Monday, September 28, 2009

VON Peering Initiative

My trip to VON last week was cut short last week by three feet of flood waters following through my home in Atlanta. Nevertheless I did get to spend some time at the show and these are a couple of my impressions.

First, Rick Martin and his colleagues put up a courageous effort to rebuild the VON show in a very tough economic climate. The conference agenda looked good and a couple of premier keynote speakers certainly made the conference content worth attending. Nevertheless, the attendance had to be less than they hoped for. For what its worth, I heard that the Channel Partners show, which followed immediately after VON, was a good success.

Second, a possible spark for re-igniting interest in VON may come from a grass roots VoIP peering effort being led by Dave Gilbert, CEO of SimpleSignal. As a VoIP operator, Dave organized a meeting at VON with a cadre of like minded VoIP service providers who want to build a "bill and keep" (settlement free) VoIP peering federation. This idea is certainly not new. A number of VoIP visionaries, starting with Jeff Pulver (the founder of VON), have created settlement free VoIP peering networks. At TransNexus, we were the Atlanta node for Jeff's second Free World Dial-up (FWD II) network in 1998 which used VocalTec software and Dialogic cards. FWD II was a lot of fun and was a fascinating testbed for the early days of VON, but it never took-off.

Other more commercially based peering federations such as the Voice Peering Fabric and XConnect have had success, but the dream of a rapidly growing, VoIP peering network which can challenge the Public Switched Telephone Network has yet to emerge. I do not think the VoIP peering pioneers made any mistakes other than being too early for the market. Perhaps the grassroots effort by Dave Gilbert and his group of VoIP service provider peers will have the good fortune of stumbling onto perfect market timing and starting a new peering federation that grows virally. If they do, it will be good for VON and good for everyone in the VoIP business.

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