January 13, 2009

Can Verizon Go All VoIP?

Andy points to a story and quotes Chief Marketing Officer John Stratton as saying that Verizon “plans to do away with traditional phone lines within seven years as it moves to carry all calls over the Internet.” According to the published story Verizon will offer phone service to its FiOS customers using VoIP technology. He is further quoted as saying that VoIP will help “Verizon offer a greater range of services”. What he and many others in the industry have overlooked is that there is no need for service providers in VoIP world.

Directory service, NAT traversal and PSTN interconnection are the three services provided by a VoIP service provider. As we have demonstrated with EnThinnai, each user can provide the first two services on their own servers that host their blogs. For example, you can initiate a communications session by entering your OpenID in the accompanying widget (or icking on this link) that is running on my server. If I have given permission for you to contact me, then my server dynamically download an applet for you to initiate a communication session with me. Thus my server acts like a directory server. Secondly, my server and the two clients execute ICE procedure so that the two ends can traverse any NATs in the connection. Since I can insert in many places including the URL that is my OpenID, it is easy for you to locate a widget that will facilitate contacting me. That leaves only interconnect service. But that will not be that critical if PSTN withers away as suggested by Verizon.

Just as I could run the basic services on my own server, I could run any additional services as well. For example, as is done in EnThinnai, you could get my availability status from my server. There is no need for some third party to provide Presence service. You take any service offered by the companies that Andy mentions in his post. Do you think they can not be run in a common server?

So what is needed is packaging EnThinnai in such a manner that people can install them in their servers just like they install Wordpress or MovableType. Of course that is coming soon.

Posted by aswath at 02:54 AM | Comments (0)

January 02, 2009

Know Thy VoIP before Taking Pulse

The last week or so, there have been flurry of blog posts taking issue on either side of the question “VoIP: Dead or Alive?”. It might have been started by Jonathan Christensen of Skype provocatively declaring that VoIP to be dead. Subsequently most of the leading VoIP bloggers have shared their opinions. Those arguing VoIP to be alive and vibrant point to active voice services that use IP in some form or other; those who think otherwise point to many failed companies or seem to suggest that the only important aspect of VoIP is the transport mechanism and that voice transported on the Internet and hence VoIP is passé. Jeff Pulver, the pope of VoIP (actually I consider him to be a vishwamitra; but I am afraid only a few will get that) is mutedly points out that VoIP is more than transport technology. If it comes to that one can argue that TDM to be a “subnetwork” that comprises the concatenated network that is Internet and declare everything is VoIP. So what is VoIP for me?

Firstly, VoIP should use a rich signaling mechanism that extends all the way to the end device the user is using. This is critical because this will allow users to exchange meta information like purpose of the call, criticality of the call, authentication information of the far-end user and so on. Depending on the user’s current status, the device can deliver the information in a less intrusive manner. Typical PSTN phones do not have this flexibility, even though the industry tried to introduce this capability using ADSI phones. This means that those VoIP services that use ATAs coupled with traditional phones are not really VoIP because users can not benefit from message oriented signaling like SIP.

Secondly, the service should really believe in “intelligence at the end” mantra and its close cousin “stupid network”. So if a service lobotomizes the intelligence at the end or if it inserts itself in the middle destructively, then it is not VoIP.

Thirdly, notwithstanding voice in the title, VoIP must be multi-modal with the ability for the ends to dynamically add/drop/change mode(s), without much interference from the “Middle”.

Have you seen an animal that meets all these requirements? Has it not lived up to your expectations? Do think such an animal will ever fail?

Posted by aswath at 11:09 AM | Comments (0)

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