April 1, 2004

6 Min Read
All Aboard the VoIP Train

By Tara Seals

Subways catch on in cities where driving is a punishing, prohibitive exercise in futility. Take New York or London. There, it’s much easier to hop a train and let the conductor take care of getting you safely to where you want to go. The same could be said of voice over IP - a destination upon which droves of service providers are converging. To get there, they won’t have to make business-plan-killing infrastructure investments needed to drive themselves as plenty of wholesale IP networks already are en route.

Carriers are rolling out IP-to-IP voice transport options geared for retail operators, which otherwise would need to install gateways to convert IP traffic to TDM, and use a TDM-based provider for termination - a much more expensive option.

Qwest Communications International Inc., for example, plans to test a wholesale longdistance VoIP termination product next year so that carriers and service providers, such as a CLEC or cable operator, offering retail IP voice can hand Qwest VoIP traffic for termination on its long-distance network.

In December 2003, Level 3 Communications Inc. expanded its (3)Voice Termination service by letting customers hand off traffic directly to Level 3 using an IP interface, for IP-to-IP interconnection with the Level 3 network at the high levels of security required for voice traffic. This year it rolled out an international capability for the service.

Global Crossing Ltd., which provides IP backbone services for Verizon Communications Inc. and Vonage, among others, runs more than 30 percent of its voice traffic as IP, and expects that to grow to more than 40 percent by the end of this year. The carrier says a full 90 percent of its voice traffic will be VoIP by 2006.

Carriers can hand Global Crossing IP traffic via SIP, which it sends to a session border controller for mediation and then to a softswitch in the backbone, and it can terminate call anywhere in the world on TDM. In June, the company will be able to terminate “on an IP vendor’s network,” according to Anthony Christie, chief marketing officer.

The offers are warmed up and ready to go, despite interconnection and interoperability concerns in making it all run smoothly. “For the first time, you’re exposing your VoIP infrastructure to another carrier’s VoIP infrastructure,” says Joe Glynn, Qwest’s vice president of product management. “And as the industry starts doing carrier-tocarrier VoIP, it will have some learning to do. We take it for granted that voice carriers can talk to each other, but after the break-up of the Bell system, there was a lot of work that had to go into understanding what it means to hand off traffic amongst themselves. So now, carrier-to-carrier VoIP is going to present another set of challenges. Every carrier’s going to be slightly different from the next, so I think there’s going to be a series of learning curves. We’re not nearly as standardized in this space as we are in the IP handset space.”

In the past, VoIP connections were customengineered, but establishing a baseline for interoperability will increase the speed of deployment and foster innovation. “When industry standards are created, tested and adopted, vendors will be able build competitive international products and services, and carriers will be able to choose from among a wider range of providers without risking obsolescence,” explains Jon Arnold, Frost & Sullivan’s VoIP Program Leader.

To that end, ITXC Corp. has rolled out the VoIPLink service, which enables VoIP-based service providers to interconnect their VoIP networks directly to ITXC.net, the company’s packet-based network, for per-minute call exchange with traditional and IP phones globally. To support the initiative, ITXC also rolled out the VoIPLink Ready program, to provide carrier customers off-theshelf VoIP internetworking connections. ITXC is working with equipment and software vendors like Cisco Systems Inc., to establish and maintain interoperability with ITXC.net. VoIPLink supports interfaces to VoIP networks using 10 different SIP and/or H.323 VoIP infrastructure vendors and numerous equipment, software and network configurations.

This sort of VoIP peering arrangement also is enabled by Switch and Data. The colocation and interconnection provider announced in fall 2003 an agreement with PointOne to establish VoIP peering points in all of Switch and Data’s 26 sites. These VoIP peering points will enable interconnection between PointOne’s worldwide VoIP network, products and applications to all other Switch and Data customers. “By using the Switch and Data interconnection and colocation platform, PointOne has the ability to peer with virtually any other service provider, both domestically and internationally, for the secure delivery of VoIP and other real-time voice traffic,” said Mario Galvez, vice president of marketing, Switch and Data, in a press statement.

Similarly, last fall interconnection provider telx Group Inc. and Stealth Communications together launched the Voice Peering Fabric (www.thevpf.com), a distributed Layer 2 Ethernet Exchange for exchanging VoIP traffic. The service provides an environment where VoIP participants’ can directly connect to each other.

Members are listed on the VPF Web site, and can post, buy and sell routes. Participants can contact each other either offline or online to negotiate the pricing, terms and conditions. The VPF meanwhile takes care of the settlement operations. The VPF is carrier-neutral and is not counterparty to any minutes-based transaction.

“The target audience to benefit most from the VPF is any organization that utilizes VoIP,” says Shrihari Pandit, CEO of Stealth Communications, which specializes in providing Internet and data services. “Even prior to The VPF’s commercial availability, well-known industry VoIP networks, such at Net2Phone and China Telecom, signed on to connect to the fabric. Why? Because The VPF enables VoIP networks to interconnect, establish relationships and do business, while reducing both operational costs and time to market for VoIP users’ networks.”

One of the carriers connected to the VPF is Progress Telecom Inc., bolstered by additional PoPs and an Ethernet network from its acquisition of EPIK. In April the carrier’s carrier is pulling the wraps off a metro/long-haul Ethernet backbone along the Eastern seaboard corridor, starting at the telx facility in New York and extending to Miami with eight interconnection points in five cities.

Greg Tennant, vice president of customer service delivery for Progress Telecom, says VoIP providers will be able to use the backbone to peer with any other VoIP provider on a IP-to- IP basis. He says, what differentiates Progress Telecom is that no other long-haul provider can deliver the metro connections or the voice-grade Ethernet.

Khali Henderson contributed to this article.


AT&T Corp. www.att.com
Atlantic-ACM www.atlantic-acm.com
Cisco Systems Inc. www.cisco.com
Frost & Sullivan www.frost.com
Global Crossing Ltd. www.globalcrossing.com
GoBeam Inc. www.gobeam.com
ITXC Corp. www.itxc.com
Level 3 Communications Inc. www.level3.com
Qwest Communications International Inc. www.qwest.com
Vonage Holdings Corp. www.vonage.com

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