Friday, April 27, 2007

Concerns put campus VoIP deployment on hold

New survey suggests that schools are experimenting with voice-over-IP service--but security, cost are barriers to more widespread deployment

By Justin Appel, Assistant Editor, eSchool

More than three-fourths of college administrators who took part in a recent survey said they feel better about the idea of voice over internet protocol (VoIP) service today than they did three years ago. But security and cost are still significant hurdles to the more widespread deployment of VoIP service in college campuses across the United States and Canada, the survey suggests.


—The study, which was conducted by the Association for Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education (ACUTA), surveyed 279 schools. The web-based survey found that while 65 percent of respondents have had some experience with VoIP, 55 percent have only limited experience, with one-fourth or fewer of their phones employing VoIP service. This, in addition to the 35 percent of respondents who said they have no VoIP phones on their campus, suggests that while the trend is gaining steam among consumers, higher-education institutions have yet to truly embrace the use of VoIP.

"Our members have been seriously considering the benefits of VoIP for some time," says Jeri Semer, executive director of ACUTA. "I'd say they're doing their due diligence in learning about the technology and what applications of it might benefit their campus. It's not about acquiring the technology for its own sake, but about determining how it can best meet their particular needs on campus."

The survey reveals that of the schools that have begun using VoIP (which is the method of transmitting voice conversations through broadband internet networks, rather than traditional telephone lines), the majority have tried it in IT departments, as pilot projects, and on remote campus sites--suggesting there has been no widespread migration toward replacing traditional phone lines in administrative settings or dormitory rooms.

"Fewer and fewer students are using the campus-provided phones in their room," says Semer. "They are tending to use their cell phones more, as well as eMail and instant messaging. The actual phone usage in dorms is shrinking, to the extent that a lot of colleges have or are considering removing the phones from their dorms."

Security issues have always been a concern for some when switching to VoIP. Of the administrators who responded to ACUTA's survey, 43 percent believe the possibility of viruses and denial-of-service attacks is a major concern. A majority of respondents also feel that security concerns cannot be overcome easily.

"Security is a big issue," says Semer. "The traditional phone system has been very secure and has had a long track record of reliability. When a virus attacks your eMail program, it's a major inconvenience. But if it attacks and brings down your ability to communicate by voice, that's a major safety and security concern."

This concern is often raised when considering a switch to VoIP, says Kevin Flynn, senior manager of security technology marketing for unified communications at Cisco Systems Inc.

"In the past, people have had two separate kind of systems--voice on one wire, and data on another," Flynn said. "Now, we're talking about having both on the same wire. That doesn't mean the two data types will necessarily impact each other. The problems of having issues on the data stream affecting voice are easily fixed, and that's just part of any good unified design system."
Flynn says there is, in essence, an automatic separation between data and voice traffic in any well-designed system. This creates two separate virtual LANs, so that a virus attack on the data end will not affect the bandwidth or the quality of the voice traffic.

The ACUTA survey also shows that a majority of campus administrators believe VoIP vendors need to better disclose the full costs of service and installation, Semer says. More than half of those surveyed say vendors provide unrealistic assessments of the costs of VoIP implementation. In addition, only 19 percent felt that VoIP deployment will save their colleges and universities money over the next five years.

Rest of the story here.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Advances in VoIP and Feature-Rich Options Drive the Growth of Global Audio Conferencing Bridge Systems Markets

PALO ALTO, Calif., April 18 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- The Global audio conferencing bridge systems market has made significant strides in the last year, driven primarily by the increasing prevalence of audio conferencing, uptake of advanced collaboration features and additional growth in the emerging markets and the enterprise arena. There is a renewed focus on enhancing audio conference bridges to better meet the needs of both service providers and enterprise vendors. This focus has led to innovative and exciting new offerings of audio conference bridge systems.


New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (http://www.conferencingandcollaboration.frost.com/ ), World Audio Conferencing Bridge Systems Markets, reveals that revenues in this market totaled $144.2 million in 2006, and are likely to reach $233.2 million in 2012.
If you are interested in a virtual brochure, which provides manufacturers, end users, and other industry participants with an overview of the latest analysis of the World Audio Conferencing Bridge Systems Markets, then send an e-mail to Tracy Henderson, Corporate Communications, at tracy.henderson@frost.com with your full name, company name, title, telephone number, fax number, and e-mail address. Upon receipt of the above information, an overview will be sent to you by e-mail.


"One of the key trends driving the audio conferencing bridge systems markets is the move towards Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), driven by the promise of cost savings and the ability to integrate it into other applications," notes Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Doreen Natukunda. "The enterprise market is increasingly embracing VoIP, and as a result, there is growing demand from new clients looking to purchase audio conferencing bridge products and services."


With VoIP gaining traction, more and more organizations continue to replace their voice conferencing infrastructure with VoIP to utilize the additional bandwidth to carry audio conferencing bridge systems. The move toward VoIP is expected to continue throughout the business market and reach a mature market cycle in the next 5-7 years.


However, competition continues from other market participants vying to pocket a slice of the audio conferencing bridge customer base. The convergence of collaboration tools means that there exist many more options that employ voice as part of the applications offered to customers. For the business community, this provides more choice, but for the audio conferencing bridge systems manufacturers, this means lower price per port options.
"As competition continues to increase among the different segments of voice conferencing markets, it is imperative that vendors for both service providers and enterprise vendors continue to expand their features and services in their respective markets," says Natukunda. "For this reason, superior features, services, and partnerships to go along with the audio conferencing bridge applications will strengthen vendors in this market."


Going forward, audio conferencing bridge systems makers must continuously strive to make the use of bridges as effortless as possible with maximum efficiency, ease-of-use and intuitive features. This will enable the promotion of additional call usage, ultimately translating to time and cost savings for information technology managers.


World Audio Conferencing Bridge Systems Markets is part of the Conferencing and Collaboration Subscription, which also includes research in the following markets: video conferencing, web conferencing, unified communications, and audio conferencing. All research included in subscriptions provide detailed market opportunities and industry trends that have been evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants. Interviews with the press are available.


Frost & Sullivan, a global growth consulting company, has been partnering with clients to support the development of innovative strategies for more than 40 years. The company's industry expertise integrates growth consulting, growth partnership services, and corporate management training to identify and develop opportunities. Frost & Sullivan serves an extensive clientele that includes Global 1000 companies, emerging companies, and the investment community by providing comprehensive industry coverage that reflects a unique global perspective, and combines ongoing analysis of markets, technologies, econometrics, and demographics.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Telecom veteran questions Verizon VOIP patents

Grant Gross, IDG News Service, Washington Bureau
Two patents owned by Verizon Communications Inc. in its infringement lawsuit against Vonage Holdings Corp. are invalid, and if allowed to stand, could threaten all competing VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) services, a telecommunications industry veteran said Tuesday.

Two of the three Verizon patents a jury upheld in a March decision were described in a standards group called the VOIP Forum before Verizon filed for the patents, said Daniel Berninger, who had a hand in launching Vonage but now works as a telecom analyst for Tier1Research.com. The VOIP Forum described the name translation call-processing step in an open standard developed in 1996, and Verizon applied for the two patents in March 1997 and February 2000, he said in an interview about the case.


Verizon's patents focus on using name translation to connect VOIP calls to traditional telephone networks. But without name translation, no VOIP calls could be completed, and all Verizon VOIP competitors are in danger of getting sued, Berninger said. "If you translate these patents so ridiculously broadly, then there's nothing left," he said. "Everybody infringes."


Two Verizon spokesmen didn't immediately respond to a request for comments on Berninger's information.


Berninger, an advocate of open standards and cofounder of the VON Coalition, said members of the VOIP Forum talked extensively about name translation during call set-up during discussions about the voice portion of the H.323 standard during 1996, and in the parallel development of the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) at the Internet Engineering Task Force. Several major tech vendors participated in the standards-setting process, and two papers on H.323 published in January 1997, one by coworkers at his former employer VocalTec Communications Ltd., describe the technologies later patented by Verizon, he said.


Other telecom experts have disagreed about whether Verizon's patents could affect other VOIP providers.


But Berninger compared name translation to the Internet's domain name system (DNS), which translates Internet domain names into IP addresses. "Essentially every VOIP provider on planet Earth" uses the name translation processing step, he said.


Vonage pointed to other technology it believed preceded Verizon's patents at a trial that ended with a March verdict that the company had infringed three Verizon patents. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia interpreted the Verizon claims too broadly to be valid, said Brooke Schulz, Vonage's vice president for communications.


"The patents as filed and awarded ... were very narrow," she said. "We continue to believe, for this and many other reasons, we don't infringe on their technology."


Berninger began looking into the patents recently because of the Vonage case. In the March verdict, Vonage was ordered to pay Verizon US$58 million. Last Friday, a U.S. district court judge barred Vonage from signing up new customers, but an appeals court gave the company a temporary stay the same day.