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Publisher's Outlook
October 2003

Rich Tehrani

The Long And Winding Road To IP Telephony


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If you read my September 2003 High Priority! column in our sister publication, Customer [email protected] Solutions�, you know that the technology market is finally beginning to pick up. My recent tour of Silicon Valley and visits to a number of telecom events has convinced me of this. Of course my optimism is tempered with caution: reasonable enough after the stutter steps the tech market has made over the last two years. In fact this turnaround has been predicted and expected for some time now, but uncertainty at home and abroad has made positive past prognostications difficult at best.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that companies are finally ready to start investing again in technologies that save or make them money. At least that is the hope of the vendors I spoke with on this recent northern California tour.

Kagoor Networks
Kagoor Networks -- the maker of session border controllers -- tells me that they are seeing a general pickup in business. The service provider market is the primary target here and using session border controllers, service providers can connect to CPE equipment in an IP to IP fashion while bypassing NAT devices and firewalls. You may have noticed that there are more managed services announcements being made in the market, which of course is a good sign for the companies in the border control space.

Kagoor�s product line consists of devices of three different sizes (think Goldilocks and The Three Bears) while supporting SIP, MGCP, and H.323. Perhaps most interesting is the fact that the company can provide network aggregation, remote NAT traversal, as well as NAT on the customer premise without a CPE device. Another option for large corporations is to put multiple devices into an aggregation router between the VLAN and softswitch.

You may remember a company named Zarak that made telephony testing tools. Well, Iain Milnes, the founder of Zarak (now part of Spirent) recently founded Zultys, a company that makes IP PBXs . Their recently announced MX250 is targeting the SMB market defined by the company as five�250 stations. The big brother of this device is the MX1200, which will take you up to 1,200 users � not bad for a recent start-up. The system can do video and fax transmission as well and is flexible enough to use either Zultys� own SIP phones or those of other manufacturers. The message the company wants you to remember is that they believe in open standards such as SIP, TAPI, and VoiceXML.
The phone that was displayed in their conference room during my visit was the ZIP 4x4, which includes a small display and four Ethernet ports. The approximate price is $400 for this phone and I wish the screen was bigger. The ZIP2 is the low-end model phone and sells for around $140 with most basic business features you�ll need.

The company is looking for resellers and corporate customers and as you may have guessed they compete with the likes of Cisco and AltiGen. I have known Iain for years and he is a tech-head for sure. He knows his stuff. What differentiates the products of Zultys from others is the founder. As far as I know Milnes is the only person to found a telephony product testing company and then go on to found a company that makes products in the industry. This is important because in the testing space you get to see virtually every product on the market and you gain an education that is unmatched. Although I haven�t tested the Zultys system myself they do have a powerful differentiator in their company history that others cannot duplicate.

Remember 8x8? This company was a major player in video conferencing and holds a lobby full of patents in telephony and video to back that up. An 8x8 subsidiary named Netergy Microelectronics recently launched the T2 Audacity chip, which they say allows you to build a Cisco ATA-186 killer. Ok, they really didn�t put it that strongly, but with a name like T2 you don�t expect it to nicely ask the industry leading Cisco personal IP telephony gateway to step aside.
With this chip in their arsenal 8x8 has launched a service that competes head-on with Vonage. Instead of supporting Cisco devices they use their own DTA-310 terminal adapter, which -- you guessed it -- houses a T2 Audacity chip. The new service is called Packet8 and the company tells me the service is high quality and plug and play. I did test the service but in the company�s conference room. I hope to test the service in more depth soon.

The service is not as full-featured as Vonage but the price is much lower at $19.95 for unlimited calls in the U.S. and Canada. They offer a 30-day money-back guarantee as well. They will soon offer local number portability like Vonage does in many locations. One big differentiator is the fact that you can use their broadband standalone DV325 SIP videophones with their service at $599 each. The videophone is of pretty good quality and definitely sets this company�s offerings apart from the Internet telephony service provider crowd. One final note for comparison is the fact that the company tells me that they need much less bandwidth than Vonage to work. Again, I am looking forward to testing the service myself but can�t vouch for this. 8x8 has always been a very technical company and is definitely a leader in codec design� I have a very easy time believing this claim.

My travel schedule shows no signs of letting up, and I hope to share with you more stories of my tales from the road in upcoming issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY�. In the meantime, I invite you to check out the sidebar entitled �Expect Big News At Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO!� I also invite you to visit our online forums at forums.tmcnet.com, where you can sound off on any number of subjects, including of course, IP telephony.

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