TMCnet - World's Largest Communications and Technology Community



tmc logo
September 2008 | Volume 11 / Number 9
Service Provider Insights

Exercise Your Internet Rights!

The Internet is a technological miracle and we, as IP communications service providers and Internet consumers, have a duty to enable it to not just survive, but to thrive. Had the old, established telecommunications industry known the implications of its singular design, it would have strangled it at birth. Luckily, they missed that opportunity and it is now impossible to reboot the Internet, though many will continue to try with often somewhat successful attempts at crippling this unique property. These attempts to sabotage the Internet go almost without opposition because the very people that should defend the Internet, the end-users, do not know enough about the technology behind it to realize when it is being threatened.

The Internet design principle can be summarized like this: all of the power goes to the end-user, none to the network. This is unique in the development and deployment of communication networks and has resulted in the creation of an almost unlimited number of new applications and services for end-users. For example, development and deployment of “Caller ID” on the PSTN took many years and, when finally deployed, was costly for end-users to buy. The creation of similar services on the Internet took a fraction of the time to develop and deploy, are considerably feature-enhanced over the PSTN versions and are extremely inexpensive to purchase. It is important to understand that this is a fundamental aspect of the Internet design and anything short of this total power for the end-user is the result of a deliberate removal rather than a benign, accidental omission.

The most tragic blow to this principle was the advent of NAT (Network Address Translation). The NAT device is the box that many people install at home and often incorrectly refer to as a router. Sadly, this was presented as an improvement as it permits end-users to connect multiple computers to the same Internet connection to the detriment, though, of being able to exchange data with anybody on the Internet. These NAT boxes also promised to provide increased security, but users do not really need a box to protect their computer, they simply need an operating system that does not catch a virus or other malware in a matter of minutes!

The problems created by NAT boxes started to be visible to end-users with the arrival of the VoIP phenomenon. Unlike the web, which is primarily content designed to treat the end-user as not much more than a TV watcher, VoIP needs a symmetrical exchange of data between the two parties on a call, and this is exactly one of the powers that end-users gave away when they were forced to use a NAT box.

The VoIP industry needed a way to solve this problem but, instead of restoring the end-user’s lost powers, another new “box” was created, the SBC (Session Border Controller). A Session Border Controller is a box installed in the VoIP provider’s network that has as a goal, among other things, the repair of damage caused by NAT boxes. The advantage of an SBC is that it works magically for the end-user, but not without cost for the VoIP provider and we all know who ends up paying in the end for these additional costs!

The alternative to SBCs and the like is to try to restore some of the Internet power lost by the end-users. New IETF protocols under development, like TURN, STUN and ICE, do this by having the device on the network determine through trial and error the best method of NAT traversal and making an intelligent decision as to which one to employ. Compared to an SBC, these solutions are at least partially implemented on the end-user side and offer hope that the power lost by the end-users so far could be, in the future, reclaimed for other applications, not just VoIP.

In the end, the right thing to do is to reclaim our lost Internet power by lobbying our ISPs to deploy the next generation of IP addresses, IPv6 and to use better, more secure operating systems. This will solve our need for NATs, SBCs and other NAT traversal protocols enabling, once again, all Internet devices to seamlessly talk to all other Internet devices. IT

Marc Petit-Huguenin (News - Alert) is the Chief Technology Officer of 8x8, Inc. ( 8x8 offers voice and video Internet-based telephony services for business and residential customers. Marketed under the Packet8 brand name (, these hosted communications solutions enhance the value and functionality of existing high speed Internet connections by delivering advanced communications features and digital quality phone service at a fraction of the cost of legacy, copper wire alternatives.

» Internet Telephony Magazine Table of Contents

Today @ TMC
Upcoming Events
ITEXPO West 2012
October 2- 5, 2012
The Austin Convention Center
Austin, Texas
The World's Premier Managed Services and Cloud Computing Event
Click for Dates and Locations
Mobility Tech Conference & Expo
October 3- 5, 2012
The Austin Convention Center
Austin, Texas
Cloud Communications Summit
October 3- 5, 2012
The Austin Convention Center
Austin, Texas