For Incumbents, SIP is the future


It might be a bit of Friday killing-two-birds-with-one-post here, but it’s not too great a leap to link BT’s announcement of reaching 1 million VoIP users with the $144.8 million bid by Avaya for SIP app server vendor Ubiquity. Just more confirmation that VoIP is replacing POTS in big steps now, fueling demand that requires infrastructure players to beef up their IP voice smarts, usually by snapping up the smaller fish.

On the BT side, we had a chance to speak at length with Dave Axam, BT Retail’s GM for future voice services, at the Sylantro user conference this past October (where he predicted BT would soon reach the 1 million user mark). Axam is a huge VoIP booster, part of the group willingly cannibalizing TDM services for VoIP. The best way to look at voice, Axam believes, is as just another application in a wider stack of IP-based services — quite a radical departure from the old days of one network, one service.

Like other players in the VoIP space, BT has earned its scars in the deployment wars as it tries to get customers to learn how to install network gear. One big hurdle — getting people to understand a router and where to plug in a phone — led to BT’s simple but ingenious solution (left), a cordless phone whose base is physically part of the CPE. See if Vonage and other VoIP providers don’t watch and learn.

On the back-end side, SIP smarts are going to be a necessary evil going forward for big-infrastructure players in the IMS arena, for both large corporate customers as well as service providers. The folks over at Light Reading take an in-depth look at why enterprise telecom-gear seller Avaya wants a carrier software vendor.

The spokeswoman says the move does not signal a new strategy to specifically target the telecom carrier sector, but the firm wants to ensure it has a SIP applications environment that’s appropriate for carriers as well as its traditional enterprise customer base and that can be used by .NET and J2EE developers. “This is all about moving into the software applications development world,” she adds.

Or like BT’s Axam says, voice is just another app. Among many.


Robert Welbourn

Anorton: voice may be an application on the network, but it’s not free.

While many will decry the attempts of the incumbent carriers to force VoIP into the straitjacket of PSTN thinking, and while there will always be a niche for services like Skype and Free World Dialup, here are the reasons why consumers and businesses alike will continue to pay for phone companies to exist:

  • It costs money to interconnect with the public switched telephone network, and the PSTN is not going to go away for the foreseeable future.

  • Real-time services such as voice and video need Quality of Service. With the possible exception of Skype, which has its own proprietary, sophisticated techniques for finding the best path for a call, trusting to the Internet will typically not result in the best experience. That’s why PSTN replacement services get calls off the Internet and onto their own backbones as close to the subscriber as possible. These private backbones, with their call servers, traffic engineering and security infrastructure, cost money to build and run.

  • The phone company provides a minimum guarantee that the identity of the person calling you is verified, assuming that there’s a web of trust between the various service providers handing off calls to each other, and that subscribers are adequately authenticated by their service providers. Otherwise, we’d be deluged by VoIP scammers and spammers, which is one big reason we don’t want voice to be just another application riding on the Internet, like email.

  • The government wants to be able to tax you and eavesdrop on your calls, and the phone companies are convenient conduits for doing so.

  • There is a reasonable requirement to ensure subscribers can connect to police, fire and ambulance services in the event of an emergency, and the infrastructure involved costs money to put in place and run.

  • The folks who own and control the pipes definitely do want to be paid for the value of the services carried over them, not just for the raw bits transported. While this is at the heart of the network neutrality debate, there are hooks being put into SIP as part of the IMS standardization process to allow this to happen. I don’t say that this is good or bad, but there are many millions of dollars being spent on lobbying and technical development to allow this to happen.

And, Joe Schmoe, there is plenty of activity by both established companies and startups in providing VoIP security. A good place to start would be to look at the VoIP Security Alliance web site. One particular category of product to look at in particular is the Session Border Controller, which has a key role in managing and securing VoIP, video and instant messaging traffic.

Disclaimer: I work for a startup that makes Session Border Controllers, Covergence, Inc. of Maynard, Mass. We sell our products to both phone companies and enterprises.


One of the VOIP security companies that comes to my mind is Sipera Systems based out of Richardson, Texas. They are funded by top tier VC companies.

joe shmoe

Given the increasing adoption of VoIP — its interesting that no major company has yet looked at security aspects of it in true sense. Could anyone has a list of interesting startups that are working on this area?


Voice is a application just like email so therefore it is free. I work in the industry and SIP is driving a lot of new opportunities for all kinds of companies.

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