Wednesday, April 4, 2007

VoIP Peering Panel at Spring VON

Spring VON in San Jose was a very good show - the VoIP market is looking very positive. It has taken me two weeks to follow-up on actions items from customer prospects and get back to routine matters such as blogging.

One of the VON sessions I found most interesting was the panel discussion on IP Voice Peering. The panelists came from a good cross section of companies (iBasis, NeuStar, Ag Projects, XConnect and Arbinet) and each had there own unique perspective on peering. Some of the interesting points from the discussion were:

1. Public ENUM is dead. Many in the industry have pushed for the idea that all telephone numbers with SIP access should be included in a public ENUM directory to enable peer to peer calling. This is an appealing idea for VoIP users because it would eliminate telephone companies and enable global peer to peer VoIP calling free of telecom access charges. While the public ENUM concept makes sense, there are too many political and market sources determined to keep it from happening. Perhaps the panel agreed Public ENUM is dead because it is a threat to their business.

2. The SPIDER Registry. No one wants to share their numbers. While everyone in the VoIP world complains that telcos are "Walled Gardens", or closed networks, the reality is that VoIP service providers are just as proprietary with their networks and customers. VoIP service providers do not want to share the telehone numbers of their customers with any third party. So how to you get broader VoIP peering adoptance if VoIP service providers will not disclose their telephone numbers? One well thought out solution appears to be the non-profit SPIDER registery created by Arbinet. VoIP service providers can list their numbers in the SPIDER registry and still maintain control over who can access those numbers. The SPIDER registry acts as a central provisioning mechanism for making VoIP numbers available to selected peering partners. The idea is good, but trust is still an issue. As expected, all the panelists were SPIDER sceptics since it has been created by Arbinet.

3. VoIP peering depends on the "call context". This an interesting new term that means call routing, or peering, depends on who is calling who and when. Ah-ha, so VoIP peering is not just as simple as connecting to VoIP users. VoIP peering depends on a variety of issues such as competition between peers, accounting and settlement, and technical interoperability. The panel agreed that one of the great drawbacks of ENUM is that it cannot convey "call context". ENUM only conveys the called number. To determine peering partners for a call, the calling and called numbers, source IP address, VoIP protocol, service type and many other factors must be known. As the VoIP peering market develops, we expect implementations of the OSP supported VoIP peering will grow since this well established ETSI protocol already addresses all of these "call context" requirements.

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