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Hard and Fast

Maiden Thoughts

By Antonios Karantze, in , posted: 12-Apr-2006 21:47


How to start a blog, and your thoughts on the world?

Mauricio kindly helped me set up a few weeks ago, but I've been working on what to say. And something that struck me while working in telecommunications is the unintended consequence of assumption.

Have you ever wondered about why some things are the way they are? why some parameter is set the way it is? how a project got named? how an assumption was created and it became the norm?

As I got older and started working in these programs, eventually driving some of them, the mysticism evaporated and became even more profound: a lot of the time, it's a bunch of people in a room who are making guesses and living with the results.

In 2002 I attended a course run by Landmark Education ( in London, which changed the way I viewed the world and the people in it. For the better? well, no. But certainly with a lot less mysticism and more reality. And that the same theme, pattern or event would recur time and again.

In my graduate year at Victoria University (1993) and under a workload that was very heavy, I chose to read Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. For those who haven't read it - please do - there is a sequence where the most powerful computer in the world is built to calculate the meaning of life, and after many years the answer it comes back with is "42".

That number stuck with me, and I have struck it time and again in my life and career.

I have only just recently started to focus on Voice over IP (VOIP) as part of my new job, and after spending time with a fascinating techie, the number 42 came up. Most people don't think of the process that goes into a telephone call, or what is required at the technical - or human - level to acheive a normal call. A delay of about 40-50 milliseconds (40-50ms) is not discernible to you during a call, and all sounds fine. When that delay increases towards 100ms you start to notice the call is 'poor quality', sounding choppy gargly and generally not clear.

An acceptable standard is about 40-50ms. that's MILLISECONDS from you to the other person wherever they are in the world - and that's pretty amazing stuff.

Why 40-50ms?

I was told that it was a number observed many many years ago when engineers were figuring out (in the states) how to carry more calls down existing telephone technology. Various numbers were observed, but the teams settled on 50ms (which is close to 42). That was a nice round number that seemed to fit.

20 years later, the IT community and world at large is living with the impact of that decision, made all those years ago.

If you've taken DSL broadband at home and want to run applications such as SKYPE, on the premise of making cheap or free calls, keep in the back of your mind that for a great sounding call you need latency of no more than about 50ms from you to the person you're calling. Ask your DSL provider what their latency is, and whether it's guarenteed.

Bet you're surprised with the answer!

- Antonios Karantze
  April 2006

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antoniosk's profile

Antonios Karantze
New Zealand

I'm a born and bred Wellingtonian, and have chosen IT and Telecommunications as my industry, as a Commercial Manager.

Credits include but are not limited to:
- The O2 Xda smartphone range, and O2's range of 3G Mobile Internet services
- Numerous TelstraClear Mobile and IP voice products

In my journey through the industry I have worked at
- Bellsouth NZ
- Telecom NZ
- ICO Global
- T-Mobile International (formerly One2One Communications)
- O2 Plc
- TelstraClear
- Vodafone NZ

I'm a fan of technology, and what it can do for people and business... and I enjoy bringing new things to market and seeing them grow. Enjoy the blog, take the time to think about what I write - it's not technology heavy, and is my reflection on life and the people around me.