These guys have IP based communications literally flowing in their veins. SURF! talks to Sin Hock Kian and Dinesh Nair the people behind QubeConnect, developers of made-in-Malaysia, IP-based, unified communications equipment.
QubeConnect has recently got the contract to supply China Mobile with an eFax server accessible on heir mobile phones. Can you please tell us a bit more about what QubeConnect equipment this requires and how this works, especially for end users?
Dinesh: We signed a US$1 million contract in May 2008 with China Mobile to deploy various components of QubeTalk Telecommunications Application Platform (QTAP), primarily the QubeTalk Service Provider System softswitch and our QubeFax electronic fax processing system and portal.
Our systems will allow China Mobile subscribers to send and receive faxes through their mobile phone numbers from a web portal, thereby providing true mobility and location independence for faxes. Users would also be able to upload faxes for transmission as normal Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint documents as well as ODF and PDF documents.
Our efax service also allows users to retrieve incoming faxes through our QubeFax web portal. Alternatively, it can be delivered to the subscriber’s email inbox.
What did you do prior to founding QubeConnect and what were your motivations and visions behind establishing QubeConnect as a provider of IP-based, unified voice, data and multimedia communication servers and systems?
Dinesh: Both of us have been involved in various Internet, ICT and Telecommunications projects in Malaysia and have worked jointly on large projects such as the smart card design and implementation for the Malaysian Immigration Department and the National Registration Department. We have also assisted venture capital companies in advisory capacities.
Sin: Dinesh was also part of the team that rolled out the MSC Malaysia Teleconsultation Flagship Application with WorldCare Health Malaysia and Dinesh was responsible for setting up IPC production operations in China as well as building data centres in China and Japan.
Our exposure led us to realise that there was a dire need for effective and unified communications systems that had become increasingly complex and multifaceted.
The various choices which people are faced with actually mean that communications have become more complex. Our aim is to simplify the communications experience through our technology and our solutions.
With IP based communications now firmly entrenched in our lives, we took the opportunity to develop solutions in order to provide a voice network to leverage the ever growing internet accessibility, both in Malaysia and globally.
When was QubeConnect founded?
Dinesh: We founded Qube-Connect in July 2004, with Sin as chief executive officer and I as chief technology officer. In December 2006, we raised a total of RM8 million in venture capital funding from MAVCAP and LB Aluminum Berhad.
What technologies and standards are used by QubeConnect equipment?
Dinesh: QubeConnect’s entire technology stack is 100% designed and made in Malaysia. Our embedded firmware technology platform is based on the QubeOS, which is derived from the open source PicoBSD and FreeBSD operating systems.
This allows us to benefit from 30 years of operating system and network technology research, as well as embed our own enhancements to the network stack into our products. In doing so, we were able to improve and increase performance within a smaller memory footprint. It also serves as a firm base to layer our other technology platforms on.
Sin: We are firm believers in open standards and play an active role in open standards development. Our commitment to open standard is reflected in Qube-Connect systems that utilize various open standards such as the Sessions Initiation Protocol (SIP), the ITU H.323 standard, XML-RPC for interoperability as well as the ubiquitous web interface for configuration management of our systems.
What were your first products, what did they do and which market segments were they initially aimed at?
Sin: We have two primary product lines: the QubeTalk Enterprise Communications System which is targeted as a full-fledged CLASS 5 IP PBX for enterprises ranging from 10 seats to thousands of seats. We also manufacture the QubeTalk Service Provider System which is a Next Generation Network (NGN) softswitch used by telecommunication carriers and service providers to drive communications in the converged network.
We will soon be introducing an entry-level system targeted at smaller enterprises and industries as well as the SOHO (small office, home office) market starting at 4 seats, in order to allow these companies to join in the IP communications revolution.
What do you see as the future of VoIP communications, especially when the culture on the Internet expects at least part of the service, such as between Skype users to be free and at very low charge to traditional fixed or mobile numbers?
Dinesh: What Skype has done is to show that VoIP communications has reached maturity. However, Skype operates globally as a worldwide telecoms operator in that sense, with subscribers still needing to pay for voice calls, both incoming and outgoing in many cases.
With internet communications becoming prevalent, we believe that over a period of time, the older TDM and proprietary circuit switch networks will gradually move towards full IP communications, thus allowing us to leverage off the distributed nature of the Internet. Companies using our systems can get these benefits now, and in doing so gain a competitive advantage in their businesses.
While QubeConnect equipment and systems are used by enterprises to make free calls between branches and subsidiaries over their usually expensive rented leased line, satellite or VPN links, how can it help reduce call costs for most consumers who don’t have or can’t afford leased lines, satellite of VPN links?
Sin: QubeConnect systems do not require dedicated links, as our systems can connect branches and subsidiaries over normal internet links. Users located at a free WiFi hotspot can be connected to their companies and be reached through normal extension dialing, seamlessly.
Furthermore, QubeConnect voice trunking technology reduces the bandwidth and infrastructure requirements for inter-branch or inter-subsidiary communications traffic, making it very deployable for a faster return on investment.
Will a telco make savings by using your products to provide commercial VoIP telephony and Internet access and if yes, by what percentage?
Dinesh: This will largely be dependent on the different countries and the business model employed. We however feel that the cost savings offered will make it very attractive. They will see returns faster than that possible through other systems.
Why doesn’t QubeConnect provide free VoIP calls similar to Skype-to-Skype or Starhub’s free Pfingoto-Pfingo service?
Sin: QubeConnect is pretty much focused on being a provider of cutting edge and innovative technology, and we do not have plans on becoming a service provider like Skype or Starhub. We would however be quite happy if these providers were to use our systems to provide such services to their subscribers.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself. Where were you born and raised, what course or courses of study did you qualify in?
Dinesh: Both of us are born, raised and received our early education in Malaysia. Sin graduated from the electrical and electronic engineering school at the University of Iowa, United States and I have a degree in computer science from Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang.
Besides business and work, what are your interests and pursuits during your leisure time?
Sin: I like tinkering with cars and off road racing while Dinesh enjoys riding motorcycles and owns four cruisers.