From this business travelers perspective, the most painful travel is
international travel. But before you send me a flood of e-mail about how nice it is to
visit the Eiffel tower or Big Ben, please hear me out. I spend a great deal of my time on
the road. Maybe even as much as 90 percent of my time is spent traveling to some near or
far-off destination. These last months have seen me driving through toll plazas and
touching down at airports in northern New England, New York, New Jersey, Washington State,
Texas, California, Nevada, and Canada. And as if international travel wasnt bad
enough, with the proliferation of flight delays and cancellations, domestic traveling is
becoming more difficult than ever.
Now, when traveling outside the borders of the U.S., we must not only endure the
hassles of domestic plane travel, but upon reaching our destination, the rigorous
questioning and potential for searches that is known as customs awaits us. Having
successfully negotiated customs, you must exchange your good old American greenbacks to
the local currency of the country you happen to be in. Moreover, your electrical
equipment, cell phone, and modem may not work properly in foreign lands. One of my worst
experiences was a layover in Canada where the local ISP number would not recognize my
Netcom account. Once I got onto the Netcom Canada network, my outgoing mail server
(ix.netcom.com) wouldnt take e-mail. I wasted hours trying to send vital e-mails. At
one point, I was dialing long-distance to Connecticut to an ISP number that I knew worked
just so I could communicate. What a disaster!
Needless to say, I am not a big fan of international travel and try to stay stateside
whenever possible. It is just so inefficient to leave our borders that I feel like I am
wasting more time than it is worth when I leave the U.S. Of course, the situation is
exactly the same for anyone who leaves their home country to go to any foreign land. There
are so many different standards telecom, electrical, monetary
that having to
negotiate them all makes us inefficient.
While many travel and hospitality companies try to help us overcome the obstacles of
multiple standards and yes, there are occasional success stories, such as cell
phones that can work in any international location, or hotels that offer electrical
adapters for multiple global standards disparate standards do continue to evolve.
And it is the unfortunate consumer who usually loses out in the process.
A look at the datacom market can show you what happens when disparate standards evolve
into a single one. The PC, Ethernet, TCP/IP, POP, HTML: these are a few good examples of
standards that have truly allowed an industry to erupt with growth in an extremely short
amount of time. You cant argue the fact that single standards for things like e-mail
and Web browsing are good. This concept has not been lost on Internet telephony vendors
and the appropriate standards bodies. However, at last count, there were way too many
standards in the Internet telephony market. Unfortunately this proliferation of standards
has resulted in confusion for those looking to develop products in the market, not to
mention those looking to purchase products. While I am happy to see all of this standards
activity in the VoIP market, my biggest concern lies with whether or not these standards
will actually gel into existing products rather than merely foster press releases that
AND A PRAYER
I wish I had the power to eliminate, or at least slow down, the invention of new
VoIP standards until the existing ones were implemented into products. Among the goals of
our market, we need to embrace a minimum of standards guaranteeing the least amount of
choices and work for developers of Internet telephony products. I almost wish we could
eliminate a few existing standards. It is crucial that we work together to stop the
madness of standards proliferation and concentrate on adoption. This industry will not
continue to enjoy incredible growth if it is splintered into many different factions and
standards. And lets face it, we have a long way to go to ensure interoperability
becomes a reality.
We at TMC have put our heads together with the vendor community and tried to do
our part to ensure that our industry has as much help as possible in achieving its lofty
compatibility goals. To that end, at last Octobers
Internet Telephony Expo in San Diego, we launched TMCs ConvergeNET, a
multi-vendor VoIP network dedicated to showcasing interoperability.
Naturally, when it came time to find someone who could interface with the vendor
community to help ensure that the various vendors in the industry would work together
effectively, I turned to our own in-house TMC Labs engineers who have decades of
experience testing and evaluating communications products and services. In fact, many
members of the TMC team worked very closely with industry contacts to ensure that
ConvergeNET would become a success.
When the Exhibit Hall opened, I couldnt believe my eyes lots of companies
that have never worked together before were attempting to place calls to one another right
on the show floor. Engineers were tweaking code and recompiling their products right
before my eyes to get their products to work.
As soon as the show floor opened for example, I visited the booths of iFace.com and Quicknet
Technologies, where they had just gotten their disparate products to make and receive
calls. I actually placed the first test call over ConvergeNET between these separate
platforms. I was ecstatic! It was a great feeling to be part of the event that showcased
companies like iFace.com and Quicknet working together.
When all was said and done, 12 companies demonstrated some sort of multi-vendor
interoperability. elemedia was one of the driving
forces behind ConvergeNET and for that the industry owes them a debt of gratitude.
elemedias strong support was evidenced by the fact that their gateway interoperated
with a wide variety of other products from Inter-Tel,
Quicknet, Tundo, and iFace.com. Other success stories
included VocalTec and Cisco
interoperability, Dialogic and Motorola working flawlessly with NetMeeting, and dynamicsoft
demonstrating SIP compatibility with Pingtel.
One of the more unique ConvergeNET participants was Nokia
who was gracious enough to allow me use of their wireless LAN adapter cards during my
keynote to demonstrate wireless VoIP video conferencing.
Needless to say, we are all very happy to see the industry working towards
demonstrating full real world interoperability. TMCs ConvergeNET was so successful
that we will continue it at all TMC events, including the upcoming Communications Solutions EXPO (formerly CTI
EXPO), April 2628 in Washington, D.C.
And so, just a few years after the start of this great industry, it seems that we are off
and running toward a future where disparate VoIP products will work seamlessly together. A
few things that still need to be worked out are how to gauge different levels of
interoperability for carrier class, SOHO, and enterprise applications. Complications
notwithstanding, I predict that the year 2000 will be the year when we see widespread
multi-vendor cooperation and full interoperability.
We are witnessing the development of an industry that will provide telecom users with
enhanced services that will make them more productive and give them more control over how
they communicate with others. As purchasers of Internet telephony products, its our
job to make sure the vendors know that they must interoperate with one another if they
plan on getting our business. If we can transmit the importance of standards compliance
early on we will all soon enjoy the ability to put together best of breed solutions from a
variety of manufacturers.
In the meantime, here I go again: Traveling all across this great country of ours (with
the occasional foray into foreign lands) doing my share to promote common standards and
interoperability. Now, if only all the airlines would work together to promote a higher
standard of quality when it comes to airline food. Then we might really be on to