Can New Mobile Service Providers Save Us From Complexity? Tello Goes For It

The battle for our mobile attention has put convenience and user experience on a pedestal and, as a result, a ton friction has been removed from our day-to-day activities: shopping, ordering food, banking, traveling… But it often seems that, to gain access to these conveniences, we have no choice but to wade through complex waters, aka mobile service providers. With two-year commitments, opaque plans and fee-tangled bills, many of the carriers that enable today’s celebrated mobile innovations are not, themselves, widely celebrated.
This is why consumers might want to pay closer attention to MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators). MVNOs give you access to the major US mobile carrier networks (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, etc.), but with their own pricing and packaging. For customers, that can translate to lower rates, more flexible contracts and better customer service. Representing a smaller segment of mobile subscribers (just one in ten US subscribers a few years back) and competing against powerhouse brands, MVNOs are the underdog in the mobile service space. This is why when a new provider enters the fray they need to work hard to stand out.
This is the challenge for the newly announced Tello. Tello runs on Sprint’s network in the US, but has been operating out of the UK for two years already. (The parent company, KeepCalling, has been around since 2002.) At the core of Tello’s US offering is a pledge for “No Fees, Whatsoever,” as in no activation fee, no overage fee, no processing fee or early termination. Tello plans can be fully customized, so you’re not paying for something you don’t use (fitting for those who don’t use their phones to, you know, make calls), and can be upgraded or downgraded easily if you find, for example, you’re hitting your data limit. Technically data is unlimited as speed is throttled down to 64kbps once you hit your limit.
Things that are also good to know, if you’re thinking about switching providers, is that you can choose to buy a phone from Tello, but there’s also the option to bring your own. As mentioned before, Tello is a contract-free service, but for those who prefer to avoid plans altogether, Tello has a Pay As You Go option that gives you the chance to buy let’s say $5 and use it for national and international calls or texts.
Of course, Tello isn’t the first provider to tackle the pain points of mobile service. Ting, for example, offers a plan that allows you to pay based on usage and carriers like T-Mobile often cover the cost of termination to facilitate switching. But scratching out every fee and keeping costs low—Tello has a customizable plan that starts at $5 monthly, or (if you want data) $9/mo for 100 minutes of talk, 200 texts and 200 MB 4G LTE—gives the company a fair chance to stand out.
Still, one of the bigger questions that comes to mind is, if MVNOs are presenting such competitive offerings, why aren’t a larger share of mobile providers using them? Is it a testimony to long term brand effects of TV advertising? Are consumers still tethered to brick and mortar, taking comfort in having a place to go if something goes awry? (Tello, for example, is exclusively online.) While these factors may have a big impact today, they may lose their foothold as new generation of cell phone users and cord cutters come to market. Tello may be ahead of it’s time—though given early adopters always seem to be ready for the next opportunity to assert their early adopter-ness, that may be an advantage unto itself.

Are Your Virtual Meetings Actually Secure?

Businesses large and small have turned to VoiP, Videoconferencing and many other IP enabled communications platforms to enhance collaboration and speed the decision making process. However, few consider the security implications of conducting meetings over internet connected devices and may be leaving themselves open to eavesdroppers at best, corporate espionage at worst.
Those technologies, which include, VoIP, Videoconferencing, hosted webinars, and IP based communications platforms have transformed the way businesses communicate; Creating a paradigm shift that has resulted in the creation of the virtual meeting place / virtual conference room. Yet, for all of the productivity created, a deep dark secret lingers in the shadows – a secret that can be summed up simply as who can eavesdrop on those virtual meetings, or intercept the data shared.
That secret culminates in to a real world threat, where the specter of corporate espionage, powered by IP based communications, can result in loss revenue and failed projects. Simply put, securing all forms of communication should a major concern for any business entity looking to share confidential data or discuss intellectual property across the unfettered packets flying across the internet.
After all, businesses spend countless dollars on firewalls, security appliances and other InfoSec technologies to protect files and prevent unauthorized access to corporate systems, yet it seems little thought is put into securing technologies that have become all too common, such as videoconferencing and hosted IP based conferencing platforms.
To be effective, IP based conferencing has to be easy to use, easy to access and flexible enough to be reconfigured on the fly. What’s more, conferencing must be able to work across several different devices, ranging from smart phones to desktop PCs to dedicated IP conference room appliances. Simply put, if the platform makes things difficult for users, those users will attempt to go another route, such as an open or “free” system, further complicating the security picture.
Therein lies the security conundrum of virtual meetings. How can IT professionals make it both easy to use and secure from data leakage?
The answer to that conundrum lies with rethinking how users engage with their meeting platforms of choice. In other words, a conferencing system has to be both easy to use and easy to secure, two elements are normally at polar opposites of the communications equation.
To that end, Video Conferencing Solutions Vendor pexip has launched Infinity, a hosted platform that combines ease of use with policy based enforcement to create secure virtual meeting rooms. The product accomplishes that by leveraging an external policy server, which allows administrators to define policies that enforce security rules based upon multiple factors, such as user identity, location, device and so forth.
Of course, establishing identity is only the first part of the security equation. Here, pexip brings to the table some additional capabilities, such as assigning a temporary PIN to a particular meeting and then delivering that PIN via an RSA token, SMS, or other methodology so that two factor authentication becomes the norm for any conference.
For example, with SMS, each time the policy server receives a meeting request, a dynamic PIN is generated (which is stored for 60 seconds), that PIN is then delivered to the meeting attendee using their assigned phone number, which the policy server can loop up in the directory. The attendee uses that pin as a part of the authentication to enter the meeting.
There is a lesson to be learned here, security ideologies must flow down to even the most basic of corporate communications.

What is the “missed call” market and why does Twitter want in?

Twitter’s acquisition of Bangalore-based ZipDial gives it access to a fairly massive market for “missed call” services, which many phone users in developing countries use as a low-cost method of accessing marketing deals and services like Twitter

Tycoon Carlos Slim breaks up his Mexican telecom empire under regulatory pressure

You may think the U.S. fell short on telecom competition, but in Mexico a single company has long dominated the communications landscape: América Móvil(s amx). It services 70 percent of all mobile connections and 80 percent of all landline phone links in the country. But billionaire Carlos Slim, the carrier’s controlling owner, is bowing to regulator pressure and is divesting substantial portions of Slim’s empire, according to Bloomberg. The sales and spin offs will reduce América Móvil’s market share in mobile and wireline to below 50 percent, as well as remove it from the communications tower and satellite TV businesses. It doesn’t look as if América Móvil’s substantial operations in Latin America or the U.S. (where it owns prepaid giant TracFone) will be affected.

Despite stocking the iPhone, Japan’s NTT DoCoMo continues to bleed subscribers

In September, Japanese telecom company NTT DoCoMo finally joined its competitor companies, KDDI Corp and SoftBank Corp, in stocking the iPhone(s aapl). However, according to Reuters, the company still reported a net loss of subscribers — down 66,800 for the month. The loss is a record monthly drop for DoCoMo, which puts blame squarely on  not having enough quantities of the new iPhone available compared to its rivals. While it’s unclear whether the Apple product will be the panacea for DoCoMo’s woes, one thing is clear: telecom companies are confident that the iPhone is a deal-maker for cellular subscribers.

Vodafone Germany hacked, 2 million customers affected

Today, Vodafone Germany released a press statement confirming that the company’s servers had been hacked, compromising 2 million mobile customers. The attack, which Vodafone claims was only possible by a hacker with “insider knowledge,” exposed names, addresses, bank account details and other pieces of personal information — but not phone or credit card numbers. The company, which is the second-largest mobile provider in Germany, is currently working with authorities, but has yet to make an arrest.