often heard on the U.S. all-hazards system, and not human speech. I am not certain that human speech is ever heard anymore, though I do not know the truth of the matter. This does mean that either some, most, or all of the comments in your current document involving phoning in reports, are not true anymore, though I am certain they were mostly true in 1998 (I began to hear machine speech at some times on weatheradio in, approximately, 1998). Based on my jackleg analysis on what I have heard and read on warning web sites (the machine-read text for Topeka, Kansas is exactly, word for word, including punctuation and other small items, the info which is on the Yahoo weather warning pages), I think that reporting is very nearly all in digital text now, that it is only the transmission to the public which is not entirely digital. The transmission to the public is at least partly digital: at least one line of text does come in to my box with every alarm. I think it would be very good to take the position of being a strong encourager of this existing trend. The happier we make our lawful authorities, the happier everyone is, usually :)

Also remember, the Israeli system has to cover a postage-stamp of land, whereas the U.S. system has to cover a significant proportion of the globe. And the situation is very different in Israel. I remember being there, and how important it was that all of us there know exactly where we were at every moment. It was very important, because if you stepped into the wrong area, you were not unlikely to be shot by someone who hates your kind. So it's easy for Israeli reporters to report their location: they have to know it for other reasons, and the longest dimension of their entire domain is the length of one very long tornado-chase in Kansas.

So I agree that one of the very big problems is equipping the reporters. The reporters really need to be equipped with some sort of very simple box which would:

1. Have large buttons marked variously Tornado, Flood, High Wind, Quake, Fire, Violent Attack, etc.;
2. Have other large buttons marked 1-block radius, ten-block radius, 1-mile radius, etc.;
3. Have other large buttons marked 1 block away, ten blocks away, 1 mile away, etc.;
4. Have other large buttons marked North, Northwest, West, Southwest, South, etc.;
5. Have a button marked Record GPS;
6. Have a button marked Send.

The reporter would hit one button of each category, and the box would then attempt to send the report by all of a large variety of bandwidth, including 2-way pager, SMS, GPRS, satfone, WiFi/WiMAX, digital police bands (do they exist?), amateur packet radio frequencies, and whatever else might be out there. Home Base would have another box to take in all of these reports, tally them up, and deliver a realtime threat report map. When three or four close-approximate duplicates came in, the Home Base box would automatically send out a Tentative Situation Watch to all receivers, and the authorities would wake up and be required to decide whether or not to change it to something else, like a Get Your Ass Out Of There Now :).

And certainly, the agencies have to be both taught and motivated to do a better job of keeping the machines running properly. But these days, well-built digital machines of all kinds do self-diagnosis. So again, we have "upgrade", rather than "throw it all out". Certainly there is some existing staff which will resent all new equipment...but they don't matter in government, what matters is opportunity to help political bosses make their departments look good. The bosses control both the dollars and the politics which you need to get this done. So don't talk about irrelevance of the status quo: talk about helping those folks do much better. They are highly motivated to make their bosses look good: that's how they got their jobs. If you help them, they will help you :)

If I were you, I would work to find out what agency is responsible for setting up the digital transmission specs which the current all-hazards system uses. Then I would find out the total extent of digital data being passed at the moment. Government being what it is, there might well be far more digital data being passed than that Midland box can handle; if there is, you really ought to have a box hand-built by one of your contacts in wireless, in order to familiarize yourself entirely with the current state of the art. But regardless of the current state of the art, find out what agency is responsible, and start plotting how to make partners of them. Find the right people in that agency and make good strong friends of them. Agree with them on a large grant that would be beneficial to you both. Take that to a congressperson or somebody somewhere near Cabinet-level. And then go.

Any other path will be fighting against very powerful people, which I would rather not see you try to do, Brad! It is not fun :)


Jonathan E. Brickman
http://joshuacorps.org


Greg Branch Is Helping the Victims of Katrina

From: gbranch@dctexas.net
Subject: from the newsletter
Date: September 16, 2005 11:46:07 AM CDT
To: brad@braddye.com

hey brad:

greg branch here, from digi comm in tyler, tx ..thanks for keeping us up-to-date with your newsletter, we really enjoy it ....wanted to point out real kwik, we have had a bunch of people from louisiana in our communities here in east texas over the past couple of weeks....what we did as a company, was take a bunch of our 'old' pagers, that we could restore, put new cases on, etc, and gave them to some of the local shelters..we did this because a lot of people here needed a 'phone number' per say, for potential employers to call them, or family to find them...just wanted to let you know, that the 'out-of-date' 'old-school' pagers are still alive and kicking, and certainly can be helpful as you have stated in your newsletter. this has been an affective way to help out others in their time of need ...please pass this along to others, who may still need our help ..

thanks,

greg branch
gm, digi comm


Bob Popow Makes a Good Point

From: bobpopow@daviscomms.com.sg
Subject: from the newsletter
Date: September 16, 2005 11:34:38 AM CDT
To: brad@braddye.com

Brad:

I enjoyed your newsletter as always and agree with your premise regarding the use of existing 1-Way and 2-Way Paging Technologies for disaster warning and on-site communications.

However I would be remiss if I did not mention that existing Paging Receivers, as supplied by company’s like ours (Daviscomms) to Major Carriers like USMO as well as a myriad of Regional Carriers and On-Site Systems would solve the Disaster Warning aspect without having to “re-invent the wheel”. Your reference to InfoLink is a good visual for your readers, but I would ask that you also consider that the products of your advertisers and readers could adapt to this application as well.

Thanks for your consideration of this.

Regards,

Bob Popow


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Minilec Service, Inc.
Suite A
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Moorpark, CA 93021
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I am an authorized Manufacturer Representative for Selective Communications. Please contact me directly for any additional information. left arrow CLICK HERE

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Motorola CreataLink OEM Modules

Specifications:

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  • POCSAG Paging Protocol 512 /1200/ 2400 Baud
  • Supply Voltage 12V +/- 10%
  • Operating Temperature -20º to +70º C (-4º to +158ºF)
  • Storage Temperature -40º to +85º C
  • First Oscillator Stability +/- 2.5 ppm
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General:

  • Physical Dimensions 4.75” x 3.25” x 1” (LxWxH)
  • Weight 4.6 ozs.
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CreataLink POCSAG 900 Mhz Telemetry Modules

These are new closeout surplus and still in original Motorola packaging with very favorable below cost pricing. Several hundred are available. They have RS232 serial outputs in addition to the trigger points and the optional external antenna connectors. Please let me know if there is any interest in this opportunity.

Estos son módulos de sobra, nuevos en su embalaje original de Motorola. Los precios son muy favorables, menos del costo original. Hay centenares de ellos disponibles. Incluyen salidas seriales RS232 en adición a los puntos de abre y cierra. También tienen conectores opcionales para antenas externos. Avísame por favor si hay alguna interés en esta oportunidad.

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This system is ideal for public or private Paging system operators that use multiple transmitters and wish to create new Paging systems or to build out existing systems into new regions. For more information about Zetron's High Speed Simulcast Paging System, the Model 600 and Model 620, go to:

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P.O. Box 97004
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Tel: 425-820-6363
Fax: 425-820-7031
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Customers in Latin America may contact Brad Dye for price and delivery information. Español esta bien.


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Written by Mark Rayburn
Wednesday, 14 September 2005

There has been a lot of buzz around VoiceXML in past years, but now this mature standard is demonstrating its value to businesses every day. By bringing a common language for voice applications to everyone from developers to software and infrastructure vendors, VoiceXML is finally positioned to help the bottom line of enterprises everywhere.

The Development of VoiceXML

VoiceXML is a standard language based on XML used to describe the user interface of a voice application. All audio heard by the caller and any verbal or touch-tone responses entered by the caller are provided and responded to by the VoiceXML application. These applications are very similar to Web applications in that a VoiceXML document (just like an HTML document) is sent to a VoiceXML gateway, which interprets or “renders” the document into audio, rather than a screen display. In fact, VoiceXML gateways are often referred to as “browsers” due to the identical way that they interact with the Web application server; only the format of the document is different.

Depending on the application development model, companies may write static VoiceXML pages, or more commonly, dynamically generate the pages through JAVA, JSP, ASP, .NET, or any other server-side language. VoiceXML not only ties into existing Web standards, but it also introduces many complementary technologies such as speech recognition, speech synthesis, and call control to further extend and enhance the quality and richness of application features. (See Figure One: The VoiceXML Ecosystem)

voice xml sstory

Just as HTML revolutionized the business world by making Web applications easy to create, VoiceXML has started its own revolution by making it easy to develop and control voice applications. Until VoiceXML emerged, proprietary solutions were widespread throughout the telecom industry. As a result, a voice application built to one vendor’s specifications wouldn't work on another vendor’s components.

Companies became frustrated with the lack of standards in this area and began expressing their desire for a single standard that could bring agreement and focus to the telecom industry. In response to this desire, AT&T, IBM, Lucent, and Motorola created the VoiceXML Forum in March 1999 to unite the industry under one single standard with the goal of expanding Internet access through telephones and other devices using both speech and ordinary touch-tone interfaces.

In the “dark days” before VoiceXML, only proprietary hardware and software solutions were available. This meant the voice application provider was making a major commitment and taking a considerable risk when choosing the voice platform/hardware. To change to another vendor at that time meant a major, or sometimes total, rewrite of the application. This artificial “lock-in” to a specific vendor was neither healthy nor desired. Since that time, all the major vendors and application developers have adopted the VoiceXML standard.

Although there still can be slight differences in interpretation or implementation, VoiceXML is the best choice for organizations interested in voice application portability. Today, the VoiceXML Forum consists of more than 325 member companies whose mission is to promote and to accelerate the worldwide adoption of VoiceXML-based applications.

VoiceXML has been through several iterations since the forum’s inception. The most current recommendation, VoiceXML 2.0, was released in March 2004. Now in revision 2.1, VoiceXML has experienced widespread adoption. In fact, hundreds of millions of calls each day are handled by more than 10,000 of these applications around the world.

Today, VoiceXML users include companies that generate voice applications, as well as companies that develop speech applications as front ends to call centers in either a self-service model or via intelligent call routing. In addition, companies that write enterprise-focused Web applications, such as sales force automation and CRM applications, are using VoiceXML to leverage their existing Web application architecture and make it accessible via other vehicles, such as telephones. Production applications include industries such as airline, transportation, stock brokerage houses, health care, insurance, emergency alerting, retail, and national toll-free numbers for government agencies.

VoiceXML Design Goals:

  • Separate user interaction code (presentation) from service logic
  • Minimize client/server interactions by specifying multiple interactions per document
  • Shield application authors from low-level, and platform-specific details
  • Promote service portability across implementation platforms
  • Simplify interactions, yet provide language features to support complex dialogs
  • Expand developer pool of resources by tapping into the Web world

According to the VoiceXML Forum, “VoiceXML’s growing popularity and effectiveness is reflected in the many recently deployed applications that use it.” Taking telecommunications carriers’ applications as examples, AT&T’s toll-free directory assistance services a whopping 200,000,000 calls per year. Cingular’s Voice Connect lets customers speak a name or phone number to make a phone call and use voice commands to access information services such as stock quotes and sports. Verizon’s VoiceXML-based repair application offers customers a voice-enabled portal that handles thousands of calls each day and is capable of retrieving the customer’s records, running a line test, checking and confirming appointment times, updating customer contact information, and creating a trouble ticket. It’s not only the Telcos that rely on VoiceXML; thousands of companies in a wide array of other industries offer speech applications that meet the varied needs of their customers and employees.”

Enabling Hosting

Arguably the biggest value that VoiceXML brings to businesses is the ability to get their solutions up and running faster and with less risk by leveraging a hosting company.

Hosting, or outsourcing the infrastructure, has always been a great idea in theory, but until the industry began adopting standards it wasn't completely feasible.

VoiceXML is a new generation of IVR that was actually created in a Web environment. Therefore, distributed processing—namely the separation of presentation (audio) from business logic—is an inherent property. This separation allows an application provider to totally control (or even own) the application server while “farming out” the actual telephony infrastructure.

This dramatic shift from previous IVR architectures is one of the biggest disruptive effects still resonating in the industry.

The application writer no longer needs to know details about the underlying infrastructure. Similarly, before a voice application standard was in place, it was impossible to offer effective voice application hosting. A voice application that was written in a proprietary language or based on proprietary hardware and/or software interfaces couldn’t be portable. Without portability, “true” hosting couldn’t exist.

VoiceXML places a layer of abstraction between the telephony details and the business logic so that regardless of the language used to generate the dynamics, somebody with a VoiceXML gateway can host that application, so long as it outputs VoiceXML.

Besides creating a transportable code, VoiceXML already has freed the industry from artificial vendor lock-in. In addition, it allows the industry to leverage existing and ubiquitous programming, staff, frameworks, tools, and languages while encouraging technology competition that inevitably lowers costs and creates better features. For example, consider that for a given popular proprietary solution, a couple of thousand programmers understand the development environment. Contrast this with the millions of staff that understand Web development.

VoiceXML also is important for several other reasons. Not only does this standard remove the complexities and details of implementation, but developers now are free to write applications without having to become telecom experts.

VoiceXML Benefits

To Web Developers:

  • Reach more users through voice
    • Providing access for visually challenged users
    • Foster impulsive usage through immediacy
    • Mobile community
  • Further differentiate your offering
    • Add some “sizzle” by giving users something new to talk about
    • Deepen/broaden the brand
  • Leverage existing expertise
    • Keep all deployment tools and processes
    • Share back-end data access and business logic with Web applications

To Enterprises via Hosting:

  • Minimize Risk
    • Under-building capacity hurts quality of service
    • Over-building capacity wastes resources
    • Avoid engineering and operational liabilities
    • Use existing field-hardened infrastructure
    • Avoid integration hassles
    • Easily portable to “best” vendor
    • High level of security
  • Fastest time to market
  • Eliminate huge Cap-ex investment
  • Freedom to grow, experiment, or prove concepts
  • Focus on core business

And, since the standard creates a universal language, it creates vendor independence, which means the end customer can freely choose its technology provider.

Finally, sophisticated, natural language interfaces now are feasible, creating an improved and cost-effective user experience.

Outsourcing Vs. On-Premises Hosting

Now that hosting voice applications is a tried-and-true reality, enterprises can effectively increase their speed to market and gain unprecedented flexibility over system capacity while saving money, time, and personnel. Some enterprises may choose to build their own on-premises network, while others may decide to outsource the application hosting to a third party.

When weighing the pros and cons of building an on-premises network versus outsourcing the application hosting to a third party, there are four key areas to consider: the steps it will take to bring the product to market; the enterprise’s capacity requirements; the enterprise’s core business expertise; and security.

Steps To Market — Planning and building a CPE solution can take several months and requires an enormous commitment of time and resources. Naturally, an enterprise wants an understanding of what it takes to build and launch its applications, but as a small business, it may not have the resources to dedicate to this project.

Building a network takes a great deal of work, and often it forces key employees to spend their time acquiring and developing VoiceXML and telephony expertise rather than focusing on the enterprise’s core business. Once they learn the basics of the project, they will have to spend a great deal of time and money planning the network infrastructure, selecting vendors, and purchasing the hardware and software products. Next, the key personnel have to develop relationships with carriers, negotiate terms with them, provision lines, and then commit to traffic levels without really knowing yet how much traffic the applications will generate.

Once the application is ready to go, it requires testing as well as developing operational procedures that go along with monitoring the network, reporting problems in the network, and sounding alarms. Lastly, whenever the platform requires an upgrade, the enterprise’s employees will then need to repeat the entire process to upgrade platform components.

Opting to host the application with a third party negates the risk of building CPE infrastructure. The time and up-front capital expenses of building, testing, and deploying infrastructure are removed from the telephony business plan. Choosing a hosting company with a scalable platform that is already built, tested, staffed, monitored, and maintained can bring an enterprise’s application to market quickly. All that needs to be done is to build the application, test it, launch it, and then maintain it.

Capacity — Planning capacity for a solution can be very tricky because, depending on the enterprise’s type of business, its network will be busier at certain times of the day than others. On-premises solutions must be built to cover peak anticipated call volumes, but often those occasional spikes are considerably higher than typical call volumes. The result is a highly inefficient investment in platform capacity that is only occasionally fully utilized and, as a result, costly. Growth is an important consideration as well. What if actual call volumes were underestimated? Ramping up on-premises infrastructure while the system is in service can be logistically difficult and costly.

In a hosting scenario, it is possible to burst capacity to meet spikes in call volume, meaning a company only pays for what it uses, not for what is sitting idle. A voice application hosting company allows customers to leverage the accumulated capacity of its platform, providing the headroom to absorb traffic spikes. The hosting company’s scalable architecture and vendor relationships make it easy to grow available capacity in step with the demand for the voice application. As a result, the enterprise can enjoy flexible capacity. Spikes in traffic can be spread across the hosting company’s infrastructure. Most importantly, the enterprise can pay for the capacity based on its usage. When its needs to grow, it can scale its service as needed with a simple adjustment to a service agreement.

Commitment & Expertise — One of the most obvious reasons to outsource voice application hosting to a hosting company is that telephony is not usually the core business of an enterprise. In order to build on-premises infrastructure, an enterprise’s employees must acquire a lot of ancillary expertise, or hire employees who have telephony knowledge. In addition, staying current on technology can be a resource drain, and software point releases and their required integration and testing often are unanticipated costs.

By choosing a voice application hosting company with a core focus on telephony, an enterprise will be able to leverage its experience delivering carrier-grade performance and volume as well as its established vendor and partner relationships. Enterprises need to look for a hosting company that works with a wide variety of partners, carriers, and vendors in the speech and telephony industry to ensure that it can take advantage of its best-of-breed solutions.

Security — When it comes to a voice application-hosting infrastructure, security is key. Not only must the equipment be physically secured, it is vital to protect the data via encryption. Physically securing infrastructure can dramatically increase costs, and these security costs impact return on investment. In addition, software security features are usually add-ons, not designed into the software programs. In order to make sure the system is impenetrable from hackers or thieves, outside consultants and experts often are required.

A voice application hosting company allows an enterprise to enjoy a higher level of both physical and data security than would normally be affordable for most CPE deployments. When seeking a voice application hosting company, enterprises should be sure to examine their security measures. The facilities should still operate in disaster conditions, and the premises should be monitored 24x7 by professional security personnel. The network itself should be protected via SSL, SSH, and 3DES encryption, and access to the system should be restricted through secure VPN.

Conclusion

VoiceXML has developed through the years into a mature standard that has been adopted by hundreds of companies around the world. Thanks to this common language, applications now are transportable from vendor to vendor, and applications can run on any VoiceXML gateway or browser. As a result, the ability to host applications is now a reality. The ability to host voice applications means that enterprises can focus their expertise on the business problems that they need to solve and let a hosting company focus on the operational problems that need to be solved.

Planning and building a CPE solution can take several months and requires an enormous commitment of time and resources. Opting to host bypasses the need to assume the risk of building CPE infrastructure. The time and up-front capital expenses of building, testing, and deploying infrastructure are removed from the telephony business plan.

A VoiceXML application hosting company provides more vendor choices, removes the stress of operating and maintaining an in-house infrastructure, saves limited human and financial resources, gets an enterprise to market faster, and reduces the company’s risk. In the meantime, customers gain the freedom to bring out new voice solutions while letting go of the headaches of day-to-day operations.

Mark Rayburn is director of Advanced Technology at CPT International. He was responsible for introducing VoiceXML technology to the company.

Source: VoIP Magazine (Thanks to Barry Kanne for sending me this article.)


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Wi-Fi, WiMax, and VoIP News

Telecoms and the internet

The meaning of free speech

Sep 15th 2005 | LONDON AND SAN FRANCISCO
From The Economist print edition

free speech graphic

The acquisition by eBay of Skype is a helpful reminder to the world's trillion-dollar telecoms industry that all phone calls will eventually be free

NIKLAS Zennstrom and Janus Friis, the founders of Skype, which distributes software that lets people make free calls from their computers to other Skype users anywhere in the world, don't usually travel to America. Legally, they probably could. But they prefer to avoid that jurisdiction, since they also founded (and subsequently sold) KaZaA, a peer-to-peer software company whose product many people use to share copyrighted songs. So setting foot in America could invite some legal trouble. This does not mean, however, that they cannot appear at conferences in Silicon Valley, where Skype—which uses the same basic idea of KaZaA, but applies it mainly to voice communication—is considered the next big thing.

Thus, in July, Mr Zennstrom appeared, via a Skype video call, on the screen of a packed auditorium at Stanford University, while sitting in Estonia next to Tim Draper, a venture capitalist who invested $10m in Skype. Mr Draper is the ultimate loud American, whereas Mr Zennstrom is a somber Swede. “He's already taken down one industry and he's on to the next one,” hollered Mr Draper—referring to recording studios and telecoms companies. Mr Zennstrom started shifting uncomfortably. “I never wanna sell my stock until it's a hundred billion,” Mr Draper yelled, then started singing and dancing. The blushing Mr Zennstrom was speechless.

The Federal Communications Commission has information on VOIP. Sandvine describes the VOIP market. IDC predicts growth in residential subscriptions. The OECD has a report on VOIP. AlwaysOn Network hosts a recording of Mr Zennstrom’s video call, aired at Stanford University. Ebay has a press release on its purchase of Skype. See also China Telecom, Madison River Communications, Vodafone, Clearwire, Google Talk, Teleo, Dialpad, AOL’s VOIP test, Internet Telephony, Apple’s iChat, Verizon’s VoiceWing and BT’s Broadband Voice.

Of course, Mr Draper was posturing. That became clear on September 12th, when Skype announced that it had agreed to be taken over by eBay, based in Silicon Valley and the world's largest online marketplace. Mr Draper and Skype's other investors will get nothing like $100 billion, but eBay is paying a hefty sum—$2.6 billion in cash and shares and perhaps more if certain criteria are met—nonetheless.

This pairing took many people by surprise. There have been rumors that Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft and other technology companies were also interested in buying Skype. Any of these might have made a more obvious fit, since each also has instant-messaging software that can be used for free phone calls (or “voice chats”, as opposed to text chats) between computers. Google, the world's most popular internet search engine, launched its own voice-chat software in August. A week later, Microsoft bought Teleo, a San Francisco company that lets people call conventional telephones from their computers (as Skype also does, for $0.02 a minute). Yahoo! had already bought Dialpad, another Skype-like firm, in June. AOL, Apple and others have similar products.

As Meg Whitman, eBay's boss, and Mr Zennstrom explain it, a combination of eBay and Skype is not all that far-fetched. From eBay's point of view, placing cute Skype buttons on the web pages where people trade used cars, houses and other items that usually require voice bargaining “reduces friction”, says Ms Whitman. Buyers can simply click on the button and talk to sellers. Another idea is to make money from “pay-per-call” advertising, where advertisers would place voice links (ie, Skype buttons) on certain pages just as they now place text links on, say, the search-results pages of Google. Whenever a web surfer clicks on one of these links and talks to a salesperson, the advertiser would pay eBay and Skype a fee. Google got rich by doing this in the text world; there is no reason why eBay might not be able to do it in the voice world.

From Skype's point of view, the deal strengthens its existing link with PayPal, eBay's online bank, which it uses to charge for services such as calls from computers to conventional telephones (called SkypeOut) or from conventional phones into Skype (called SkypeIn). This involves prepaid accounts, which Skype users can top up via PayPal with their credit cards.

For Skype, however, the main attraction may be that eBay, unlike the other potential suitors, plans to leave it largely alone, both as a brand and as a business. “When Yahoo! and Microsoft buy companies, they typically disintegrate them,” says Mr Zennstrom. His vision for Skype, by contrast, is to become the world's biggest and best platform for all communications—text, voice or video—from any internet-connected device, whether a computer or a mobile phone.

This is every bit as audacious as it sounds. Mr Zennstrom, in general, is a modest man. But his company is only three years old, will probably make only $60m in revenues this year, and will certainly not turn a profit. So it is the fact that his ambition is not nearly as ridiculous as it sounds that should make incumbent telecoms firms everywhere break out in a cold sweat.

That is because Skype can add 150,000 users a day (its current rate) without spending anything on new equipment (users “bring” their own computers and internet connections) or marketing (users invite each other). With no marginal cost, Skype can thus afford to maximize the number of its users, knowing that if only some of them start buying its fee-based services—such as SkypeOut, SkypeIn and voicemail—Skype will make money. This adds up to a very unusual business plan.

“We want to make as little money as possible per user,” says Mr Zennstrom, because “we don't have any cost per user, but we want a lot of them.” This is the exact opposite of the traditional business model in the telecoms industry, which is based on maximizing the average revenue per user, or ARPU. And that has only one logical consequence. According to Rich Tehrani, the founder of Internet Telephony, a magazine devoted to the subject, Skype and services like it are leading inexorably to a future in which all voice communication, near or far, will be free.

End of the line
The technical term that encompasses all forms of voice communication using the internet is voice-over-internet-protocol, or VOIP. This includes pure computer-to-computer calling as well as the various hybrid states, such as a Skype user connecting to the traditional telephone network, or even two people talking on seemingly conventional phones that are linked, behind the scenes, via the internet. It also includes residential VOIP providers such as Vonage, based in New Jersey and the market leader in America with over 1m subscribers, that supply their customers with adapters so they can plug ordinary telephones into their broadband connections without using a computer.

Sandvine, a telecoms-equipment firm, estimates that there are 1,100 VOIP providers in America alone. But the trend is worldwide. IDC, a market-research firm, predicts that the number of residential VOIP subscribers in America will grow from 3m at the end of 2005 to 27m by the end of 2009; Japan already has over 8m subscribers today. Worldwide, according to iSuppli, a market-research firm, the number of residential VOIP subscribers will reach 197m by 2010. Even these numbers, however, do not include people using VOIP without subscribing to a service (ie, by downloading free software from Google, Skype or others). Skype alone has 54m users.

skype chart 1Even before VOIP makes 100% of telephone calls in the world completely free (which may take many years), it utterly ruins the pricing models of the telecoms industry. Factors such as the distance between the callers or the duration of a call, the key determinants of cost today, are simply irrelevant with VOIP. Vonage already lets its customers choose telephone numbers in San Francisco, New York or London, no matter where they live. A Londoner calling the London number is making a “local” call, even if the Vonage subscriber is picking up the phone in Shanghai. As when checking e-mail on, say, Hotmail, the only thing needed is a broadband-internet connection, but it can be anywhere in the world. Sooner or later, people will discard their unwieldy phone numbers altogether and use names, just as they do with their e-mail addresses, predicts Mr Zennstrom.

Call duration is also becoming irrelevant. “A lot of people open a Skype audio channel and keep it open,” says Mr Zennstrom. After all, it costs nothing. Many people with Apple computers are already accustomed to this. They open an application called iChat, which is a video and voice link, and stay connected to their loved ones far away. Increasingly, members of a family or a business team can stay online throughout the day, escalating from unobtrusive instant-messaging (“Can you talk?”) to a conference call, a video call and back to a little icon on their screen.

It is thus altogether wrong to call this phenomenon the end, or death, of telephony. “Calling it the death of telephony suggests people aren't going to make calls, but they are,” says Sam Paltridge, a telecoms guru at the OECD. “It's just the death of the traditional pricing models.” In short, all this is great news for consumers and awful news for telecoms operators. “VOIP will destroy voice revenues faster than most analysts' models predict,” says Cyrus Mewawalla, an analyst at Westhall Capital. “Voice will very rapidly cease to become a major revenue generator for all telecoms operators, fixed and mobile.”

skype chart 2That said, some telecoms carriers are much more vulnerable to VOIP than others, says Mr Mewawalla. Telecoms operators offer and charge for a number of services besides pure voice calls. Because VOIP will cause only the revenues from voice calls to shrink, it will hit those operators hardest that are most dependent on their revenues from voice (see chart 2).

For pure mobile operators, such as Vodafone or Taiwan Mobile—as it happens, Taiwan is the country with the highest ratio of Skype users—VOIP could be an “enormous problem”, says Mr Mewawalla, because voice accounts for over 80% of their revenues. By contrast, VOIP is less threatening to integrated operators (ie, those offering both fixed and mobile services) such as Deutsche Telekom or Japan's NTT. And those carriers—such as BT, France Telecom or KPN—that are currently building next-generation networks based on internet technologies will be able to offer VOIP services themselves, bundled with other offerings, and might emerge relatively unscathed.

Some operators are taking an unenlightened view by trying to delay the advance of VOIP. China Telecom has been blocking access to Skype from Shenzen, according to local newspaper reports. Vodafone has introduced wording into new contracts for some German subscribers reserving the right to block VOIP in future, though a spokesman for the company says it is not doing so at the moment. Clearwire, an American wireless-broadband provider, also reserves the right to block VOIP traffic. In February, Madison River Communications, a rural phone company in North Carolina, was fined $15,000 by regulators for blocking access to Vonage's VOIP service. Occasionally, operators have even blocked access to Skype's website, thus preventing people from downloading the software or topping up their calling credit.

The more enlightened approach—which most operators in rich countries, to varying degrees, accept—is to compete with VOIP openly or even to embrace it. Already, says Mr Paltridge, pricing of traditional phone services is changing quite radically as operators “try to adjust and to compete with the Skypes of this world”. Operators are moving towards flat-rate pricing plans for traditional telephone service, so that the marginal price of making calls falls to zero. Many American regional operators offer unlimited local and national calling for a fixed monthly fee, and such schemes are also becoming popular in other countries.

Several incumbent operators have also launched their own VOIP services, such as Verizon's VoiceWing and BT's Broadband Voice. These offer lower prices than traditional telephone service but are generally not as cheap as a call between Skype and a regular phone. “If you can't beat 'em, join 'em,” says John Delaney of Ovum, a consultancy. Such services are an admission that a less lucrative VOIP customer is better than no customer at all. Switching to VOIP also helps operators by lowering their own costs dramatically. BT and others are building new, internet-based networks behind the scenes, which will carry all voice traffic as VOIP even if the calls start or end in the traditional way.

The other argument for embracing VOIP is that the incumbents can then start offering the fun new services that VOIP makes possible and charging for them. This goes far beyond traditional voicemail. Video-conferencing and unified messaging—whereby all forms of communication, from voicemail and video messages to e-mails or entire electronic documents go into one virtual “inbox”—will become common, says Wendy McMillan-Turner, head of voice services at BT. Since all of these features are essentially software programmes, they can all be integrated with applications that people today use on their computers, such as Outlook calendars and contacts files.

The service that many telecoms operators are most excited about, however, is IPTV, which refers to television (and entertainment in general) being delivered over new and super-fast broadband-internet connections into homes. This would allow them to charge for a bundle of services, including broadband access, entertainment and voice. The voice component could then atrophy gracefully and eventually be thrown in for nothing. “Ultimately—perhaps by 2010—voice may become a free internet application, with operators making money from related internet applications like IPTV,” says Mr Mewawalla.

Cable operators are coming at VOIP from exactly the opposite direction. They already offer television and entertainment, as well as broadband access, so they might as well offer cheap telephony as well. This puts the cable companies in a good position. Unlike the telecoms operators, they do not depend on voice for their revenues today, so they can use cheap VOIP service as a competitive weapon to make life difficult for the telecoms operators, who are increasingly their only competition. In California, for example, most people have a choice between one cable company, Comcast, and one traditional telecoms carrier, SBC. Since voice uses very little bandwidth compared with television, the cable companies need not even add a lot in the way of bandwidth.

The result, says Mr Mewawalla, is that voice service is fast becoming a marketing freebie to make customers “sticky”—to keep them loyal. “I would expect people to advertise free calls with VOIP, subsidized by other elements of the package,” says Ms McMillan-Turner. Thus, BT will consider value-added services sold around VOIP as voice revenues in future, she says. BT hopes that selling such services will offset the inevitable decline in traditional voice revenue. Evalueserve, a consultancy, predicts that American and European fixed operators' long-distance voice revenue will decline by around 40% by 2008, and that in Europe 50% of broadband users will give up their voice lines by 2008.

Mobile operators face a far greater challenge than fixed-line carriers. Voice accounts for the bulk of their business and they cannot (at least today) offer broadband access as easily as the cable and fixed-line companies. New “third-generation” (3G) networks were supposed to make possible whizzy new data services to compensate for flat and even declining revenues from voice calls, but consumer adoption has been slow.

Worse, those very 3G networks that are supposed to provide future growth for the industry could now undermine it, since they make possible VOIP calling over mobile networks. Already, one mobile operator, E-Plus in Germany, has announced a deal that will allow subscribers to use Skype on its 3G network. Users would thus pay only for the internet connection, while making free calls to other Skype users and to other telephones for very little. E-Plus hopes to win valuable business customers and to put pressure on much bigger but less agile rivals such as Vodafone.

Today, VOIP calling over 3G networks is still very much a minority sport, but as 3G coverage and transmission speeds improve—something the industry is racing to achieve—it will become common. This represents a mortal danger for mobile operators. “VOIP on mobile is the first real threat they are going to face, and they are in a state of shock,” says Mr Mewawalla. Mobile operators generally charge three to five times as much as fixed operators for each minute on the phone, so they have far more to lose from falling voice prices. International travelers will use VOIP over hotel-room broadband links or Wi-Fi hotspots in airports to save on the roaming charges by their mobile-phone company.

Vodafone counters that, like BT, it is moving towards internet-based networks that will reduce its own cost of carrying calls and make possible new value-added services. But this sounds unconvincing. Much more so than fixed-line operators, mobile operators would have to cannibalize their current business in order to generate new revenues from VOIP. Ironically, this means that BT, once regarded as a dinosaur-like incumbent, is now being held up as a shining example of an operator that is embracing the future, while Vodafone, whose pure-mobile strategy once seemed visionary, now stands accused of being on the wrong side of history. At the end of the day, there is no getting around the reality, as Skype's Mr Zennstrom says, that “something that is a great business model for us is probably a terrible business model for them.”

Source: Economist.com (Thanks to Barry Kanne for sending me this article.)


UNTIL NEXT WEEK

We have probably never had a better time to convince our Local, State, and Federal Governments of the value of conventional Radio Paging for warning our citizens about danger. We can all do something. Call, write, or e-mail your Senator and Congressman. I will probably not make one dollar out of my efforts to promote a national alerting system using Paging—I just believe it's the right thing to do.

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With best regards,

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Brad Dye
WIRELESS DATA CONSULTANT

P.O. Box 266
Fairfield, IL 62837 USA

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"If we survive danger it steels our courage more than anything else."
—Reinhold Niebuhr


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