Closing Voice-Over-IP Gap

Vendors promoting IP need to show smooth telephony, IP relationship.

More than 30 manufacturers developing products based on the rapidly expanding Session Initiation Protocol have joined together to test the interoperability of their technologies.

Before VOIP (voice over IP) establishes a firm foothold among enterprises, vendors will have to show there is a smooth relationship between traditional telephony and IP voice services. They are aggressively touting IP-based services as a means for service providers to differentiate their offerings and as a way for enterprises to economize.

At the Voice on the Net conference in Atlanta last week, Lucent Technologies Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc. and Mediatrix Telecom Inc. sponsored an interoperability forum, which also included CommWorks Corp., Microsoft Corp., WorldCom Inc. and Pingtel Corp., among others.

Dialpad Communications Inc., a Santa Clara, Calif., vendor, moved into the enterprise market last week with a product called Enterprise Access.

"Although we are a VOIP service, companies can use their traditional legacy equipment with our product," said Gregg Schulte, vice president of partner sales at Dialpad. "They do not need to buy IP phones."

Network design company Planetary Networks Inc. replaced its local, long- distance and Internet service providers with Dialpad this year. CEO Ken McKinnon said his company is saving approximately 40 percent on its voice telephony alone. "The per-minute charge on voice service is significantly less, and we dont need as many physical lines coming into the business," McKinnon said.

At Planetary Networks Sunnyvale, Calif., headquarters, sales personnel place thousands of minutes of calls monthly, making Dialpads Web-based billing feature helpful for planning and evaluation. "We have the capability of looking at our bill right on the Web, and this is hugely beneficial because it provides better metrics," McKinnon said.

Dialpads offering allows businesses to direct all voice, faxing, video and data onto one IP network. However, it works only with voice-enabled routers from Cisco Systems Inc. The enterprise routers carry traffic off the legacy telephone networks and onto networks of Cisco-powered VOIP carriers. Today, the only IP backbone carrier involved is Genuity Inc.

"An enterprise would become a customer of Genuity if it isnt already," Schulte said, adding that in the next couple of months, he expects to announce two additional IP backbone carriers from among the "usual suspects."

In addition to Cisco voice-enabled routers, enterprises must have a PBX and a T-1 or higher connection to an IP backbone. According to Dialpad, companies that use Enterprise Access can double the capacity of their voice facilities and save as much as 60 percent on their traditional phone bills.