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Formed in 1998, VegaStream is a veteran player in the VoIP market. The company manufactures VoIP gateways for telephony providers to allow interoperability between todays various phone systems and IP networks. CEO Tim Burne, who has been with VegaStream since 2000, had this to say about his firm making its way into the next generation of Internet telephony.


GG: What isVegaStreams mission?

TB: Today, VegaStreams mission is to accelerate businesses deployment of VoIP by providing reliable, easy-to-use technology that interconnects traditional TDM networks and equipment with the VoIP platform. Going forward, we anticipate our core gateway technology to be a pivotal enabler of future platforms by providing the essential link between ensuing generations of network technology.

We are dedicated to the needs of business. We approach the market in partnership with both telephony systems integrators and service providers. Many business customers are reluctant to forklift out their entire existing telephony systems, but can achieve real business benefit by deploying VoIP in call center and customer contact applications. Our Vega gateways enable systems integrators to offer their customers cost-effective connectivity between new VoIP solutions and the PSTN and existing TDM equipment. These hybrid solutions are very much a part of the evolution from TDM to VoIP, and our gateways are making them happen.

Tier 2 and 3 service providers that have made a full commitment to VoIP are another critical catalyst for the evolution of VoIP. Their success is an important force driving the Tier 1 carriers toward VoIP. To be successful, they must be able to sell their services to customers who may not have made a similar commitment (i.e., those who want to retain their traditional equipment). VegaStream gateways are helping service providers around the world to satisfy this demand. For example, Bulgarias second carrier, Orbitel, is bypassing the traditional PTT resale model by offering customers a voice service delivered over the ISDN network and Vega gateways.

GG: What is your vision forVegaStream and how is the company positioned in the next-generation telecom market?

TB: VegaStream is at the heart of the next-generation telecom market. That market exists today and is typified by multiple network bearer technologies from core to edge. There will be no overnight wholesale switch from TDM to VoIP, just as there was no wholesale switch from fixed to mobile. In the business space, few enterprises make a decision to switch to new technology purely for the sake of it there has to be a business case. Until such time as the capital cost of those billions of dollars worth of PBX and handsets is written off, there will be hybrid VoIP/TDM networks that need a gateway.

Furthermore, the Tier 1 carriers have only made their commitment to IP networks in recent years; it will be a decade or more before they are fully implemented. By that time, who knows what the new next generation of bearer network will look like and what gateways will be required. Thats where we will continue to deliver value.

GG: Now that it appears that growth and opportunity are the trends in the VoIP industry, what possible hurdles do you see that might upset this momentum?

TB: The strategic shift from VoIP to TDM is underway and I can see nothing that will change it. Fundamental laws of physics are driving it. With IP you need less network to carry more traffic. It simply is more efficient. The fact that you can do a whole lot more with voice traffic over IP is icing on the cake.

There are many with vested interests who fear the rapid take-up of VoIP, and they are quick to raise issues that may deter customers and impede its progress. Security is the high on the list. However, it was not that long ago, in strategic terms, since the telecom industry migrated its central offices from inefficient, but intrinsicly secure, electromagnetic switches to digital switches or huge, hackable, network servers as we might call them in modern parlance. However, there are no perceived security issues with these switches, both because the engineers have solved them and because few people had a vested interest in raising the spectre that they might present a security risk.

I believe that engineers will solve what security issues there are in the VoIP space. However it is fair to say that, as of today, we see little real evidence of VoIP insecurity where it is actively deployed by enterprises that have already secured their IP networks.

The other major hurdle the industry has to overcome is in its marketing. We are not making it easy for customers to understand our proposition. We still fall into the trap of selling technology, not solutions. People dont buy VoIP, they buy what it can do for them, and I feel that the business market at large is still waiting to hear what we can do for them beyond talking to mates overseas via the PC.

GG: What are some of the technology areas whereVegaStream is increasingly focusing, and why are these areas important to the future of your company?

TB: While VoIP technology is accelerating beneath a constellation of open standards, a Milky Way of standards illuminates the TDM world. So our focus has been, and will remain for some time, interoperability, interoperability, interoperability. For VoIP to really take off in the enterprise space, particularly in the SME space, it has to be based on plug and play. The prize will go to the first gateway manufacturer to produce a device that the user can install between PBX, PSTN, and VoIP services and set up a seamless, integrated dial plan by themselves. We aim to be that manufacturer.

GG: Describe your view of the future of the IP telephony industry.

TB: I foresee a future where all new telephony implementations, fixed line or wireless, will be IP. That future is not too far away. However, I also see a prolonged life for existing TDM networks and equipment. You simply do not discard a technology that has served the world so well and for so long, in a decade or so. The gateway providers will be the essential membrane that will ensure the integrity of a single voice network where all subscribers can connect to each other.

Meanwhile, as technologists and customers come to understand that multiple bearer networks based on different technologies can successfully interoperate, so can we expect an acceleration of new bearer technologies. After all, in the 100-year history of the telecom industry, we have made but one tectonic shift in the core operating system. I predict that, in the next few years, we will see something that will represent a sufficient advance on IP telephony that will require a gateway between it VoIP, as we know it today and TDM networks. IT

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