Calling in your favours

Calling in your favours

Thanks to the wide adoption of session initiation protocol (SIP), the market for voice over IP (VoIP) technology in Australia is surging ahead. ARN finds out which resellers are best positioned to make money out of this rapidly expanding market.

Even in the days of dial-up, the idea of boxing voice up in a data package and shooting it over the Web seemed like a great way to save money and circumvent the phone bill.

But while Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) sounds great in theory, the reality has been a series of unforeseen hurdles which have prevented the technology from delivering on its initial promises.

In the late 1990s dial-up just wasn't fast enough to deliver VoIP on an enterprise network that was also handling data, and the odd lost packet of information made most calls unintelligible. Then it was on the cards again in the early noughties, as broadband snaked its way through corporate networks and finally into homes. But still the technology was plagued with problems. Even companies attempting to use VoIP to cut back on their internal call costs were haunted by quality of service failures.

There can be no doubt that each generation brings about better technology, and gradually VoIP is replacing traditional phone lines. And while progress has been slower than expected, the combination of technology needed to make it work is actually here.

The last couple of years have seen a raft of VoIP rollouts in mid-sized and large corporations, with WANs finally configured to precedence to voice traffic, and quality of service reaching the point where it's even worth the effort for external calls.

The whole hype cycle is starting again surrounding the adoption of session initiation protocol (SIP). This time, according to industry pundits, the technology is right, and the boom is for real.

"It takes a long time for technologies to mature and become revolutionary and that's what SIP is for VoIP," solutions marketing executive for Nortel Asia, Mitch Radomir, said. "The Internet has been around since the 1960s, but it wasn't until the 1990s that a small change called http enabled you to click on a URL and be taken automatically to that site."

According to Radomir, the Internet Engineering Task Force's (IETF) acceptance of SIP is in the process of forcing the same type of change to VoIP technology.

"SIP works the same way http does - you can click on a person's ID, or on an application and set up communication with them automatically. Voice, video, pictures data, it's all included," Radomir said. "What SIP has done is taken us to the next level of IP-based communications, where we're able to engage each other in real time rather than simply send and receive data."

When it comes to the market for telecommunications, SIP is leading to a range of new services opening up in all levels of the market - particularly at the small end of town. IDC's senior telecommunications analyst, David Cannon, said not only had SIP led to a raft of PBX style units coming onto the market in the enterprise space, it had also led to the proliferation of VoIP and soft phone offerings.

"From a carrier perspective it's providing the ability to offer hosted telephony services, which can interact with all the different telephony services out there," Cannon said. "Being able to interface with a range of different environments is very important. It will allow on-site telephony to integrate seamlessly with hosted or carrier environments, and allow companies to integrate multiple core systems and run voice across multiple sites."

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