|IP Telephony: Where Are
BY RAJ SAKSENA
The benefits of voice/data convergence and Internet telephony are many, but only one is
really compelling: Next generation applications and services that provide carriers with
new revenue streams and a competitive advantage. However, ease of integration and
scalability to deploy new services into the existing service structure can be very
cumbersome. The true value of a worldwide IP network will be found in the services that
will be available through applications that exist on top of the IP network.
Carriers to date have largely experienced the Internet as an additional burden that
generates little or no compensating revenue. Their central offices are being turned into
teraPOPs as Internet traffic increasingly dominates their networks, and yet traditional
circuit-switched voice services still account for almost all of their profits. Voice
services and applications can ultimately be deployed more cheaply and effectively over IP,
but current infrastructure issues have carriers moving in a divergent direction with
stop-gap solutions that offload Internet traffic from the PSTN.
One problem is the integration of VoIP solutions with the circuit switching that all
incumbent carriers use in the core of their networks. Another problem is the lack of
real-time metrics correlation for services monitoring and billing capabilities in the
current Internet environment. Carriers cant build and deploy value-added
applications for VoIP services if there is no way to charge for them. Latency is also a
critical hurdle to overcome, and until now, has been a major obstacle to the widespread
adoption of VoIP solutions.
What carriers need to get the VoIP migration rolling is a scalable, industrial-strength
solution that allows for rapid deployment of IP-based applications while leveraging the
intelligence, services, and reliability of the mature PSTN infrastructure. Forklift
upgrades to pure packet-based infrastructures arent going to happen, in either the
carrier or enterprise environments, and the PSTN actually has a lot of functionality to
offer the much less mature Internet. Carriers need to look at IP as a way of enabling
applications and services, not just as a transport. Thats what has been missing.
WHAT IP CAN DO
An IP-based solution in the core of the carrier network lets providers service
calls in IP format instead of tunneling them through expensive TDM switches. Since calls
stay in IP format, they can be routed by cheaper IP switches, and are available for
integration with any IP-based service, such as unified messaging, follow-me applications,
or click-to-talk capabilities on Web sites.
In the traditional circuit-switched voice networks, billing systems are concerned
simply with the length of the call. To make deployment of VoIP applications practical, IP
networks must be able to:
- Distinguish among different types of calls;
- Keep track of the number of packets that get transferred during a call; and
- Factor such variables as jitter and latency into the billing equation.
Carriers need an IP-detail record, not a call-detail record. Until service providers
get one, it is simply too difficult to charge for value-added VoIP services and
applications, so they wont get developed and deployed. In short, a pure IP
environment separates front ends from back ends, and content from infrastructure. Carriers
get a device-independent solution that lets them take advantage of best-in-class telephony
applications developed on any platform, including Linux. They can quickly deploy a full
range of Internet-based offerings, such as voice dialing, toll-free numbers, unified
messaging, integrated voice and data conferencing, IP-centrex phone services, virtual call
centers, and enhanced telecommuter services. c
Raj Saksena is general manager, telecommunications division, for Lara Technology,
Inc. Lara is committed to developing advanced networking and communications technology.
The company uses patent pending architectures, the most advanced 0.18um semiconductor
technology, and the latest systems and software development tools available. Laras
carrier-class voice gateway will demonstrate the realization of the converged network,
offering unparalleled capacity, performance, and reliability at the lowest cost per port.
For more information, visit Laras Web site at www.laratech.com.
The Unified Services Exchange (USX1000) switching
system from Lara Technology gives carriers the first pure IP backplane for provisioning
PSTN-quality voice and related services. The USX1000 platform uses a softswitch
architecture that leverages third-party gigabit Ethernet hardware. While the USX1000 will
eventually provide full Class 4 or Class 5 functionality, it currently sits behind a
traditional Class 5 circuit switch and can use the latters advanced features.
The USX1000 VoIP switch incorporates an SS7 agent that provides the signaling
intelligence it needs to communicate with traditional PSTN switches and leverage their
capabilities. IP network complexities are encapsulated to allow for easy deployment, and
the GUI-based element management system supports TL1, CORBA, and SNMP for easy integration
with the PSTNs existing operational support systems.
No mediation device is needed to gather information about who is using what service and
at what level. Instead, usage and quality metrics are automatically correlated in real
time on a subscriber-by-service basis, and can be fed into network monitoring systems to
help assure compliance with service-level agreements. These statistics can also be
integrated into existing billing systems to help solve the Internet charge-for-services
conundrum. Additionally, open APIs enable exploitation of the PSTNs customer care,
accounting, and billing systems (CCABS).
This is a key capability for provisioning IP telephony applications, because the
authorization, authentication, and call-detail accounting functions that are centralized
in the same switch in the PSTN get distributed across multiple servers in an IP network.
Event records have to be gathered from all these different locations, which makes billing
for services very complicated.
A solution such as the USX1000 brings all the innovation, flexibility, and rapid
deployment associated with Internet technologies to carrier voice networks. Any future
IP-based service can be easily incorporated into such a platform as soon as it appears.
Carriers get new sources of revenue generation, and users will finally start to benefit
from a broad range of VoIP applications.
Voice As An Application
BY LAURA GUEVIN
When Industrial Computer Source changed its name
to ICS Advent last July, the company also decided to start looking at the whole picture
for industrial computing not just boxes and hardware. What they came up with is a
new product line called the Networked Communications Exchange (NCX) that offers a scalable
development solution for everything from Internet telephony to IVR applications, all in
one box. The NCX solution, which is currently only available only in Europe, was unveiled
at Communications Solutions EXPO in Las Vegas in December. It will be available in the US
in the first half of 2000,and is the first of a broad line of solutions being developed by
What is most exciting about the NCX family is its integration of the rugged hardware
components that have been the mainstay for ICS Advent with the Envox CT-Studio from Envox a 32-bit Windows application generator
designed for the development of computer-telephony applications. The Envox platform
enables creation of unified messaging, fax, PC-based switching, contact center, and debit
card applications. Features include a URL block that enables Web pages to be downloaded
and saved as variables or files, to be later read back to callers using text-to-speech (or
sent as fax or e-mail files). This technology, combined with automatic speech recognition,
can enable unlimited voice-activated Web browsing.
Other nifty features of the development platform include drop-down menus so developers
may choose which blocks and sub routines to add to their scripts. The blocks perform
specific tasks, and each parameter in a block may be defined with expressions using
variables and database fields. These expressions are displayed in a tree file structure in
CT-Studios Expression Assistant.
The NCX system also features remote monitoring and administration capabilities, and ICS
Advent views this a strong selling point for value-added resellers (VARs) and value-added
distributors (VADs). With more information and control in their hands (and important
features like popup alarms), resellers and systems integrators can negotiate maintenance
and administration contracts with their customers. Another strong point is the ability to
add functionality like speech recognition with a simple point-and-click action. This
action automatically adds licensing fees to the cost of these applications another
ease-of-use factor for resellers.
The NCX scales up from the NCX 1000, a basic system with room for four
telephony cards, to the NCX 5000, which offers maximum capacity and fault tolerance for
large CT installations. The NCX 2000 can accommodate up to 10 telephony cards, while the
NCX 3000 has room for as many as 15 cards. The systems feature Dialogic (an Intel company) voice boards.
ICS Advents easy-to-use, integrated solution opens up the marketplace to
developers and resellers who may not have the time or capability to build applications
without such an advanced development platform. And the company wants to become a master
VAR and master VAD with the release of this new development solution. With the trend
toward value-added solutions for voice and data convergence in the marketplace, it would
seem ICS Advent is well on its way.