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David Sims - TMCnet CRM Alert Columnist[February 18, 2005]

So What�s VoIP 2.0 Anyway?

By David Sims, TMCnet CRM Alert Columnist

What’s the next generation of VoIP – called VoIP 2.0 by some industry insiders – going to look like? Remember when this generation was the “next” generation?

Not to pick on anyone here – heavens, we never do that – but since we’re looking ahead to the next generation of VoIP, let’s look back to when a respected VoIP industry vendor was looking at their next generation, which turned out to be this generation.

In May 2001 Quintum Technologies ( China) was previewing what it called the “next generation, Carrier VoIP MultiPath Switch.” The CMS included – if you can imagine – call routing, a VoIP gateway and gatekeeper, and provides QoS support.

“Service providers who have been placing multiple 24 or 30 port Tenors in their POPs now have the flexibility to place the high density CMS on their POPs, and the smaller Tenors on their customers’ premises, allowing them to offer voice-based services to their customers over an IP local loop,” their news filing said proudly. The world doth move too fast.

Their Tenor CMS product, next generation, mind you, was a media gateway offering a 14-slot rack-mount unit to supply up to 960 channels of voice traffic, and also includes performance monitoring, call detail reports and history, as well as system management audit trails.

“Like the smaller scale analog and digital Tenors, the CMS offers intelligent call routing… over the network best suited for transporting the call at that moment. Should data or voice traffic increase to the point of potentially degrading the quality of the voice calls, SelectNet will switch the call to another network that can support it, real-time.”

Well, that future’s here now. What about tomorrow’s?

TMC President Rich Tehrani, who’ll be presenting at the Miami Internet Telephony Conference & Expo 2005 February 22-25, sees a few key areas in tomorrow’s VoIP 2.0:

Service Providers . “ Triple-Play is becoming quadruple-play, quintuple-play and more,” Tehrani says. “The service providers of tomorrow will have to contend with providing voice, video, and data to their customers, the basic three food groups that make up the triple-play. Where it gets interesting is in the quadruple-play, which throws mobility into the mix.” Think mobile VoIP, imagine the ability to have VoIP work in WLAN environments allowing for WiFi telephony. Some vendors are even throwing around the term quintuple-play, thinking that service providers will also need to sell data services and they could be right.

The Device Sells The Service . There are over 100 VoIP service providers out there and counting. “As VoIP becomes commoditized, many providers will look to Apple and copy the iPod model,” Tehrani says. This isn’t MP3 over IP Tehrani’s suggesting, he’s thinking more of a development or rebranding of a device to lure customers into buying a service.

Taxation/Regulation . The Universal Service Fund, a great idea for its time, is drying up. And while it is impossible to predict the future of the VoIP market, Skype allows free VoIP calling and then charges for the various additional services it provides. These providers will make money on voicemail, virtual numbers and the like. Tehrani thinks broadband will be taxed, or services that are delivered via broadband – i.e. VoIP – will be taxed.

VoIP Peering . Right now this is arcana, but Tehrani sees it as having “t he greatest potential to change the way VoIP works. It’s the concept of interconnecting networks allowing IP and subsequently VoIP traffic to be carried between service providers and companies without the need to pay a middleman, or in this case an additional VoIP service provider. Tehrani sees the use of session border controllers who fit nicely between the service providers, providing a translation service between providers who don’t seamlessly interoperate.

Plus, “the peer to peer phenomenon is real, it is happening,” Tehrani says. “When I say VoIP 2.0 is here it is in part because p2p clients like Skype have had over 32 million downloads. The next frontier for this technology is in the equipment market where p2p allows phones to become virtual PBXs on the network without the need for a centralized server otherwise known as a PBX.”

Part of it, he thinks, is the huge push to decentralize telephony: “I have never seen anything like this in the telecom world. P2P software and now desktop telephones, enterprise and service provider peering, ENUM peering… VoIP is allowing decentralized telephony on a massive scale.”

Open Source . You’ll hear Tehrani take the other side of this debate at Miami 2005, but rest assured his heart’s with o pen source telephony solutions flourishing from the service provider to the enterprise. “The verdict is in, open source telephony systems are reliable and telephony is the latest area to embrace open source technology,” Tehrani says.

Ambient Telephony . One of the more imaginative uses of VoIP is ambient. Tehrani tells about Michael Stanford, Intel’s Technology Strategist mentioned where a colleague of his was at work, talking to his wife using Skype and didn’t hang up when the call was over. (It’s free) He continued to work while his wife cooked breakfast. Soon the kids came into the kitchen where their voices triggered a conversation. “Perhaps every Sunday families will have a conference call and just leave the lines open, allowing members to jump in and out of the conference at will,” Tehrani suggests – family VoIP chat rooms.

David Sims is contributing editor and CRM Alert columnist for TMCnet.

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