TECH: Telephones & DSL: Can we lose the phone?

From: Robert J. Bradbury (
Date: Wed Mar 21 2001 - 20:29:05 MST

In one of my rare introspective moments, I was thinking to
myself today, how I so rarely get phone calls that I could
probably turn off my telephone service and not notice it.
Then it occured to me that I've got a long-distance e-phone
call-out capability (with some vendor I can't remember the
name of, who may no longer be in business...). I've also
got an eFax account for incoming faxes. All I'm missing
is an eFax type "voice" supplier so that people could
call me over my DSL connection.

Now I think the USB-computer telephones are running a couple
of hundred dollars, but the implication is that I could
completely cancel my telephone lines and use virtual
telephone numbers instead. The savings in telco billing
should pay for the cost of a handset in a year or so
(a remarkably fast payoff for a technology transition).

Now, if people move to this en-mass is the phone company going to
"wise up" and insist that you pay for voice service on any
DSL connection? Will the telephone company "disconnect"
your DSL line if you close your voice line? (Are these policies
already spelled out or will they be determined by letters to the
commission overseeing the Telco and potentially lawsuits?).

A related question would be does anyone understand IPv6
sufficiently to tell me how I can get my house allocated
a permanent block of numbers and lean on the Telco to
stop charging me for my block of fixed internet addresses
(something they seem to be playing the "buy" and
"bump-the-price" game with).

Now, for the prediction-oriented out there. Clearly
at some point, it should become feasible for a company
to assemble an electronic box (probably a couple of chips)
that does IPv6 routing over frequencies anyone has access
to for free. If you get the frequency hopping algorithms
correct, everyone should be able to put a world "router"
in their house. So for the up-front cost plus the electricity
to run it you should have access to the local "hub" for free.

I.e. no telco bill (obviously this buries the telcos
as we know them). The barriers to this are
the design, the limited market (once everyone has
one they are unlikely to buy two), and the need to
get "sufficient" mass in cities (1 house per block?).
However you could develop a B-plan where you give
away 1/block and sell to all the other people on
the block to access it.

Under this scheme, you pay some monthly fee to the
inter-city hub traffic carrier (you pick the amount).
They route your messages strictly on a priority basis
based on how much you are paying per message unit.
(In other words, you gets what you pay for.) Presumably
they have to build the net so that traffic of the highest
paying customers gets routed responsively at peak times.
If you choose to communicate at the "off-peak" times,
you reap the benefits of the people willing to pay
the "big bucks". Now the interesting thing about this
is that it becomes "self-balancing".

Related to this would be an interesting P2P concept
where cell phones become routers. If everyone has
a C.P. why do you need the base stations? You
obviously need the B.S. for interstate calls, but
perhaps not for local calls (which are presumably
the majority). [Of course there is a battery/electricity
cost to using your phone as a router, but can you provide
an accountng for this. I.e. when you leave your C.P. in
the charger so it can serve as a local router, you accumulate
call time that is deducted when you actually use the phone.
It becomes quite interesting that people might actually
derive an income from sticking their C.P. routers in critical
intercity locations so you capture some fraction of the
revenue that would otherwise run over the optical links.

As Harper, from Andromeda (
might say -- "Am I not a genius?" (or am I simply so
stupid that there are a dozen companies working on this
as I type these words and I'm simply unaware of it?)


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