Packet in

Packet inWith today’s voice networks buckling under the strain of increasing data traffic, will tomorrow bring a shift towards sending voice over data networks? Melanie Reynolds reports
There has been much talk recently about congestion of the telecommunications networks and the strain they are under with the increase in traffic. A large part of the reason for the boom is due to the rising amount of data being sent along the wires, mainly from the ever increasing popularity of the Internet. BT said last year that over 50 per cent of its traffic is now data. Voice-over-Internet
Voice-over-Internet-protocol (VoIP) is predicted to grow into a significant market according to International Data Corporation (IDC), a US market research firm. It calls VoIP a pivotal technology and says it will have a significant impact on the larger telecommunications industry.
But the company warned that VoIP is still in its infancy and that interoperability and standards development are key issues for the technology.
The VoIP market was worth $130m in 1998 and IDC predicts that in 1999 the market will reach $290m. By 2003 it will be worth $1.8bn.  
 
The problem is only going to get worse. According to some telecoms market experts data traffic on the world’s networks as generated by e-mails and Internet usage is growing at over 36 per cent a year.
“In five to ten years there will be as many internet addresses as people in the world,” proclaimed Dr Robert Martin, v-p and chief technical officer of Lucent Technologies’ Bell Laboratories.
Martin believes that the Internet today tends to be slow, unreliable and prone to failure. “It’s not the sort of network we need in the future. The next generation of networks will be much, much more than the Internet.” And according to Martin the future networks will be based on packet switched circuits with the dominant protocol almost certainly being IP (Internet protocol) rather than ATM (asynchronous transfer mode).
One person who agrees is Gabriel Dusil, the marketing director at Motorola’s Internet and networking group. “There is definitely a switch [to packet] and all of the communication players are trying to see how to capitalise on that market,” explained Dusil.
Most importantly Dusil sees there being a shift away from sending data over voice networks. “The industry has identified that data over the voice network is no longer a viable solution,” explained Dusil.
Instead it looks like the shift is the other way. “We’re saying in the industry, why spend all this effort and complexity in trying to pump data through the voice network when we can do the reverse and send voice over the data network,” Dusil continued.
Dusil predicts that 30 per cent of voice traffic will be sent over data networks using voice-over-Internet-protocol (VoIP). “Right now we’re in a time when everyone is talking about VoIP, but it’s more talk than actual reality,” he admitted. “But it’s no longer a question of if it’s going to happen, it’s only a question of when it’s going to happen.” What can VoIP do for you?
The main claims being made for VoIP is the cost savings and extra services that can be offered to users.
The system allows users to take control of which network is used for each call so that the most cost effective route is used simply by dialling the appropriate access number.
Users can also have access to such services as caller ID, call waiting and diversion.
“We have a whole new industry that even in the early stages of development benefits the customer in terms of giving them control over networks instead of the control being on the provider’s side,” said Gabriel Dusil, marketing director at Motorola’s Internet and networking group.
Corporations are the main proponents of the technology currently because they already have data networks and want to intensify their use.
But the general public are being given a taste of the technology by Delta Three, a subsidiary of global telecommunications company RSL Communications. It launched what it claims is the first commercial voice over Internet service in Europe in May 1998.
The system is based on an IP telephony platform, IPTC, developed by Ericsson Infocom Systems. Delta Three claims the system “dramatically cuts the cost of placing international calls from Western Europe to a range of worldwide destinations.”
IPTC (Internet Protocol Telephony for Carriers) works by taking phone and fax calls which have originated in the public switched telephone network (PSTN) and switching them to the IPTC platform which carries them over the Internet to a node near their destination. The call is fed back into the PSTN for final connection.


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