In This Month's Mailbag:
Getting Burned At The Network Core
In response to Rich Tehrani's "3Com:
Making The Most Of LAN Telephony" (Publisher's Outlook, April
It is a very strange coincidence that your review of LAN telephony
appeared the week after 3Com announces a company restructuring. I have been
a user and vocal advocate of 3Com products for about two years. The complete
rebuilding of a hospital campus network was done with 3Com products end to
end. The centerpiece of the network is a CoreBuilder 9000 switch. With last
week's announcement, I count myself in the group of betrayed users 3Com left
by the high-tech highway wayside. It's unfortunate, but your article lost a
lot of credibility -- due to 3Com business choices and not your research.
You -- along with a lot of users -- were deceived by a once good company.
Now 3Com is just an also ran in the high-tech world.
As recently as two weeks ago, I was looking at using an NBX 100 system
for a new clinic site. Today I won't touch a 3Com product without good
cause. They may have one of the better telephony products on market, but if
they can abandon customers once they can do it again... and I won't be
As a network engineer with limited staff, I selected an end-to-end
solution. This allowed me to maximize my resources while providing a
state-of-the-art network for my users. Today I am forced to re-evaluate my
network position. 3Com now directs high-end equipment customers to Extreme
Networks, a four-year-old company that went IPO in Oct. 1999. My question
is: Who will buy out Extreme and abandon their hardware platform? Relying on
3Com for network or telephony solutions is like playing with matches. You
don't know when or how it will happen, you just know you're going to get
your fingers burned.
-- Mark Church
Data/Voice Network Engineer, Stevens Healthcare
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The Future Of Video Chat
The following letter was received in response to Laura Guevin's March 10
online Points of Presence column "Is
Seeing Enough To Believe Video Chat Will Succeed?":
In the long term, video chat is destined to succeed just as IP telephony
has. The problems you experienced are similar to those experienced by early
adopters of IP telephony, and just as in IP telephony those problems will
disappear as the technology advances and is adopted by larger numbers of
users (or when someone figures out how to turn a profit using it). Video
conferencing never exploded (in my humble opinion) because it was ahead of
it's time and also the infrastructure wasn't there for it. I've developed
this belief through personal experience. In the past I've pitched Intel's
ProShare technologies (the two higher-end versions, not the low-level
consumer version). Now that IP telephony has paved the way and is pushing
the build-up of the necessary infrastructure, video conferencing (that's the
stuffy and "failed" label, "video chat" is so much more
hip and cool!) will take it's place amongst the rest of the commonplace or
even "everyday" communications technologies.
Video chat is here to stay. However, it remains to be seen how quickly it
gets adopted by more than hobbyists and on a large scale. Faster than IP
telephony? I don't think so. But not that far behind either.
-- Paul Wescott
NeTrue Communications, Inc., Fullerton, CA
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Setting The Review Record Straight
In response to the TMC Labs review of the Audibit
S140 PC Handset (April, 2000):
Many thanks for the review,
which was published on your Web site! It is a great review and we really
appreciate you testing our product and publishing the review! There are,
however, a couple of mistakes that I would like to inform about and hope
that you could make a correction (Editor's note -- These corrections have
been made on our Web site):
Then still a general comment. There was nothing mentioned in the article
about the audio switching feature. It was written, "The handset comes
with a plastic hook for 'hanging it up,' but really just stores it out of
the way, as there are no moving parts on the unit." It is true that
there are no moving parts, but the hook actually controls the audio switch
with a built-in magnet: When the handset is on-hook, audio is connected to
PC speakers, and when the handset is off-hook, audio is connected to the
handset, and PC speakers are muted. This feature is pretty important,
because most competing products do not have such a feature.
-- Mika Alamaki
Marketing Manager, Audibit Oy, Turku, Finland
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Telephony In Egypt
I commend you for your article ("Africa:
Land Of Networking Opportunity,"). Finally someone has taken notice
as to the potential of the African continent, with respect to communication
My only input is that those stats seemed to be for sub-saharan Africa
only? North Africa has one of the fastest cellular telephony and Internet
telephony growth markets in the world -- Egypt!
Obviously as a telephony and converged services company we are looking at
the African market with intense interest; and certainly we see North, East
and South Africa having the greatest appeal due to their political stability
Keep up the PIONEERING work Laura!
-- Mohamed Bakheit
Laura Guevin responds:
You are correct: Egypt is certainly a fast-growing market for fixed-line
and cellular service. According to the ITU, Egypt Telecom brought in the
third highest revenues for public telecom operators in Africa in 1997 and
had 3.4 million subscribers, trailing only Vodacom and the top-ranking
Telkom in South Africa, which had 4.6 million subscribers. The government is
also working to add more land lines, and the country now has three cellular
providers. Egypt Telecom also works with Digitcom out of California to offer
Internet telephony service between the U.S. and Egypt.
I liked your article, especially since I have returned recently to
Australia following a two-year stint in Africa for a USA telecom company.
Some of the names in your story are very familiar...
Whilst there are many opportunities on the continent, the pervading
problem I observed/dealt with surrounded attitudes of various folk in
government departments. My comments, in general, are that many countries
derive substantial revenue from the provision of telco services. Many also
provide a poor (by first world standards) quality of service and inadequate
deployment of networks. Therefore, competition in the western sense of
providing consumer choice and consumer benefit is not an active
consideration. In fact, I can cite national legislation precluding
competition and enshrining a monopoly status to the incumbent (government)
Often, the link between "donor money" and "government
partnership" is manifest. Further, I observed three forms of Africa.
First, the *Francophone countries*, then the *Sub-Saharan economies*,
followed by the *Southern African* group dominated by the country, South
Africa. Each has differing directions to resolving their problems.
These days, I telephone friends in Central Africa and feel elated IF the
call gets through on the third attempt AND the call is bi-directional! The
continent has a long way to go to recover from the economic devastation of
European colonialism, but that history is another (long) story...
-- Robert Kopp
Business Development Manager
VisibleVoice Pty Ltd
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