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Archive for December, 2006

Relying on Reliance

Posted by tggokul on December 29, 2006

Reliance Communication, one of the leading service providers made a couple of announcements today which officially marks the start of the race as to who shall lead India in Next Generation services.

First , it has announced plans to expand its wholly owned subsidiary FLAG Telecom, whose main business is to deploy optical fibres throughout the world. They have committed that in the next three years they shall build the world’s largest IP network over submarine cable systems, and they have named it FLAG NGN ( Seriously, who is incharge of their Marketing?).  FLAG NGN will cover Asia ( India and the South Eastern countries) , Africa, the Mediterranean region and the Trans-Pacific region (US west coast, Japan,China). Translating these to numbers which we can understand, FLAG Network will have the capability to carry 2.5 BILLION simultaneous voice calls, 300 million simultaneous webchats, 52 MILLION simultaneous video chats.  I can already envision a Sightspeed in every home , future 🙂 That should make Peter happy.

Second Announcement ( which I knew was in the Radar) Reliance Communications will be launching IPTV services in the top ten cities in India by end 2007. Trust me, I will be in line then.

Third, Reliance communications has officially expressed its interest in acquiring Hutchinson’s 67% stake in the Hutch-Essar venture. Om had reported about this earlier. Reliance is the India’s second largest mobile operator and this deal would shoot it to the top. There is a hitch though. There are regulatory laws which say that if Reliance were to make a bid, they ( since they are an Indian company) would need to do so for the total 100% whereas for Vodafone (a foreign company) to enter this fray, they can just get the 67%. Essar, Indian partner in this venture hold 33% and they are talking about getting the rest 67% for 11 Billion $. Wow!!!

But hey, if anybody can pull both the FLAG and Hutch buyout, it is Reliance under its Chairman Anil Ambani. Looks like BSNL ( the government controlled Indian telecom operator) needs to start pulling its socks up.  Looks like a lot of things are happening in Reliance and they are all for the better.

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Happy Holidays

Posted by tggokul on December 23, 2006

I am going on vacation ( much needed)  and will hopefully be incommunicado ( surprising huh?, I talk about being connected all the time and then relish the thought of being incommunicado, talk about irony) for the next few days. Happy holidays all of you. Be safe and cherish life and your loved ones because that is what I am planning to do. See you all in a few days. Till then, goodbye.

 

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Cracking JTAPI : contd

Posted by tggokul on December 21, 2006

I have closed one of the open items I was discussing in my blog yesterday. There is a simpler way to do call-forwarding like I had guessed.

What I had assumed yesterday was that Call-Forwarding will be done on the “Call” Object ( i.e there would be a call-forward function in the “Call” object or those that extend this) and there were no such functions. Delving deeper, I found out that there is a redirect function in the “Connection” class (CallControlConnection class to be more specific). Ah,ah, that makes sense. When you take SIP, it is based on connections, dialogs etc. So the redirect would be on the connection and not in the call. Basing it on the Call is old school thought. So JTAPI is definitely part of the “fresh blood”. I used this and it works like a charm

Just when I was elated that I have fixed one issue, two more cropped up. From my initial anlaysis I don’t see any object capturing the CDRs for any given call. I am sure there are some hooks for that, but I am yet to see them. Alas, looks like more reading.

There is a much bigger problem,though. As I mentioned in my earlier blogs, I was monitoring/controlling IP phones. I had assumed that we could do the same for Voice Gateways/ Analog ports that are controlled by the Call Manager. Looks like it is not possible. That sucks. If I cannot control the VG then how in the name of god can I write applications for subscribers in the PSTN/Mobile ( or in Cisco lingo “Offnet” calls) world?

Anyway as Colin Forbes would say, this is is where the “The plot thickens”. Hopefully there would be a final showdown where ‘good’ ( which is me) comes out victorious !!!

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Saunders and his ‘Presence’ of mind

Posted by tggokul on December 20, 2006

Alec Saunders has written a very good piece on the new presence. People who are in the VoIP business would know that he is the father of Voice 2.0 and the Voice 2.0 manifesto he proposes is quite interesting to say the least. Enjoy this piece from one of the best current day thought leaders in the industry.

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Cracking JTAPI on Cisco Call Manager

Posted by tggokul on December 20, 2006

As my regular readers ( if there are any) might have noticed, the frequency of blogs I write have gone down. It is surely not because I have less to say ( my wife would be happy if that was the case 🙂 ). It is because I have been very busy at work.

Now what I have been upto? As my previous blogs suggest, I am very involved with the Cisco Call Manager and I am currently trying out different things with JTAPI so that we can write applications on top of the Cisco Call Manager and probably control Cisco based IPT ( IP Telephony) and IPCC ( IP Contact Centre) solutions.

I am familiar with Java and have been associated with open Telephony APIs like JAIN and Parlay and IPT/IPCC has been my area all these years ( more IPT than IPCC).  So it is not like JTAPI was something new, yet I thought it was quite interesting and a good learning curve.  Concept wise it is nothing different.  It is as simple as an API that supports telephony call control. It is championed by SUN  ( who else) and you can find more information and download the specification here.

So I decided to get my hands dirty and what better way to get a feel of the API than to write a sample application. Before that, these are the following steps that need to be done for writing a JTAPI application on top of the Cisco platform. Go to the call manager and in Applications->plugins->JTAPI, download the client JTAPI application that needs to be run on the machine from where you plan to execute your applications. Next, you need to create an application user with a password and make it part of the CTI-OS group. When the application first starts, it needs to connect to the CCM and it does so using the above mentioned username and password.

Once I was done with this, I took a look at the “Makecall.java” example that comes with the client package ( This will be installed when you download and run the JTAPI client). Basically, Makecall is a 3pcc (Third party call control) which lets two ip phones, connected to the Cisco Call Manager, call each other. Now that is a very good place to start with, but I was not happy. I wanted to write my own cool application. And when you talk cool applications, there is nothing more ‘relevant’ (ah, the pun) than iotum. So I decided to try out a simple relevance engine. Alex has nothing to worry about, I am sure not competition to iotum 🙂

So as part of it, I wrote a small application that checks whether a subscriber ( in this case an ip phone) can take a call at any given time and from whom he can take the call, who gets precedence, which calls get forwarded to other numbers ( or Voice Mail) etc etc. There is no ‘presence’ support as of now on CCM ( It is quite likely that I might not be aware of it even if it was there) and so I could not implement the presence part of it. Need to check that out. Also the communication between the CCM and the ip phones was SCCP ( Cisco’s proprietary signalling) and I want to try it out with SIP ( it should not matter, because my application is protocol agnostic but I need to make sure that Cisco has implemented the JTAPI interfaces for both SCCP and SIP).

I am kind of stuck now on call-forwarding. There are no clear call-forward APIs and I am doing this in a very skewed and round-about way. Am not too happy about it ( You would know I am a performance freak if you had read my previous blogs). So these are some of the open issues I hope to address before we close shop for the holidays.

Overall it has been great and if you guys get a chance, take a look at the JTAPI specification and if you guys are developing a SIP Switch or an endpoint make sure to give a JTAPI interface out. Trust me, it would help your business. You can sell your black boxes and sleep well knowing that there are smart application developers who would write innovative applications on top of your solution. And the good part is that it is not too time consuming either. Make sure to plan for JTAPI in your roadmap.

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Celebrating the ‘U’ in Gokul

Posted by tggokul on December 18, 2006

OK, It is that time of that year when the bourgeois look towards the all mighty TIME to know who/what has influenced the world most during that year. And the condescending TIME has chosen ‘You’ as the person of the year, thanks to all the user generated content emphasized by the likes of YouTube and social networking sites like Orkut/Myspace etc.

Now this is my problem with their selection. How did ‘You’ , ‘I’ , ‘We’ ( you get the point)change the world? If we are the most influential people, how do different autocrats still rule against the wishes of the majority, how are policies still made, that are against the sentiments of the majority, why does the average Joe still think that his voice will never be heard and shrinks into his own shell with cynicism?

If they had named YouTube has the person of the year, I would have backed them to the hilt. YouTube has changed the way content is being generated and de-centralized, but please don’t say ‘You’ made the difference. It is making mockery of our intelligence and just another way to make us feel good. We will feel good when we have reasons to, not when I have an opportunity to upload a racial slur of Michael Richards.

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Trouble in the Verizon : FiOS Plugged

Posted by tggokul on December 14, 2006

Verizon can have a cheery public face related to its Fibre Optics project (FiOS) but it looks like it is running deep into trouble. The signs are looming with the unexpected announcement on Monday about the departure (they say it is retirement. Is it a Peanut Butter Manifesto case here?) of its Vice President Larry Babbio, who championed the entire FiOS initiative.The stock market hasn’t been kind to the telecom giant and stocks have gone down by nearly 7% from last October. Verizon is already informing its customers about a possible hike from next year beginning of close to maybe 8%.

But what  most analysts have missed is the forecast of ADC Technologies (which was presented last Tuesday) which is the main supplier of FiOS to Verizon. They have slashed their sales outlook citing ‘order delays from its telco customers’. I went ahead and checked the recent forecasts of other Fiber vendor companies and surprise, Corning has a similar observation. An analyst when reporting about this says it is because of excess inventory that Verizon has accumulated over the days.

Tough times for Verizon and its Fiber initiative. But honestly though, they were cornered by the cable companies and FiOS was the only way they could compete against the triple-play features the cable companies were providing. All said and done, a risky move which so far has not paid dividends.

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Is the Indian Government Protecting the Phone Companies?

Posted by tggokul on December 12, 2006

There has a been a recent news item that the Indian government is forcing call centres not to use Foreign players like Vonage/Skype. This has been critisized strongly in the blogging circles. Alec Saunders calls this ‘short sighted’. Om attributing this to political lobbying says

For a country which views itself as part of Planet Technology, its government is failing to take into account the changing telecom and technology environment. These moves to ban low cost voice providers must have come at the behest of large phone companies – Bharti Telecom and Reliance Telecom – which are major long distance minute providers and of course, some of the biggest political donors.

Yes, we all love a scandal, but not this one guys. This announcement has nothing to do with the government protecting the large phone companies. There are two reasons for this government policy. One is that the government is losing money on the Service Tax/ Revenue share which the unlicensed players end up not paying.  I see no problem with the government trying to ensure that they get their share.

The other important side of this whole debate has not been talked about in the report. Security Compliance is the new buzz word in Indian Call Centre circles. (I had blogged about this earlier). There have been a couple of incidents in the space of the last three months where sensitive data has been compromised in Call Centres which has put the whole Indian call centre industry under a microscope. Most Call Centres ( medium/large) of US/UK based organisations now have to have this security compliance in place, and have to be audited for SOX/BS-7799 compliance.

NASSCOM (The National Association of Software and Services Companies) is the Indian chamber of Commerce that serves as an interface to the Indian Software industry. What it has been trying to evangalize is ,instead of having systems in place for auditing purposes, if the call centres can be FORCED to do certain things ( instead of the current methodology where it is optional to be security compliant unless the customer asks for it) then the whole industry would benefit and one rogue call centre will not tarnish the image of the entire industry. This was the reasoning behind them taking up this issue with the government to ratify the existing laws.

The single most important block in a ‘compliance’ is the reporting scheme. It has to be perfect with every call detail recorded and reported. By the existing law , when minutes are purchased from authorised players, the authorized player is mandated to provide any data pertaining to the use of internet telephony like call detail record. This CANNOT be forced if the minutes themselves are purchased from unauthorized players. The government is trying to regularize this, hence the law.

Now, I am in no position to say whether there are any other ulterior motives.  Cisco, Yahoo are very bullish ( so am I) on Indian IP Telephony and I need to see more evidence to the contrary to change my standpoint.
 

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Cisco Call Manager : A closure

Posted by tggokul on December 11, 2006

We finally got the correct license file from Cisco support ( to know the history click here and here) and after we installed it in our Call Manager, Voila everything worked like a charm and we made some basic calls with IP phones.

So we did finally manage to install the Cisco Call Manager, though it took atleast 3 more days than it should have. Hey, but then the key learning (also heart warming) is we are not the only ones you make these kind of mistakes. Smart guys in Cisco make them as well 🙂

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Down with the Flu. Save me Iotum!!

Posted by tggokul on December 10, 2006

I had been down with viral fever for the last three days, hence the hiatus. I am slowly recuperating and hope to be myself in the next couple of days.

I was so sick that it took me quite an effort to answer any of my phone calls, yet my mobile kept ringing constantly with telemarketers wanting me to buy their latest Bank products or recruiters who were wanting to know whether I was looking for a change. I couldn’t put the phone in silent or switch it off because my wife is out of town and wanted to be in touch with me to see how I was doing. This is where I missed the relevance of Iotum and the flexibilities it brings to the table.

Alex, are you talking to the telecom operators here in India? If not, please do so immediately and save us innocent beings from being tortured like this. 

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