January 31st, 2005

Thoughts on Bellster


The latest hot news on VoIP is Bellster, a P2P phone service by Jeff Pulver and friends. And it is really hot – just barely a week into the launch, the market is buzzing about it, from Wall Street Journal to CNet and of course, in the blogging world.

Now, I won’t tell you what it is all about – you can read that from Bellster. I am interested what this means for the industry (at least over here).

First, this have been tried before (technically speaking) with less buzz. Back in the early-mid 90s, people are hooking up gateways and helping long-distance companies doing local call termination. The main difference is that the hardware and software to do this is pretty expensive (20k++) back then unlike now which can be done on a 500$ linux box with open source Asterisk. Because it is expensive, it is usually done on commercial scale and thus quickly been shutdown by regulators or become legit IDD players.

Now, while it is technically the same, the difference now is the audience. In this case, it is the end-users who will be doing voice minute sharing among themselves. This pose an interesting debate – can individual who already bought X minutes of voice call share it with their friends?
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January 30th, 2005

IP Telephony in Asia

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Once in a while, I would get call or email from friends who wanted to do a ‘Vonage for Asia’ and ask me what I think. By “Vonage of Asia”, the general idea revolves around an ITSP (IP Telephony Service Provider) providing flat-rate unlimited calls across Asia (or a variant of that).

Well, the first and foremost problem is the lack of harmonization of regulatory framework across Asia. This means licensing, getting phone numbers, negiotate interconnections, implementing emergency services, wiretapping, universal service obligation would be very different across each economy where unlike US or EU. And this does not include the lack of understanding of such new services (many still trying to understand Internet) among the regulators and also the lack of open market1.

So other then requesting for a licensing, you need to educate the regulators and fight the incumbent rejecting you at the same time (and repeat that for each economy). The latter could also call up and have coffee with the IT/Communication Minister anytime whereas you likely not to enjoy similar privilege.
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January 29th, 2005

Dinner with Michael Everson


I have a wonderful dinner with Michael Everson. We actually met in Bali 2 weeks ago (briefly) and planned to have dinner last week but I have to cancel it last minute. I felt pretty bad about it, but luckily he is transiting in Singapore again from Xiamen on his way home (Ireland) from SC2 meeting.

Ah, SC2 meeting. Another thing which I feel bad. I am suppose to be the Singapore representive for ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2 (aka Unicode) but work prevented me to pursue this hobby. I mean, it is pretty intensive ‘hobby’, digging into the studies of scripts and languages. I spent a couple of years on this and I still have obscure books on coptic, hierograph, linear A, B, old vietnamese, ancient chinese etc. SC2 is a werid community and a funny experience in my life – I remember we (IRG) visited a museum in Hanoi several years back and we all spent an hour snapping photos and examining some writings with Cho Nam (Vietnamese Chinese) and some black Thai scripts and no one else knew why we were so excited about it.

And in that field, Michael Everson is the master. He has literally dedicated his life encoding scripts (dead and living) and helping to design locale and keyboards.

Anyway, was really great to catch up with him, and giving me an update of the politics within SC2 right now. And oh, we also discussed a family trip together to Iran to visit Roozbeh sometime in Spring. Several years ago, I got Michael and Roozbeh (a Persian expert) to work on a project for Afghanistan with UNDP funding and we have remain friends since then. Would love to have an excuse to go to Iran.

January 28th, 2005

Arrested for using Lynx


A man in London was arrested for attempting to hack the Tsumani donation. But according to boingboing, here is what happened:

For donating to a Tsunami appeal using Lynx on Solaris 10. BT [British Telecom] who run the donation management system misread an access log and saw hmm thats a non standard browser not identifying it’s type and it’s doing strange things. Trace that IP. Arrest that hacker.

Armed police, a van, a police cell and national news later the police have gone in SWAT styley and arrested someone having their lunch.

Out on bail till next week and preparing to make a lot of very bad PR for BT and the Police….

Now, lets not jump into conclusion yet (It is his words vs the police & BT) but if it is true, it is totally silly!

January 27th, 2005

.net bids


ICANN is now seeking public comments regarding the .net bids. Unlike before, I am not going to offend one friend or another by siding with one proposal over another. They are all qualified and experienced registry operators. Instead, I will make some general observations.

1. None of the Revenue and Pricing Model (i.e. Section 4) about the bids are available to public. I wonder how the public is going to make judgement of one operator over another since cost is probably one of the few things general public would be interested to comment.

All the other stuff on DNS, Whois, registry system service-level etc etc can only be reasonable understood by an insider. Makes you wonder how “public” is the public consultation.

2. Highly politicise, with several top managements from companies urging ICANN to let Verisign keeps .net to prevent destabilization, I am surprised that there are bids that still comes in with less then 100% for DNS resolution of .net.

Anyone reasonable will tell you 100% is “impossible” but for DNS, it isn’t exactly that impossible given DNS is designed to be extremely reliable. You can have up to 13 servers scattered all over the network and more if you use anycast technology. And you tell me you couldn’t get at least one server running at any one time? (One is all you need to fullfill the uptime requirement)
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January 24th, 2005

Google providing VoIP


This is fresh on Slashdot: Google Plan Free VoIP in UK

The company behind the US-based internet search engine looks set to launch a free telephone service that links users via a broadband internet connection using a headset and home computer.

Actually Tom Keating discover some hints of this a few days ago…seem like he is right on the spot!

Update: Google denies they moving into VoIP. On the other hand, Pulver noted quite a few Google executive signed up for VON…so go draw your own conclusion.

January 24th, 2005



I just gave a presentation at TEIN2 meeting on SingAREN GIX. SingAREN GIX is a new Gigabit Internet Exchange we are building for the Advance Research and Education Network (AREN) community in Singapore. It is meant to be a carrier-neutral, open exchange for any research organizations (including commercial) and also provides optional Internet2 transit.


One of the main driver for GIX is to merged the SingAREN and Singapore National GRID Pilot Platform (NGPP) infrastructure. It is also time to redesign the architect since the last time we look at it seriously is in 1997.
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January 24th, 2005

Internet Interconnection Settlement


Remember I wrote about Internet Peering settlement last year? Well, Geoff Huston just published an excellent article which goes into great detail on various financial settlement model. Check it out!

Efforts to extend this regulatory activity to the area of regulated interconnection and peering have been investigated by various national regimes, but with little in the form of regulatory outcomes to date. Attempts to impose measures of mandatory domestic SKA peering at nominated exchange points tend to create an environment where there is a disincentive for larger players to aggressively invest in further infrastructure given the ability for smaller players to leverage this investment to their advantage without making comparable investments of their own. This has the risk of leading to an excessively fragmented serviced industry where natural economies of scale are not realized, and the consumer base is exposed to an inefficient supply industry which inherently imposes price premiums at the retail service level. The issue here is the supply of Internet services is not an end in itself – the objective is to ensure an efficient and effective service industry that provides the necessary foundation for other economic activities that can themselves leverage the capabilities of the Internet.

January 23rd, 2005

APAN Bangkok


I am in the airport lounge again, waiting to fly to Bangkok for APAN (Asia Pacific Advance Network). Most people probably never heard of APAN because it belongs to the world of academics but it is fairly similar to Internet2 in US.

Anyway, I attend APAN once in a while when there is something going on there that interest me (the last time I attend it is in Korea 2 years back for Antispam). This time, it is the EC funded project TEIN2 or Trans-Eurasia Information Network that will link education and research network between Europe and Asia. I am scheduled to give a presentation at tomorrow TEIN2 meeting. More about it tomorrow.

(The VoIP group in APAN is also interesting but wasn’t really matured yet)

Oh yea, I am going to have dinner with Goto & Konishi later. (They have been the pillars of APAN). I haven’t seem them for a least one year so it is a nice reunion. I am also trying trying to hook up with Simon but somehow we having a little trouble.

January 22nd, 2005

Handicapping the Gap: China


In a discussion at APDIP Internet Governance mailing list, Suresh forwarded this interesting article by Thomas Barnett.

The Chinese Communist Party is betting that wiring up the country is essential to unleashing the nation’s future economic potential, and they’re right. They’re also betting they can control the intellectual power enabled by all that connectivity, and they’re wrong. For now, the leadership does little to crack down on the nationalistic rumblings of their growing web community, believing it reflects a general support for the CCP’s authoritarian rule because it suggests that what most Chinese Yuppies want is not another form of government, but a government that pushes the nation’s agenda more forcefully in the global community of states. But this is a fool’s gamble, because over time this growing technocratic elite will surely turn against the communist leadership simply because the latter’s emphasis on order over efficiency will prove too much for the former to swallow as China’s economy matures. In short, Chinese webheads will want both order and efficiency, and while authoritarian rule can provide order, it takes genuinely free markets to produce efficiency, and while that power can be unleashed by central authorities it can never truly controlled by them.