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CableLabs VoIP Peering RFI

By Hunter Newby


CableLabs has taken one small step for VoIP (define - news -alerts) and one giant leap for VoIP peering by issuing their VoIP Peering RFI. The action suggests how serious the MSOs are about providing on-Net voice communication between their networks. It also lends credibility to the concept.

For now, this represents merely a request for information and not a request with a defined path to any action on the part of the cable companies. CableLabs will be providing to its constituents essentially a concise picture of the VoIP peering landscape as it exists as of this moment. The decisions of whether or not to peer with the other MSOs and how that may be accomplished will be left to the MSOs themselves.

Still, it is decidedly a collective and open acknowledgment of the existence of this new interconnection method and a new breed of service provider breed within. How this ultimately shakes out will be left to the respondents and their explanations, and then the determination of the group and its individual members. But regardless of the untlimate outcome, it has raised the awareness of VoIP peering, and that is the key element to furthering the cause.

So much of what has been done to date with VoIP peering has been cast in the shadows of semantics, with many claiming to be in the space. Taking away all of the new service offering announcements that were merely publicity with no real customer implementations, there has actually been considerable progress made by a few who have services that perform real, valuable functions in the interconnection of disparate VoIP networks. Some providers, under the VoIP peering umbrella, have carved out niches in just protocol conversion from TDM to SIP; others even help resolve SIP-SIP interoperability issues. Mainly, though, the benefit to MSOs is that it provides information about past mistakes and how to avoid them.

The bottom line is that there are ways to connect VoIP networks so that calls can originate as IP on a private network and terminate on another private network as IP, such that they never have to touch the legacy voice network. This is real and it is happening. There are many parts of the equation still unsolved, such as what codecs to use or which version of SIP to employ, but the market will help rsolve those issues and, over time, a commonly understood and agreed upon standard will arise. It will likely be modified over time, but it will exist and this RFI will help set things in motion.

One of the biggest battles brewing in the VoIP peering world realtes to the numbering plans and, more importantly, who gets to run, control, administer, and manage the number database. Even though a number database may not seem like a traditional telecom service, that data and being the master of its domain is seen as a position of power. Interestingly, this is a struggle that is more political than it is tehnical.

A year ago, you could still find some people who argued that ENUM does not work and wont work. All the while, the ITU recommended to its members that they each gain control over the ENUM administration within their respective countries or risk losing control of the phone system. It would seem the industry is past that stage now, and it is equally obvious that ENUM is on the minds of interested participants, as evidenced by repeated references in the CableLabs RFI. Again, the RFI is not an indication of a chosen path, but the well thought out questions were very heavily geared towards ENUM. Let us not forget SIP either, but notice the conspicuous absence of H.323.

Now that the road map of right questions has been prepared by CableLabs, others can take advantage of this free step-by-step guide. The process helps map out the steps for any vertical to create a private, all-IP environment for voice. As it relates to ENUM, this is what I refer to as Private ENUM, or, taken a step further, within a specific group, Enterprise ENUM. this is the essence of Enterprise Peering the private VoIP WANs of multiple enterprises each connecting to a common platform with a set of standards. As the RFI states, The main advantage for IP network providers to peer is to reduce the amount of traffic that transits between the two networks via third-party backbone providers. Such an arrangement has the effect of reducing network costs and increasing quality of service. Enterprise IP networks can take advantage of this as well, and those that are equipped with the right information and capabilities have a great incentive to do so. IT

Hunter Newby is chief strategy officer at telx. For more information, please visit (news - alerts).

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