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VoIP Feature Article


February 01, 2006

Cable VoIP's Run For The Roses

David Sims, TMCnet Contributing Editor

No more handicaps, smooth galloping ahead.

That's the conclusion a recent IDC study draws from its research into cable companies.  Calling them "finally ready to hit stride as they race toward VoIP and associated next-generation services," the IDC study says now that they're "unencumbered by the back-breaking weight of legacy-based TDM networks" it's time to "run for the roses."

The study, "Softswitch Suppliers: The Battle for VoIP (and IMS) in the Cable Market (IDC #34706)," identifies the cable market as one of the most important segments for VoIP-based softswitch sales.

According to IDC, the U.S. market for cable-based VoIP will grow from 2.2 million subscribers in 2005 to 19.8 million by 2009. However, to truly compete with incumbent carriers, cable operators must extend bundled offerings that will allow them to provide voice, mobile voice, and multimedia capabilities.

"Convergence has created some fierce competition between cable companies and ILECS as both strive to capitalize on the opportunities presented by triple play and quadruple play," said Tom Valovic, program director of IDC's VoIP Infrastructure service.

Last week the International Telecommunications Union approved a suite of CableLabs' PacketCable specifications as standards for the international version of services including VoIP.

PacketCable-based standards are known internationally as IPCablecom, and this recently approved suite covers such topics as architecture, network call signaling, call management server to CMS signaling, quality of service, support for multimedia and other functions necessary to provide time-critical interactive services over a cable television network using IP.

The ITU approval stems from work carried out in October by ITU Study Group 9, titled Integrated Broadband Cable Networks and Television and Sound Transmission group. SG 9 is chaired by CableLabs President and CEO Dr. Richard R. Green.

One potential obstacle that threatens to slow down cable companies is the emergence of IP multimedia subsystems, which IDC calls "a rapidly advancing standard slated for the development of SIP-based multimedia services." If cable companies can't overcome potential IMS hurdles, IDC analysts say, which include meshing the standard with PacketCable specs to take full advantage of the multimedia capabilities offered by SIP, "they may find themselves behind the IMS power curve over the next 2-3 years."

On a more positive note, progress in this area will bring with it some distinct advantages. "Over the long term, if PacketCable successfully adopts IMS, this will open up the market to a broader range of softswitch and call session control function providers," said Valovic.

Other key findings from this report include that Nortel, Siemens, and Cisco (early movers in the specialized PacketCable-compliant market) will likely maintain traction and market share, and that Cisco's acquisition of Scientific-Atlanta renders it "a major force as a cable equipment supplier."

David Sims is contributing editor for TMCnet. For more articles please visit David Sims' columnist page.


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