The future of converged services and the design of the Internet itself will be driven more by consumer demands than by the plans of carriers, technologists and equipment vendors, says Charlie Giancarlo, Cisco Systems' chief technology officer.
Wearing his hat as president of Cisco subsidiary Linksys, Giancarlo spoke at the Fall VON show about the types of VOIP services consumers want and how the demands for camera phones, home VOIP services and converged voice over Wi-Fi will shape the future of carrier networks.
"The idea in the past has been that the kind of network (carriers) build will define the kind of services consumers get," Giancarlo says. "Now, it's the consumers that will drive the next-generation network like never before."
He says convergence in consumer electronic devices is driving part of this. Cameras that can take and send photos or video clips, as well as Wi-Fi-enabled PDAs with voice, are some of the driving forces. Convergence in home networking and applications, such as Internet telephony and sharing streaming MP3 music over wireless PCs, is another example.
Among these technologies, VOIP will be one of the most appealing among broadband consumers.
"Broadband is penetrating rapidly, and this is the basis for consumer VOIP," Giancarlo says. "You can't have VOIP with out it." As a result, VOIP's audience is broader.
"VOIP has very much been in the 'Dilbert' stage in the past, but now it's moving to the 'Dagwood' stage," Giancarlo says. "Its user base is moving from nerds to ordinary people."
Giancarlo said Cisco has increased its forecasts for the consumer VOIP market fourfold in the last year due to the explosion in services and demand. The driver for this demand is the cost and advanced features of converged residential telephony.
"Take all the features of any services that you would have from normal service," Giancarlo says. "As young as VOIP is even now, it's better than what you have today." Features such as call logging, scheduled calls, and click-to-dial are among these features. "These are things you couldn't possibly get with analog telephone service."
But as services such as Vonage take off to meet the demand, the carriers that drove broadband adoption in the first place are now faced with new challenges.
"What's not clear is who will provide the control and service layer," for VOIP services, Giancarlo says. "There seems to be less competitive advantage to owning the wires. There's no reason why if you're a transport player that you're entitled to do the control and service layer."