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December 2007 | Volume 10/ Number 12
The Zippy Files

Communities and Peering in 2008

When acquired the too-ahead-of-its-time site PlanetAll in 1998, little did they realize that they were starting the social networking communities boom. MySpace, Facebook, orkut, etc. soon followed, demonstrating how many people have no qualms about displaying such personal data as biographical information, hobbies, interests, hobbies, and so forth. Thanks to the six degrees of separation phenomenon, adding a few friends to one's network can cause any given user to be linked to thousands of other people around the world. What do you do with these ad hoc networks? The classic, serious function of business networking is certainly there, but in many cases communities have formed for certain specific activities or just for fun. Some sites, such as Facebook and Orkut, offer news feeds so you can keep abreast of what your friends are up to.

In a sense, VoIP peering suggests the formation of a sort of up-scale, sanitized, business-like community, one that has definite commercial functionality.

XConnect (, for example, is a global promoter of the VoIP Peering / ENUM federation model with their Plug-and-Peer VoIP interconnection services dedicated to connecting IP communications providers and by-passing the legacy PSTN.

XConnect's Founder and CEO, Eli Katz, describes two extreme modes of peering, First, there's 'pure' IP peering, which involves connecting one, two or N-number of networks together to enable IP packets to flow in Layers 2 and 3, which is where you find your Ethernet and IP routing. That's a mature industry, wherein some industry players provide basic IP connectivity. Billions of minutes per month move via public IP networks, and yet at the same time we see a growth in private IP or private Ethernet connectivity.

The other extreme is complete IP communications peering in an end user-to-end user situation where much of the activity is done in the application and you don't actually need any service providers in the middle, says Katz. I just run communications as an application on my PC, and you're running the application on your PC. We don't need service providers, carriers or network operators. The communication just 'happens' as a sort of 'pure' peer-to-peer environment with no central control. I think we're very far away from such a model appearing everywhere.

So those are the two extremes, says Katz. In the middle, which is the space where we at XConnect very much like to operate, is primarily between service provider-to-service provider peering in the 'pure' IP sense and, more optionally, carrier-to-service provider peering.

XConnect, with its partner Kayote Networks, operates peering solutions on either a managed service or hosted basis. Various national consortia of service providers (ITSPs, PTTs, MSOs) looking to deliver a peering and number portability solution within their home market can do this quickly by working with XConnect's solution.

The rapidly expanding XConnect Global Alliance is said to be the world's first multilateral settlement-free exchange of traffic between VoIP service provider members. Alliance members choose to interoperate settlement-free, irrespective of their location, and to pass on no-cost or reduced-cost international calls to their customers. XConnect Alliance members plug and peer with other providers around the world through a single connection to the XConnect Network, avoiding the need to negotiate multiple exchange agreements.

People, social animals that they are, cannot help but link together into communities, be it for business or pleasure. Our concept of VoIP-based peering will ultimately be replaced with a more general sense of connectivity wherein peering will include myriad enhanced applications capable of generating revenue for service providers.

Richard Grigonis is Executive Editor of TMC's IP Communications Group.

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