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Communications America Online Businesses Wireless Networking Hardware

AOL Enters the VoIP market 168

Posted by Zonk
from the gutsy-business-moves dept.
freitasm writes "AOL is entering the VoIP market with its new service entitled 'AOL Internet Phone Service'. The service will be available in 40 cities around the US and offer integrated IM presence indicator, voice/e-mail and features like Call Waiting, CallerID. As a bonus current AOL members wil receive a wireless AP when signing-up for the service."
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AOL Enters the VoIP market

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  • by Dougie Cool (848942) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:17AM (#12165039)
    If I get woken up at 6am by a phone AOLer wanting to know my ASL I'm going to sue.
  • Knowing AOL (Score:4, Funny)

    by Bazunok (868402) <bazunok@gmail.com> on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:17AM (#12165045) Journal
    It would be really easy to use, but you can only call other AOL users on AOL's proprietory phones.
    • Re:Knowing AOL (Score:2, Informative)

      by cypher073 (864209)
      Actually, no...the phone service works with any POTS phone connected to one of the router's rj11 ports. It's a very simple setup: connect the router to your existing broadband modem or router, plug in the phone, turn everything on. Simple as that. Phone calls can be placed to any other phone connected to the PSTN, of course.
      • Isn't that how all VOIP services work? Is AOL's easier?
        • Re:Knowing AOL (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Yes, this is similar to AT&T CallVantage and Vonage. What AOL offers is integration with all their backend services, Buddy Lists, Parental Controls, IM, etc.
        • Isn't that how all VOIP services work? Is AOL's easier?
          Sure it will be easier. All the phones will have big colorful buttons with pictures on them. Plus their new accelerator will mean that calls will go through UP TO 100x FASTER!

          That, and it will cost roughly 5 times as much per month as Vonage or SpeakEasy.

  • by dangitman (862676) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:19AM (#12165068)
    So, when the phone rings, will it play "You've got telephone"?

    And why isn't this thing being released in September?

  • Emergency services (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WeirdKid (260577) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:20AM (#12165084)
    Notice that 911 isn't listed in the services offered. AOL's service likely suffers from the same deficiency as Vonage in this respect. Vonage's TOS says that if you cannot clearly state the nature of your emergency and your location, emergency services may not be dispatched. I'm sticking with my land line until the VoIP providers get the 911 thing figured out.
    • by thing12 (45050) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:24AM (#12165119) Homepage
      At least Vonage will direct your calls to a local 911 dispatcher (based on the location you provide). Most VOIP providers don't even go that far. They're testing e911 service in Rhode Island... apparently it's working quite well.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:24AM (#12165131)
      You can have your cake and eat it to. Keep your landline only for 911, they are required to provide it whether you have telephone service or not.
      • Yes, my telco Verizon has the option of 911 even without phone service. I use Vonage VoIP and I have it setup to forward to my local 911 office. As for the Verizon always on for 911, I would need a special phone, ala batphone, just for 911. That wouldn't work... in an emergency, I would be like, where is the special Verizon red phone? It would be like looking for the remote when the big game comes on...
        • by WeirdKid (260577)
          Forwarding to the PSAP on record isn't the same as knowing your specific location. This would be important if you couldn't speak.

          From the Vonage Terms of Service:

          2.10 Automated Location Identification
          At this time in the technical development of Vonage 911 Dialing, it is not possible to transmit identification of the address that you have listed to the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) and local emergency personnel for your area when you dial 911. You acknowledge and understand that you will need to st
        • Here's the perfect phone for that: Ebay Item #6167545235: Fire Engine Red ITT Wall Phone [ebay.com].
    • by fiji (4544) *
      I dunno how AOL will handle this, but e911 works with Vonage... sort of.

      The deal is that you tell Vonage where the "phone" is and they will send that information with the 911 call. The trouble occurs if you move the adapter and forget to tell Vonage and then call 911.

      Then there is the uglier question about VoIP reliability vs. Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS). Lots of things need to work in order to place a VoIP call (power for the adapter, power for your internet infrastructure, the cable/DSL, etc.).
      • Interesting -- was not aware of this. But can someone explain how 911 works (on a landline) if there is no dial tone?
        • Who said there was no dial tone?

          Most states require phone companies to maintain dial tone for 911 on any line connected to them.

          So, there is a dial tone, you just can't dial anything except 911. Dialing any other number will get you a nice recording telling you the line is not in service.
          • Most states require phone companies to maintain dial tone for 911 on any line connected to them.

            It's good that most states have such a law. It will help when the backhoe operator hits a gas line right after he cut through the telephone line. While the flames are shooting twenty feet high I will not worry as the mystical powers of the law keeps 911 working.
            • Well if that happens, having telephone service isn't going to help you. Besides, if the house is on fire, the priority is 1) get out. 2)call 911. Not the other way round.
      • The deal is that you tell Vonage where the "phone" is and they will send that information with the 911 call. The trouble occurs if you move the adapter and forget to tell Vonage and then call 911.
        It's no different than a cell phone. If your phone is movable, you're going to have to tell the dispatcher where you are.
        • Sorry, not true. Please google for and read about E911 in the US.

          Also, FWIW, companies are working on 911 for VOIP. Use the google genie for info about that too.

    • Shhhhhh! (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:28AM (#12165153)
      AOL users use AOL VoIP.
      AOL users don't have 911.
      AOL users die.
      No more AOL users!

      It's genius.
    • In Canada, the CRTC [crtc.gc.ca] just ruled [crtc.gc.ca] that VoIP providers must provide Basic 911 within 90 days of the ruling (the ruling was Apr 4/2005). Well, if you get down to the meat of it, some will have to provide Enhanced 911 services, but I don't know of any VoIP providers that would fit this category. Most will need to provide Basic 911 service:

      Basic 9-1-1 service connects the caller to a central call centre which then connects the call to the correct emergency response centre, at which point the caller must ident

    • by stecoop (759508) * on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:39AM (#12165253) Journal
      I think the 911 situations are starting to look more like FUD. Larger municipals have had 911 starting back in 1968; however, a large segment of rural America didn't get 911 finalized until late 1990s (had to look that up on wikipedia [wikipedia.org]). I remember where I lived it did get come about really late too.

      Get this; America now has 911 since 1990 but there is a small problem with addresses. In rural America a lot of places don't (didn't?) have simple things like a street sign so for the last few years a names has had to be labeled to all streets just for 911. So the lets look at it this way; we have survived a large time without 911 as we know it and 911 dispatchers haven't been able to send emergency assistance to the right location; yeah were working on it but if there is an emergency you'll figure out something even if you don't have a phone.
      • Reminds me of one time when I lived in Minneapolis-- I heard a *lot* of sirens and went out to look. There were firemen going door to door all up and down the street. Apparently a little kid had called 911 and our area didn't have 911e, and the kid didn't know his address, so they sent a huge number of trucks-- I looked from the corner and there was a truck on every corner for ~4 blocks in every direction. I found this out from a fireman when he was asking if we knew which houses had little kids.
    • Their back-end provider is trunked into the emergency system, same as a landline.
    • From what I understand AOL is using Level 3 to provide E911 capabilities. Level 3 does not have national E911 coverage, which is why AOL is only entering 40 markets.

      E911 delivers calls over traditional 911 trunks to the emergency center and delivers callback number and location information. Vonage's service delivers calls to a 10-digit telephone line at the center which does not allow delivery of callback number and location information.
    • Given AOL's history, there are other limits we should expect from AOL's service:

      1. Extended phone calls must be made with a series of 4 minute calls.
      2. The service will require a dialup line, and won't be available by TCP/IP over an existing ethernet connection until later.
      3. All conversations with people you haven't spoken with in the past must begin in a conference call. Please have your gender, age and availability ready to answer questions from other people on the call.
      4. When on a call, you won't be a
    • E911 is listed in the services included in all 40 cities where it's being rolled out.
  • meanwhile, in Canada (Score:5, Informative)

    by WormholeFiend (674934) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:22AM (#12165098)
  • by yotto (590067) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:23AM (#12165108) Homepage
    This will never work, because you can't talk on the phone in ALL CAPS.
    • AOL today announced thier new line of telephones to complement their VoIP service. The new phones include special buttons such as 'caps lock','LOL', and 'WTF'. The phone will be nearly impossible to disable. As an added bonus for those especially devoid of friends, if you hang on the line long enough, a random person will start offering you cheap meds and pr0n.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    That's all we can hear about these days.

    I'm wondering if regular phone companies have "the fear" or not... they should!

    These articles forget to mention, however, that latency (jitter) is very important for VoIP QoS.

    Are AOL and others going to shape their traffic in order to put their own VoIP traffic before the others?

    If not, how do they expect to meet the QoS requirements?
    • latency != jitter (Score:3, Informative)

      by mamladm (867366)
      Latency is not jitter. Latency is when packets get delayed. Jitter is when packets arrive out of order.

      Latency is not generally a problem. Cell phone services tend to have rather heavy latency. Typically you don't even notice latency up to about 500 to 600 ms.

      Jitter can be a problem if out of order packets aren't dealt with properly, that is, in most cases, they should be discarded, or more precisely, the longer they have been overdue the more likely they should be discarded for VoIP.

      However, there are c
      • I always thought latency played a part in "jitter" from my vague understanding of what potentially causes jitter. Such as on a load balanced link, if packets A,B,C,D, and E were sent to a load balancer and by the time packets D and E came in, it felt that the path it sent packets A, B, and C through was now too heavily loaded and there is a less loaded path for D, and E, it would then send packets D and E through the less loaded link, which might also have a lower latency. That less loaded link with lower
        • yes of course that is correct, but I understood the OP's mentioning of "latency (jitter)" to mean that one is just another name for the other.

          The term latency is usually understood to mean as much as "constant delay" and the term jitter as much as "rapidly varying delay" to put it in very broad terms.

          I am not sure if a load balancing router is the only thing that could cause jitter. It may well be that multi threaded packet processing on some router along the way might also cause jitter.
      • Jitter is when packets arrive out of order.

        Isn't jitter really the variability in arrival times of packets? In other words, assuming 10 ms packets, and assuming 6 packets (A thru F) with a 1/2 second latency you might see:

        sender:
        ======================
        1:00:00.000 packet A
        1:00:00.010 packet B
        1:00:00.020 packet C
        1:00:00.030 packet D
        1:00:00.040 packet E
        1:00:00.050 packet F

        ideal reception:
        ======================
        1:00:00.500
        1 :00:00.510 packet A
        1:00:00.520 packet B
        1:00:00.530 packet C
        1:00:00.540 packet D
        1:0

  • Already in Canada... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    AOL Canada (oxymoron?) already has something like this:

    http://www.totaltalk.ca/ [totaltalk.ca]
    • How is it an oxymoron?

      Canada is in North AMERICA!

      Sheesh, stop thinking the U.S.A is the only America, There is North America, Central America, and South America, All of which can be on AOL and still be considered right.

      Now as for AOL UK, that to me sounds wrong, I mean we had the Boston Tea Party and that whole revolution thing, but yet they want to use some CRAPPY internet provider from here? Sometimes I think I'll never understand the Brits, but then Saturday comes and I get another episode of Doctor W
    • Canada is in America. So is Mexico. So is Peru. So are many other countries. North America and South America are part of America. If it was United States Online then it would be an oxymoron.
    • It's just called Time Warner "Digital Phone". (Web site [timewarnercable.com])

      It's the same company, and will be the same service. It's now just pointed/marketed towards AOL users and I'm guessing a few DSL users too. (I've got to add that I hate Time Warner after getting cable. I've only had it for 2 months, but their whole purpose for having a cable tv business is to put Time Warner commercials 25 hours a day! I've already got the service, quit trying to make me a fanboy.)
  • And 911 calls? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Silver Sloth (770927) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:24AM (#12165121)

    Doesn't VoIP have issues with 911 calls. I know they can be resolved but I don't see anything in the article about this. Will the average AOL user be aware of the problem? I somehow doubt it as the AOL user base is not known for it technical awareness.

    All the bells and whistles will be great until the first time the house catches fire, dad has a heart attack, or there's bad guys in the cellar!

    • Assuming that you don't travel with your phone (just as you can't travel with your landline) there are no issues. The VOIP phone can announce your location to 911. If you do travel, you have to update the service to tell it where you are. Why do people have so much trouble with this versus cell phones? Am I giving people too much credit in their logic skills?
    • The ability to dial 911 is the only boogy-man the phone company can raise against VoIP.

      How about this -- look up the phone number to your fire department and police department. Post the numbers next to the phone. In case of emergency, dial the appropriate number. It's what we did before we had 911 service.

      If you just can't live without 911, get an old cell phone and use it to dial 911. No contract required.

      • If you just can't live without 911, get an old cell phone and use it to dial 911. No contract required.

        Or get a cheap RadioShack phone and plug it into the wall. Traditional telcos are required to provide 911 service without a contract, IIRC.

    • What's the problem with 911 calls? is it that the VOIP phone requires power, whereas standard house phones will operate even if power is out in a house? or is it something to do with what numbers can be dialled?
      • Probably about 911 routing. Some VoIP providers that say they forward 911 to an appropriate PSAP number in your area don't forward it properly, or forward it to non-emergency numbers that aren't properly equipped to handle the typical 911 emergency call, or forward 911 to completely wrong numbers that either no one answers on when you do call them or are merely answering machine or fax lines or have absolutely nothing to do with any emergency service whatsoever. Short of testing your 911 functionality ahe
  • by jav1231 (539129) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:27AM (#12165150)
    "If you're too drunk to drive, just say AOL Keyword "Cab" and a taxi will pick you up!
  • Free Forever? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zoomba (227393) <mfc131@nOSPaM.gmail.com> on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:28AM (#12165154) Homepage
    I wonder if AOL will treat its VoIP subscribers like they do normal AOL users when they want to cancel their account.

    About 3 years ago I loaded up an AOL free trial CD just for shits and giggles, and to see how much it had changed since I last used it (1.0). Well, I found the experience disappointing (as I expected though) and at the end of the trial went to cancel.

    What happened at that point was a 30min conversation where the sales rep practically begged me to keep the service. He offered me 6 months free and told me that if I make this same call every 5-6 months I could end up not paying for the service ever again. I think I said "No, just cancel the damn account, I DO NOT LIKE THE SERVICE" about two dozen times. Finally, defeated, the rep canceled the account. That was the most painful phone convo I've ever had.

    I'm wondering if I can pull the free-forever scheme with their VoIP service. Think they'll be desperate enough for subscribers to it?
    • I wonder how common this was. I too had AOL free for over a year before I decided it wasn't worth it, even for free.

      My main gripe was that the service kept randomly disconnecting me, completely independent of whether I was active or not. And changing dial-up numbers made no difference. This was probably related to their effort to keep to their "no busy signal" pledge.

      Sure, no busy signals, but randomly disconnecting is as bad or worse.

    • you probably had heard in advance that AOL still sucked. why did you even bother trying it out again? nothing personal here, but wasted your time with AOL, and on top of it you let some phone droid waste 30 minutes of your life. now you're considering doing it all over again. what is up with that?

      -- do you go to movies you know you won't like and sit through them until the bitter end?

      -- do you listen to prerecorded telemarketing messages all the way through when they ring through on your telephone, then c
  • Hot damn! (Score:4, Funny)

    by alispguru (72689) <bane@@@gst...com> on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:28AM (#12165160) Journal

    As a bonus current AOL members wil receive a wireless AP when signing-up for the service.

    Does this mean we'll see a bunch of new unsecured wireless APs soon?
    • No, it means you'll see a bunch of AOL-type users flooding tech support forums with help stopping their AP crashing when they try and run kazaa through it without forwarding all the ports

      You can be pretty sure it won't be a decent US Robotics or Linksys, but will be a rebranded far-eastern Safecom or similar.
  • by bahwi (43111) <incoming AT josephguhlin DOT com> on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:29AM (#12165167) Homepage
    http://sipphone.com/phonegaim/ [sipphone.com] has been around for awhile. =)
  • by fiji (4544) * on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:30AM (#12165181)
    If you are at all interested in this service (or one of the alternate offerings from the other VoIP providers) then make sure your line can support a VoIP call by using this free service: ahref=http://testyourvoip.com/ [slashdot.org]http://testyourvoip. com/>.

    Also you can roll your own with the Asterix software, and some cheap hardware... (URL:http://asterix.org/ [asterix.org]). There are companies who you can pay to bridge to the phone network calls from an Asterix server.

    -ben
  • by dnaboy (569188) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:38AM (#12165241)
    I can't understand why they would only launch in 40 cities instead of nationwide (or worldwide). I've got vonage, and when I signed up, I got to pick phone numbers from essentially anywhere in N. America, so really, where the customer is located doesn't matter.

    For what it's worth, my vonage line is my home office line, so I've even been known to travel with it when I want to work from my college friend's house. Just plug it in to their cable modem, then plug it in to a phone. Ultimate portability.

    • I've got vonage, and when I signed up, I got to pick phone numbers from essentially anywhere in N. America, so really, where the customer is located doesn't matter.

      I have been a Vonage customer over a year and hoping that they will add Knoxville,Tn.

      Let me know when they have service for the 865 area code.
  • So are Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks actually going to be able to talk on the phone this time??? Brilliant!
  • Hhhmmm.... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Slashcrap (869349) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:43AM (#12165295)
    As a bonus current AOL members wil receive a wireless AP when signing-up for the service.

    Excellent! Everyone in their neighbourhood will be getting free VoIP as well then!
  • Chances are these AP's will be open and most AOL users are not savvy enough to secure them. So looks like this should create some more open AP's for us when we are away from home.
  • Call Me Paranoid but (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TooCynical (323240) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:47AM (#12165323)
    AOL/TM knows my buddies, surfing habits, shopping preferrences, magazines subscriptions, TV and cable viewing tendencies - do they really need to know who I talk with on the phone???

    I am probably giving them more credit than they are due but knowing that much about 40+ million people cannot be good...

    • We now bring you a special report ... the United States Department of Homeland Security has just announced it has acquired internet service provider AOL. Secretary Michael Chertoff had this statement for the press about the acquisition: "We believe that Osama Bin Laden and other terrorist networks throughout the world have been using AOL Instant Messenger, and so acquiring AOL's infrastructure will bring us one step closer to finding Al Qaeda. In addition, now we won't need Congress to renew the PATRIOT
  • Hmmm... (Score:2, Funny)

    I wonder if they'll try connect to AOL using their VoIP phones.
  • It seems like they just tacked on "computer <-> phone" to their existing AIM voice technology.

    To me, it is arbitrary to say that once the "computer <-> computer" voice technology gets connected another voice system, POTS, that one is suddenly regulated (USF, etc). \

    That being said, however one communicates, there needs to be technology for that medium that locates you in an emergency. One is not always able to spell out an exact location to 911 when in trouble.

    My two cents...

    -LLM

  • Will MSN now rush to get on the VoIP wagon? What about the Baby Bells?

    It seems like VoIP will become more and more commonplace. I predict it will maybe be used about 50% or 75% of the telephone system by about 2010.

  • AOL VOIP = Good (Score:2, Informative)

    by dygital (591967)
    I use broadband, so dont flame me. I have AOL For Broadband for free, and I participated in the beta test of the "Internet Phone Service". Its very reliable, and you get a free Linksys box to hook your telephone into. To make things easier, and less linksys boxes (I have 4 as it is now), I hooked up the TA into the Telephone Network Interface and put a label on it that says "Anti-Qwest Device". All phones work in the house on it. I performed one 911 test call, and took slightly longer to reach than a cell
  • That's pretty much what I pay for regular service. One of the big pushes of voip is the national calling, but for me 99.9% of my calls are local.

    Is there any voip service in canada that can really save you money over traditional local service?

    When I see less than 5 bucks savings I think it's not worth the hassle. Plus the headaches of qos, e911 etc, it's gotta be worthwhile to switch.

  • The article doesn't say anything about what protocol AOL's service will be using. Does anyone know? Is it SIP or yet another incompatible derivative of SIP (like Skype and Apple's iChat) or something else?
  • Another communications company dabbling in VoIP isn't news anymore. Everyone's doing it now...from big names like Cox, to smaller firms like Cavalier Telephone and a bunch of others.

    When a company can patch a network line straight into my brain, then I'll be interested...Oh...Hi, Sony...What's that?...You're working on it?...You want me to test it out?...Ummm, maybe that's not such a good ideeee0a1a10a01a101010101101010110101010100101010 1 01010010101010010101010010101010101010101010100101 01010101010101.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    As a bonus current AOL members wil receive a wireless AP when signing-up for the service."

    I think the bigger story here is that AOL's clueless subscribers will unwittingly be rolling out a national, free, wireless IP network-- if the wireless AP is unsecured out of the box and enough people sign up for this service.
  • This is good... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Run4yourlives (716310)
    But the real fun will begin in a few years when VOIP, combined with free WI-FI seriously impacts the telecom giants.

    Then we'll see RIAA vs. the people all over again (Save me the "Copyright is theft" rant).

    I'm keeping me fingers crossed, but experience tells me this is going to be a massive legal mess.
  • Speakeasy Too (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @11:41AM (#12166481) Homepage Journal
    I got some snail-mail spam from Speakeasy and they're getting into the market too. They also address 911 service, although I'd be willing to bet that it won't work if the power goes out. Standard telephone service works during power outages as long as you don't have a phone that needs to be plugged into a wall socket. Still, I might have to take 'em up on it since Qwest has been ass-raping me on phone service since I moved into the area.

    If memory serves me correctly, and I do believe it does, a phone jack that doesn't have service has to, by law, provide 911 service. So if you were concerned about the 911 service from... whoever... you could get a red bat-phone style phone and plug it into a wall jack in case you ever need to make that emergency call.

  • by Newer Guy (520108)
    The leader in VOIP right now is Vonage, who prices their time proven product at $24.99 a month. AOL's VOIP is an unknown product with no history that's priced five dollars a month more. Vonage also offers a rich feature set including simultaneous ring (where any incoming calls ring on both my home and cell phone; the first one answered gets the call). The next lower tier of VOIP is flooded with providers like Packet 8, Voicepulse, Broadvoice, etc. which offer similar service to AOL but are priced TEN DOLL
  • by puck13 (102616)
    Straight from AOL/TW, not just a summary from a newspaper: AOL introduces internet phone service [timewarner.com]
  • "Welcome! ... You've got voicemail!"

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