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Publisher's Outlook
November 2003

Rich Tehrani

Internet Telephony Road Tripping


I�ve been very encouraged lately, as the Internet telephony market seems to be enjoying a tremendous revival. What excites me the most about the companies I have been in contact with is that customers are buying. For years we have seen VC s pump money into companies and in the last few years cut them off abruptly. Now, many of these companies, whether they sell to service providers, OEMs or enterprises are doing well.

Moore�s Second Gift to VoIP
In my recent travel I have come across many companies in the space with great stories to tell. For example, Trinity Convergence is an embedded software company focusing on VoIP development using a non-DSP approach. Simply stated, processors are so powerful nowadays that they have more than enough horsepower to handle VoIP applications. Moore�s Law has been a wonderful ally on the road to Internet telephony using traditional DSPs. The cost of DSPs and the resource boards that hold them have been falling for years and densities have increased exponentially. Moore�s Law is now allowing DSPs to be sidestepped altogether by using the excess capacity of the primary processor as a resource. This approach saves money, shortens time to market, reduces power consumption, increases battery life (where applicable), and reduces size.

Using their Vericall Packet Telephony Framework, Trinity Convergence allows OEMs to leverage media processing, packet processing, data transport, system management, telephony signaling, and gateway control. Open APIs allow developers to use proprietary algorithms such as echo cancellation if they so choose. There are four units to this architecture:

� The Media Engine -- performs media and packet processing.
� The Signaling Engine -- deals with PSTN-based signaling.
� The Administrator -- a system controller based utility, which acts as the control plane interface into the gateway application.
� The Conduit -- acts as an inter-module communications interface.

One of the hottest trends lately is to VoIP-enable everything from cell phones to WiFi phones to SOHO-based broadband gateways. These consumer devices must be cheap, consume small amounts of power, and be brought to market rapidly. This is exactly the space Trinity Convergence plays in with their Vericall Edge Architecture. A variety of codecs and embedded SIP are built-in as are packet-handling capabilities with an adaptive jitter buffer. Expect Beta units by December 2003 and general availability by Q1 2004. One last comment� This solution is silicon agonistic, which means OEMs can be more flexible with their processor choices. Some of the processors supported are as follows: MIPS32, ARM 9e, Intel Xscale, and Motorola PowerQUICC.

Softswitch Take 2
Seems like just yesterday we first began to extol the virtues of the Softswitch. Can you believe it was over four years ago? In softswitch years that�s a generation, and that means some company needs to invent the second-generation softswitch. That is just what Telica has claimed to do with their Plexus Unified Services (PLUS) Architecture. The company tells me that many of their service provider customers weren�t happy with the previous generation of softswitch products -- they didn�t want these devices based on Sun Netras. Additionally, many carriers are looking for a Class 5/Class 4 switch on the same platform. Finally, they are looking for softswitches that can handle multiple applications and truly scale.

In response to these challenges, the PLUS architecture is purpose-built with processor cards that plug into a chassis. Up to seven cards and seven standbys can be inserted at once. The system can scale to 7.5 million busy hour call attempts, which is seven to nine times greater than many first generation products. With this architecture you can comfortably support 500,000 subscribers.

There is a great deal of flexibility and (so I am told) cost effectiveness as well-meaning smaller carriers could look at this type of solution. The pieces can be moved around to combine a media gateway and signaling controller in the same chassis. Wondering about services? Well you can use the PLUS architecture to provide hosted IP PBX service as well.

They have tested their media gateway with softswitches from a number of companies including VocalTec, Telcordia, Tekelec, Alcatel, and others.
The bottom line here is that Telica wants you to know they have a solution for most any size service provider with the ability to support open standards and interoperability -- all at an affordable price.

Enabling VoIP
When it comes to packetized voice processing, Legerity is one of the leaders in providing voice interface IC solutions for analog line cards as well as voice over broadband applications. The company is a spin-off from AMD and they specialize in high-voltage technology from 50- to 350-volt products.

They partner with TI and Broadcom and supply components to many IADs and set-top boxes. Legerity can help readers get an edge over their competitors by leveraging their expertise in the latest mixed signal technologies as well as their ability to simplify line interface problems.

A few years back I had a chance to meet with Octasic, a fabless semiconductor company developing ASICs in the VoIP space. More recently they have evolved into developing integrated media gateway modules that can be used in VoIP as well as VoATM. These modules feature coprocessors developed by the company and their solutions can be found in a number of carrier class products in the industry today.

The company�s OCT9320/OCT9360 product line has numerous features that equipment providers will find useful such as echo cancellation, conferencing, T.38 fax, spectral comfort noise (a recreation of background noise from the source without the need to continually transmit it -- very pleasing to the ear), and adaptive noise reduction. The modules can support densities of up to 1,008 channels. The former is specifically designed for G.711/ADPCM designs where voice quality is more important than bandwidth savings while the latter is designed for low-bit rate codecs such as G.729 or fax.

The Continued Growth Of IP Centrex
When we look back at IP Centrex in the future, we can thank companies like Longboard for helping to get this category established in a meaningful way. Recently the company worked with NTT Data in Japan to provide IP Centrex to Tokyo Gas Company, consisting of about 20,000 users! This was accomplished with Longboard�s Multimedia Application Platform or LMAP, an application server that works with SIP-based endpoints and allows Web-based provisioning and billing integration.

The flexibility of the system can be seen in the hoops Longboard had to jump through to develop a service acceptable to the very particular Japanese palate. As the Japanese hate voice mail, hunt group technology had to be much better than IP Centrex would have to be in the U.S.

They are looking for truly large service providers worldwide to sell this service around the world. Think of Longboard as an application software provider helping service providers differentiate themselves by offering profitable enhanced services such as IP Centrex and others. Some of the new applications are Voice Chat (an application that combines presence, conferencing, and messaging) and OnePhone, which allows the same mobile device to access the cellular and WiFi network allowing traditional cellular telephony or WiFi telephony. All of these services can be mixed and matched allowing IP centrex features on a WiFi telephony handset, etc., all on the same platform. If you are a service provider looking to differentiate yourself or an integrator looking to sell to service providers, contact the company for details.

Bordering on the Future of VoIP Security
Jasomi Networks has been a player in the session border control market for some time now, helping VoIP travel through firewalls and negotiate NAT issues through the use of their PeerPoint solution. The company also allows media to be encrypted over networks or portions of networks that are insecure. They are also able to deploy intrusion prevention to make sure that your VoIP solution is not an invitation to hackers to visit your network.

One of the areas of growth for the company is financial services where multi-layer security is a must as are complex compliance issues. For this market and others Jasomi has introduced mid-call media encryption allowing calls to externally called parties to be encrypted mid-stream. Another feature is the ability to log all media streams and call signaling and finally SOCKS5 proxy support. Jasomi has further announced that they can also encrypt signaling and media streams from Cisco IP phones using their PeerPoint SIP to SIP gateway and session controller with Cisco Cat6k switches. Finally the company announced that they would provide network boundary traversal for Microsoft�s Live Communication Server, basically allowing all the things that Jasomi is known for to take place over Microsoft�s enterprise real-time communications server.

Reaping What You Sow
News at Sonus is of the financial variety� They recently raised $135 million and find themselves sitting on about $300 million in cash. They are also proud to reiterate that their customer list now includes Verizon as well as Qwest, Deutsche Telecom, and NTT Japan. As they grow they will be looking for higher value customers and the cash should come in handy in that endeavor. I mentioned at the top of this column that I am seeing tremendous success in the market. Case in point: On October 8, Sonus announced their first quarterly profit while sequential revenue grew 34 percent; this is 285 percent over the prior year!

Who Would Have Believed It?
A few years back I met with executives at AT&T who told me that they would roll out a VoIP service. So many people told me that VoIP would be the death of AT&T. While it certainly has definitely squeezed margins, it looks like AT&T is going to be a major player in the space.

Aimed initially at businesses in the U.S., and in 40 countries in 2004, the company will use their Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS)-based network, which uses class of service traffic management to provide enterprises with voice -- delivered securely, reliably, and with high quality.

There will be four classes of service, unified billing, and on-net calling to over 40 countries. This announcement of course builds on past announcements detailing support of various IP PBXs. As their softswitch has integrated PBX signaling they are able to use their PSTN gateways in network. They can also help IP PBX vendors with a hosted model by placing these devices in their cloud.

One of their differentiators is their close relationship with Cisco. They see the market for small to medium enterprises as ripe for this type of hosted service and as such can help these organizations migrate to IP telephony.

I asked about the future of AT&T in a world dominated by VoIP. The future will be network middleware. They will be able to terminate IP calls from cable companies, WISPs and any other service provider throwing their hat into the IP telephony ring. Expect to see third-party applications on their network as well as some of their own applications. We�ll see various interfaces with security as well.

This is a good time to be deploying IP telephony. The companies are more stable than ever, the kinks are worked out, and the technology and the standards are stable. Many of these VoIP companies who thrived on novel business plans alone now have products and customers who are paying real money for these solutions. Now is the time to jump into this market if you have been waiting on the sidelines. These technologies are real. They work: They�re driving service provider revenue and saving enterprises money. And who can argue results like those?

Comments? Send an e-mail to Rich Tehrani or respond in our forums..

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