Test Drive: ISDN Replacements - ipDTL

ipdtl-a

by Steve Cunningham

Recently I said my final goodbyes to my ISDN phone lines. I know, I was late to the party getting them in the first place, and am now late in losing them. I'd originally had them installed back in the mid-late 1990's, when the monthly cost was about $35 a month to maintain the basic service, and did not include per minute charges. And that was a bargain, both then and now, since many ISDN plans have recently seen their fixed cost-per-month, to simply maintain the service, shoot up from that $30-something per month range, up to the $400 per month seen recently by some Chicago-based VO talent, in a matter of a few months while working under the ISDN yoke of Verizon.

But wait -- why would ISDN rates spike like that in the Chicago market, or elsewhere? Vendors will often raise rates on a scarce product simply because they can, even when the market size is small. One might be tempted to believe that ISDN was so well-liked by the small market of VO that use it, that the phone companies could afford to squeeze more profit from that monthly fee for just having the service. Since those VO folks need that service, their market will likely just remain compliant, accept the increase, and deal with it.

Or perhaps there is another reason for the spike in the pricing of ISDN service. Maybe the phone companies simply want to price ISDN out of existence. True, the market for it consists of profitable businesses, but they tend to be small and their numbers are not increasing. Paying to support these customers is expensive, and wouldn't that time and money be better spent promoting more cell phone services? Why should they keep ISDN around for a shrinking number of businesses? In either case, it would appear that ISDN's days are numbered, whatever the reason, as more reports of price increases appear.

Fortunately, the market is already providing what appear to be suitable replacements for the venerable remote recording technology. This month, let's take a look at one of the newer entries coming to us from out of the UK: ipDTL.

ipDTL

Kevin Leach, a sound engineer for the likes of the BBC and other stations in the UK, had often utilized Skype as a medium for conducting remote broadcasts and interviews for radio. Like most, he found it an effective tool, but the results were variable, due in part to the way Skype interfaced with personal computer's sound facilities and attempted feedback management. Leach's understanding of Skype's VOIP shortcomings lead him to create the initial version of what would become ipDTL product. It eliminated the feedback management portion of Skype and took advantage of Google Chrome's extensive real time communications suite, resulting in the formation of a company known as In:Quality, and a product known as ipDTL.

First things first: ipDTL stands for "Internet Protocol Down The Line," although recently at least here in the US, VO users have tended to refer to the product as "Ip-Dittle." This moniker may or may not catch on as the products' spoken name on this side of the pond, but a note from this author to Kevin Leach, the founder of the company: You might want to manage that pronunciation, my friend.

More important than the pronunciation of the name is how ipDTL works, and how few resources it requires. ipDTL literally requires the following: a reasonably fast internet connection, a computer running the Chrome browser, and a microphone. Oh, and a subscription to use the ipDTL software.

That's it, really. Computer, connection, Chrome, microphone, subscription. The computer can be running just about anything, so long as the Chrome browser is supported. That means Windows XP SP2 or better, Vista, and Win 7 or 8. On the Mac side it's 10.6 or higher, and almost any recent Linux distro will work (Ubuntu 12.4, for example).

What is the definition of a "reasonably fast" internet connection? Not as high as you might think. ipDTL claims the service works with as little as 300kbp/s upload speed, which is quite do-able for even most consumer-grade internet connections. Frankly, my consumer Time Warner Cable Standard connection does over three times that speed on upload, and worked quite well in testing.

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