Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO Fall 2004 in Los Angeles was awash in announcements from major industry players. We had so many of them in fact that we launched four electronic show dailies to ensure that were able to reach our broad audience as quickly and efficiently as possible. Perhaps the biggest splash was the announcement from Skype’s CEO, Niklas Zennström.
Zennström addressed a capacity crowd via videoconference from England about some rather big news at his peer to peer VoIP company. First of all, he shared that 28 million people had downloaded his Skype software, and that a snapshot from the prior evening showed a total of 889,000 concurrent users online.
Perhaps the most interesting news is that Skype is going commercial, meaning that they will be looking to make serious money as an Internet telephony service provider. One way of doing this is with Skype IN service that will allow you to have a phone number for incoming calls. In conjunction with Siemens, they will be offering a wireless phone that will enable you to receive Skype calls over WiFi as well.
Skype Plus will be a service aimed at corporate workgroups and will have features such as multiple accounts on a single bill, call hunt groups, and a variety of call fowarding and control options.
One of the audience members implored me to ask Mr. Zennstrom about the lack of SIP support in his service to which he mentioned that SIP would have increased cost and also made it more difficult to deal with firewalls. A few members of the audience who requested anonymity said that leaving out SIP support ensures that it becomes more difficult for users to leave the Skype network. One person in the audience told me he has his engineers working on a Skype to SIP converter.
Much has been made of the lack of SIP support in Skype and in the end, customers decide if open standards are important enough for them to choose one service provider over another.
I truly believe that Skype will continue to influence our market in a positive way and drive other service providers to be increasingly competitive. Many are telling me that Skype is just a novelty but I look at it more like the VoIP equivalent of Google… Once you get to a certain level of momentum and industry buzz, it becomes difficult for others compete. Time will tell.
VoIP Service Providers Honored
Skype was also a winner — together with a number of the industry’s finest VoIP service providers — of the first-ever VoIP Service Provider Award. The award was created to recognize the truly market-driving service providers whose pioneering efforts have contributed to the growth of VoIP/IP Telephony. The winners were honored at an awards dinner, which was sponsored by Netrake and the IPCC. The following companies came to accept their awards:
• BT Group
• Point One
• VoIP Americas
• VoIP, Inc.
A complete list of winners is available online (www.tmcnet.com/51.1) It was quite an event and it was the first time that anyone recognized these service providers for their valuable contribution to the industry. If you would like to see photos from the event please visit http://www.tmcnet.com /itexpo/ca04/spdinner.htm.
VoIP Headsets Go For A Stroll
I get many headsets for review and one of my favorites is the Plantronics CS50, which is a wireless headset with tremendous range. I have tested it up to a few hundred feet through dense office equipment, steel, cubical walls, and I have rarely had anything but superb voice quality for hours on end. Today’s wireless headsets are incredible. At ITEXPO, Plantronics announced that they took this same design and put a USB interface on it, making the new CS50-USB a perfect wireless VoIP solution.
Can’t Touch This
A trend we heard a great deal about at the show was security and to that end, snom AG announced a new, more secure VoIP phone at the show. The 190 supports both prevalent security protocols, SIP RFC 2246 and SRTP RFC 3711. According to snom’s founder, Dr. Christian Stredicke, this offers the maximum security possible against eavesdropping and manipulation.
Run For The Border
Jasomi Networks, one of the leading session border controller makers launched PeerPoint 3.3, which is designed to allow much easier coexistence in complex, multi-compartmentalized environments. The company touted PeerPoint 3.3’s variable opacity capabilities. Other features include new encryption transcoding features for signaling and media streams as well as enhanced call logging and manageability.
Three+ For 3Com
3Com had numerous major announcements at the show, part of which were due to their newfound relationship with SIPQuest. Their Convergence Applications Suite is a set of SIP-based applications allowing users to share presence information such as on-hook and off-hook status. The 3Com NBX V3000 System is a new IP PBX for the small business market between two-40 users. The VCX 5.0 IP Telephony Module allows click to call applications, screen pops, remote worker capabilities as well as call forward and multiple voicemail boxes. The company is doing some great things in VoIP and specifically in WiFi telephony, where they have a solution designed to allow multi-vendor access point roaming of calls as well as an IP conference bridge where there is full GUI-based control and the ability to go straight to video if needed.
Spirent announced at the show that they will support the Cisco SCCP (Skinny) protocol on its Abacus 5000, which already boasts integrated analog, TDM, and Ethernet interfaces. Toshiba announced their pure IP PBX, the Strata CIX, supporting 672 ports as well as the Toshiba Wireless IP Telephone and Toshiba SoftIPT SoftPhone. Atinav announced aveComm 3.2, their Web-based unified messaging, communications, and collaboration solution. They now have an advanced audio bridge allowing unlimited audioconferencing capacity allowing users to use PCs or telephones. The release supports Linux, an audio tuning wizard, usage reporting, Linux, Java and non-Java desktop interfaces, and a friends list.
I had the pleasure of moderating a panel on military VoIP and one of the panelists was from Sphere Communications who coincidentally announced at the show that they had completed DoD interoperability testing. They also announced Sphericall 4 Call Manager and Desktop software.
Qovia announced the Qovia 3000 and 5000. These new appliances are designed to assure QoS in VoIP networks and the models are designed for lower and higher traffic management respectively. Ingate Systems had some interesting products on display in their booth including a new release of their software for far-end SIP NAT traversal. The new Remote SIP Connectivity release 4.1.0 will more easily allow SIP-based VoIP conversations to traverse firewalls and other nasty network surprises that can trip up other VoIP solutions. Expect more flexible NAT configurations, a DHCP server, improved certificate handling, and better logging of IP packets and IPsec negotiations.
There is more, much more. Alas space and time don’t allow me to detail it all. I urge you to check out www.tmcnet.com frequently to stay up to date with what’s going on in our fast-moving industry. One thing is for certain, the VoIP market is hotter than I have ever seen it from the military to the service provider to the enterprise space and I am seeing sales pick up in all sectors of the market. That’s something I have never seen before. If you don’t go to industry events, you are missing out. There is a real energy at shows like INTERNET TELEPHONY.
There is an excitement in the air about taking advantage of all the possibilities that VoIP affords us. I hope to see you around the industry events. I go to all of them. Flag me down when you see me. Stop me in the aisles and say hello. Until then, I wish you success and happy reading.
To The November 2004 Table Of Contents ]